On August 11, 2020, Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first black, Jamaican, Indian woman to be named as a vice-presidential running mate in a major American political party. The excitement was palpable across America and even more so in the immigrant community.
The obvious pride that Caribbean people feel in response to Senator Harris’ position as the Democratic party’s vice-presidential candidate is familial. Clearly, we are proud that one of our own has risen to this height in America, but most important, it is the possibilities that her position offers to immigrants from all over the world that is inspirational.
The current occupant of the White House has made no bones about his distaste for immigrants of colour, and to see that a first-generation American woman has ascended to this position is truly a fulfilment of the American dream. People the world over have been coming to America since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock for the hope and possibilities that America has to offer. In one generation, the child of immigrants from two opposite corners of the world – India and Jamaica – has surpassed her ancestors’ wildest dreams.
We see in her all our hopes and dreams as we left the familiarity of home to venture into unchartered territory. We see her parents, who came to America to seek an eduction and remained to contribute to building this country. We see ourselves as we work several jobs to send our American-born children to school to achieve a level of education that many dared not dream. We see ourselves as we work to send ourselves to college and graduate school to get that “piece of paper” that says we are lawyers, doctors, educators, nurses, teachers – you get the picture. Here we are in 2020, “annus horribilis”, and we see Kamala Harris giving us hope in the midst of despair that if not one of us, then one of our children, with hard work, dedication, and ‘ambition’ can reach historical pinnacles in our lifetimes.
BLACK IS BLACK
There are some who want to dampen our spirits by casting aspersions on Kamala that she is not really “African American”, that she is “not black enough”, and one commentator went so far as to call her and Barack Obama “cultural interlopers” because of their ethnicities. Let us just get one point clear: black is black. All black people are descendants of Africa and are scattered all over the world. The slave ships that crossed the Middle Passage scattered our ancestors across Latin America, the Caribbean, and what we now call the United States of America. With voluntary migration, Africans and the African Diaspora have chosen to relocate all over the world – temporarily and permanently.
Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California, and pursuant to the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment, Section 1. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside”. This clause of the 14th Amendment was designed to give “birthright citizenship” to every person born inside the United States and to protect slaves who were viewed as property. Argue up or argue down – the plain reading of the text of the 14th Amendment grants US citizenship today even to children born to undocumented immigrant parents.
Kamala’s story is America’s story in this land of opportunity, and only in America could this story be told. In the glee of Kamala’s selection, let us not forget the man who made the ultimate decision to select her. Joe Biden has shown us his heart in choosing Kamala. In a period of abject division among people of different races and political opinions in America, he looked around and chose a black woman to be his running mate. He made this choice in the face of reported fierce opposition to selecting her because insiders felt that she was too “ambitious” and would not be “loyal” enough. He put it on the line and made the choice considering Kamala’s abilities to govern on day one, to build consensus, to support his policies with the Congress, and her willingness to challenge him with the truth. Thank you, Joe Biden.
The Biden-Harris team will face opposition because of who Kamala is, and she is who she is. She famously said:“I am black. I was born black, and I will die black.” She also fully embraces all aspects of her multifaceted background. Is that not the history of the Caribbean – multiracial, multiethnic, and multidimensional?
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States and family, criminal, and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida. Send feedback to email@example.com.