Image provided by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images, from The Cut.
CW: Mentions of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
When I first heard about Kamala Devi Harris, back when she was still running for President of the United States, sometime in mid-2019:
Thought #1: Who’s Com-Awe-Law? Who’s Kaaaam-Aaaaa-Laaaaa? What is happening?
The common mispronunciations of Kamala prevented me from seeing that Kamala was a South Asian name, prevented me from learning that she was half Indian, half Jamaican/Black, and prevented me from thinking that there was anything relatable about her.
For those of you who still do not know how to pronounce her name correctly, it’s Kah-Muh-Luh.
Later, with great joy, I learned about Harris’s background through a profile written in The New Yorker. At first glance, Kamala Devi Harris was everything I had ever wanted to see in politics. She looked like me. She spoke about her roots, India, and her mother the way I speak about these things.
However, this excitement was short-lived.
After I discovered a clip of Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu member of Congress, who was also running to be the first Hindu, female POTUS, tearing Harris apart:
Thought #2: Wow, Gabbard just destroyed Harris. Honestly, Harris seems kind of terrible to me. Like really terrible. This is so disappointing.
Readers, let me lay out what Gabbard had to say:
First, Harris has “put over 1500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
In addition, Harris “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row.”
These two instances are prime examples of Gabbard’s point: Harris does not uphold the ideals she claims to believe in.
Harris does not deny any of Gabbard’s statements. Instead, she goes on to, in short, explain that she is proud of the work she has done. She also states that people should be judged based on the actions they make under pressure, not by the “fancy” speeches they give on stage, a reference to Gabbard calling her out.
Obviously, the truth behind Gabbard’s allegations is extremely complicated, something Harris implies repeatedly. As viewers, we have to acknowledge this and dig a little deeper.
But, as far as I can see, Gabbard, to an extent, is right. Kamala Devi Harris is not necessarily the person she claims to be.
When Harris was running for VPOTUS alongside Joseph R. Biden, who was running for POTUS under the Democratic Party:
Many have come forth with allegations of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment against Biden, including Lucy Flores, Ally Coll, Sofia Karasek, Amy Stokes, Caitlyn Caruso, DJ Hill, Vail Kohnert-Yount. In April of 2019, when four of these women had come out with allegations of inappropriate behavior against Biden, Harris said the following: “I believe them, and I respect them being able to tell their story and having the courage to do it.”
Shortly after these claims were made public, Biden addressed them with this statement, “The boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying, and I understand it. I’ll be much more mindful. That’s my responsibility, and I’ll meet it.”
A Forbes article reports, “Biden responded directly to the allegations, saying he felt he had never acted ‘inappropriately,’ and that he would ‘listen respectfully’ to ‘those who felt otherwise.’” His response was met with criticism because although he promised to be mindful in the future, he never took responsibility for the actions of his past.
Afterwards, in late April of 2020, when Tara Reade came out with sexual assault allegations against Biden, instead of stating that she believed her, Harris simply acknowledged that Reade had the right to tell her story — a mere comment in comparison to the affirmation and support she previously offered four other Biden accusers. This seems extremely hypocritical, especially considering that she has been a strong supporter of the Me Too movement in the past, as can be seen through a tweet of hers posted in 2017: “Survivors of sexual assault deserve to be believed, not blamed.” Biden also responded to Reade’s allegations, “I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened.”
Why would she choose to support certain women but not others? In Reade’s case, is it because of the type of accusation Reade made? Or is it because Reade’s story has been somewhat inconsistent? Or perhaps it is because of Harris’s interest in securing an opportunity to run for VPOTUS?
In August of 2020, Harris proudly accepted Biden’s offer to be his running mate despite the many allegations of inappropriate behavior and an allegation of sexual assault against him. In that moment, she conveniently ignored Tara Reade, Lucy Flores, Ally Coll, Sofia Karasek, Amy Stokes, Caitlyn Caruso, DJ Hill, and Vail Kohnert-Yount despite stating that she believed four of these women.
This is the perfect example of a moment in which she says something, then does another. Her tweet and her support for four of Biden’s accusers, both of which seemed sincere, meant absolutely nothing.
Whew, that’s a lot to unpack.
Perhaps Harris thought that Biden would be a better choice than Trump, that Biden was the lesser evil. Or maybe survivors of sexual assault only matter to Harris when her support for them furthers her political ambitions. There are many potential reasons for her actions, things America must take into account in order to understand who Harris is.
Is it just me, or are my thoughts getting longer and longer?
Some people are saying Harris “slept her way up to the top,” a nod to her affiliation with Willie Brown. Brown was once mayor of San Francisco and speaker for California’s State Assembly, a position he held for fifteen years, and someone who is considered to have a heavy influence over politics in San Francisco.
Why is this even up for discussion?
First, let’s dispel a common myth.
Many people believe that Harris and Willie Brown had an affair. Google defines the term affair as “a…relationship between two people, one or both of whom are married to someone else.”
Brown and Harris dated between 1994–1995. At this point, Brown was legally married but had been estranged from his wife since 1981. So yes, in technical terms, the pair did have an affair, because Brown was legally married while they were dating. However, it’s inaccurate to consider their relationship an affair as Brown’s marriage held no meaning at the time.
Now, let’s talk about the influence Brown had on Harris’s career. In an opinion piece penned for the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown says, “Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions [roles on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the Medical Assistance Commission] when I was Assembly speaker. And I certainly helped with her first race for District Attorney in San Francisco. I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and a host of other politicians.”
Something else that is key to note is that Harris made it clear to Brown that she would treat him just as she would any other person. Brown himself writes, “‘…Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I ‘so much as jaywalked’ while she was D.A.’”
Based on this information, it is ridiculous to assume that someone who helped Harris enter the world of politics is the reason for her success today.
Late 2020, a couple of weeks after the Biden-Harris victory:
Though I hate to admit it, my research has forced me to accept the fact that Kamala Devi Harris is not the person I wanted her to be. The fact that she looks like me, talks like me, and shares a middle name with my mother does not condone the controversies of her past, her blatant disrespect for survivors of sexual assault, and the countless terrible things she has done. This may seem obvious. But, for communities who rarely see themselves represented in politics, it’s difficult to grapple with finally seeing a candidate who looks like us yet has a disappointing character and views.
If I want someone representing my community, I want ethical representation. I want to see somebody who I can be proud of. I faced a similar dilemma when Hillary Clinton was running for President in 2016. Do I want the United States to have its first female President, even if she may not be everything I hoped for, or do I want Donald Trump to become POTUS?
Unfortunately, politics is not as black and white as I would like it to be. My dislike for Harris or Clinton does not mean that either of them wasn’t the better candidate. There will never be a perfect candidate, and thus, Americans have to pick the person they believe will best represent them. Although this is an oddly depressing reality, it is also one that makes sense. Being forced to choose between bad and worse makes it difficult to act patriotic.
It is up to voters to decide who they believe to be the lesser evil, and it seems that America has decided on who their next VPOTUS will be.
Welcome, Kamala Devi Harris, first female, South Asian, and Jamaican/Black Vice President of the United States.
Welcome, Madam Vice President.
Srihitha Pallapothula is a senior at Washington High School. She has lived in Fremont, California for most of her life. This is her second year with the Hatchet. She is co-Editor-in-Chief as well as the lead website manager. As a journalist, she is currently interested in exploring technology’s impact on human behavior, whether healing in today’s political climate is possible, and the factors that lead people to choose their political party. In Srihitha’s free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and baking. In the future, she hopes to become an author or a journalist.