First Child of
Kamala Harris, First Black Woman
to be nominated to become Vice President, First
'Asian', First woman, etc etc. But no one
I've heard so far has actually said, 'First
Child of Immigrants.' And being a child of
immigrants, that's the minority status statement
that rings my bells. She's a thoroughly
patriotic American woman without a foreign accent,
highly educated, a US Senator, a lawyer, former
prosecutor and state Attorney General. You
cannot get more American than she is. And
yet, like me, she grew up in an immigrant
household. Believe me, its 'different.'
As I moved through elementary school, I had a
lot of "who am I" concerns. It may have
had something to do with my patriotically
volunteering to serve at the height of the
Vietnam War when everyone else of 'pure'
American vintage was pusillanimously running
away to Canada to avoid serving.
There is and endless stream of identity labels
being thrown at Senator Harris, both out of
pride and prejudice. Her mom was a Tamil
Indian; calling that 'Asian' probably has more
to do with British geopolitical arrogance than
anything else, in my opinion. People want
to put you in a box, categorically, and slap a
label on it. Then there are right wing
lunatics shouting that she's not 'black' but
Jamaican, and the mad racist blabbering
bullshit goes on and on. Please, the
ludicrous Republican horse-shit artists tried to
do that to Barak Obama too.
then there is the whole business of being the
'first'. Like the current president being
the first flaming asshole to lead this nation.
In fact the very 'first' President of this
country was an immigrant. WHAT? Yes,
on July 4th 1776 the man elected to be President
of the Continental Congress was a Danish
immigrant named John Hanson. There's a
highway from Annapolis MD to Washington DC named
after him. Long ago I was one of a group
of people hunting for his grave which was never
found. In fact, the signing of The
Declaration of Independence and his election
were actually on July 2, 1776; but they changed
the date to July 4th so it would be on
Independence Day. For those with a sixth
grade education: George Washington was elected
in 1789 after the Constitution was written and
And as for being first, the first
Black American woman to run for the Presidential
nomination of a major political party was
Shirley Chisholm, who was elected to Congress.
She was of Caribbean ancestry also, as it
happens. I had the honor of happening to
be sitting next to her in coach on a flight from
DC to New York in 1972; I had no idea who she was until
she urged me to vote for her and told me who she
was. I nearly fainted from the thrill.
Everyone knows that Barak Obama was this
country's 'first' Black President. But
before him there were two white southern
Presidents who sort of claimed to be the 'first
Black President' due to their support of Black
rights; Jimmy Carter of Georgia and Bill Clinton
of Arkansas. But that was bull crap
because if you go by that standard, Lyndon
Johnson of Texas was our first 'white southern
black president' because he did more for the
cause of Black rights than either of the other
two. And he was long preceded by Harry
Truman of Missouri, who integrated our armed
forces by Executive Order in 1948. If you are seriously trying to follow
all this, you must be getting a bit dizzy by
now. It is what it is.
Kamala Harris' parents where both English
speaking educated college students when they met
and married in Berkley, CA. But little
Kamala must have started out with a fusion
accent combining a Caribbean lilt with Tamil
tonality and syntax. Maybe. I first
grew up in a post WWII Jewish German refugee community in
inner-city New York where I and all the other
kids spoke German. When I was 8, we
assimilated and moved to the suburbs on Long
Island, which the locals called 'Lawn Guylind.'
Suddenly I was a weirdo with a foreign accent.
I quickly learned to mimic the locals and 'tawk
like a Noo Yawkah.' The suburban island
accent was thicker and broader. "Airport"
became 'ayah-pawt,' for example. Horrid!
After I moved to California as a young adult, I
learned to speak 'real' American English and
So what will the vast unwashed uneducated
American masses think of Senator Harris?
It depends on the labels they hear. If
they hear she's the first 'Asian' woman to be
nominated, they'll think she's Chinese. If they
hear she's of Indian decent, they'll think she's
part Navajo. And if they hear about her
Jamaican heritage, they'll wonder what language
they speak in Jamaica. And if they
correctly hear that she's
Tamil-Jamaican-American, they'll say, "Huh?"
One can only hope that they will be reassured to
hear her speak pure California Standard American.
In fact she is the ideal multi-ethnic
multi-minority American of the current era.
Her husband in Jewish, presumably of European
ancestry. Oy Vey! She's the mother
of his two children from a previous marriage.
That alone will make racists spit their teeth
across the room. And, according to
what I've read, she's a 'child of divorce.'
There's something I can also identify with.
I know what that poor kid went through. I
know what its like to be raised by a single
working mother. If you don't know, I'll
spare you the story, its a long story. In
part, it makes you very self sufficient.
You learn early on how to take care of yourself
after school. Working moms can rarely
afford after school programs for their kids.
So, you grow up a bit faster and take on
responsibility a bit sooner. And you tend
to find a way to earn the money to pay your own
way through college. So, the result is
becoming someone who is reliable and pragmatic
and capable; the kind of person you'd want to
elect to run your government.