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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.

And 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 adopted.

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 pronounce 'R's.'

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.

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