Senator Kamala Harris’s win in the 2020 presidential election is an intersectional triumph. As she expressed in her acceptance speech, she will be the first woman, first Black American, and first South Asian American to serve as vice president. She will also bring interfaith cred to the Oval Office, the likes of which we last saw when Obama was commander in chief. Her success means so much to so many people, and we are anxious to see how she and President-elect Joe Biden plan to undo the damage of the reality-TV administration. Here is what some of our authors had to say.
When presidential candidate Biden chose Senator Harris as his running mate, it struck me that if we work hard enough to get out the vote, especially of disenfranchised voters, we might be able to have a Vice President with my mother’s name, Kamala. And when Harris talked about her “Chitti,” her mother’s younger sister, during her speech at the Democratic National Convention, as someone who is also half Tamilian American, it brought back childhood memories of summers spent with my own Chitti in Jamshedpur. I spent the weeks before the election phone banking South Asian American voters in Georgia and Pennsylvania and believe that Biden’s choice of a Black South Asian candidate helped bring more Black and South Asian voters to the polls, which ultimately helped to swing the election in his favor. But beyond identity politics and representation—which are certainly important—and visible milestones in our country’s evolution lie the more substantive issues of policy. And as someone who leans progressive, I’m most interested in if and how Harris brings her identity into championing policies that help her fellow Black and Brown Americans.
—Kavita Das, Sparking Change on the Page: Lessons and Reflections on Writing About Social Issues (forthcoming in Fall 2022)
I am drawn to the name in the middle, the one hidden in the Vice President-elect’s two formal names that stretch across continents in the Global South: Devi, my grandmother’s name. To hear Kamala Devi Harris draw on cultural touchstones embodied in her middle moniker, a ‘great goddess’, her offering of gratitude to her aunts, or “Chithis”, fostered the sudden recognition of “Tamil” as an identity in the racialized spectrum of America. It was an unexpected salve to those unsettled South Asian souls hovering between the subcontinent and American suburbs—a kind of proof of life.
The political possibilities of a Vice President-elect in America who emerges from deep legacies of conscious resistance has awakened in me, and in many others, a cautious optimism for our collective future. As she assumes power, however, I am wary of the seductive promise of representation. I remember my grandmother, and the generations of Tamil women chronicled in Radicalizing Her, that fought against lived experiences of repression intimately intertwined with identifying as Tamil, a deeply marginalized ethnicity in Sri Lanka. Racial kinship aside, my hope is that Vice President-elect Harris, too, will be a contentious force inside a state whose violence falls disproportionately on Black and Brown bodies. My insistence will be that her platform, built on an appeal to shift the gender and racial composition of government, transform into a radical agenda, a proof of identity anchored in the politics of the oppressed—the intergenerational, transnational struggle that consumed her ancestors and mine.
—Nimmi Gowrinathan, Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence
Like many millions, I celebrated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ win, not just for what it promised but for what it warded off. But I approach the Vice President-elect’s rather more unique victory with pride, elation, satisfaction and, sadly, trepidation. Mr. Biden is nearly seventy-eight; it is possible that, in advance of 2024, he will decline a second term. Therefore, Ms. Harris will run, and possibly against Donald Trump or somebody who has inherited his mantle. Barack Obama’s two terms were followed by a seismic shift to the right, with a kind of unabashed racial supremacism we would have hoped had receded. What kind of vitriol and venom will accumulate during Ms. Harris’ term as Vice President, and thereafter amplified by the 2024 contest? We should never forget how some people in our country chose to respond to the Presidency of a Black man. We should be ready for how some people in our country will respond to the Vice Presidency of a Black and South Asian woman.
—Haroon Moghul, How to Be a Muslim: An American Story
Joe Biden likes to say that his grandfather would tell him ‘Keep the faith’. And his grandmother would add, ‘No, spread it.’ With Kamala Harris and her family by his side, the new White House will have family traditions that include Catholicism (a deeply marginalized religion in America not so long ago), Hinduism, Judaism, and the Baptist variant of Protestant Christianity. Their new line should be: ‘Keep the interfaith – actually, spread it.’
—Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation