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What Kamala Harris' unique American story means to Black and South Asian Americans

Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

When news broke Tuesday that Joe Biden had selected Sen. Kamala Harris to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee, political consultant Neal Carter saw a range of emotions across the moderate, liberal and left-wing circles he traverses.

The first Black woman on a presidential ticket? A historic selection? A symbolic gesture to the big tent of the Democratic Party? "Many were positive, but also many were critical," said Carter, who runs Nu View Consulting, a Black-owned political firm. The critical views he saw were from left-wing people who didn't like Harris' prosecutorial record in the San Francisco Bay Area and as California's attorney general, an issue that dogged the senator during the presidential primary.

Though, Carter added, "There are a lot of people who are obviously, particularly Black women, including my wife, who are excited by the idea of a Black woman being nominated."

Many Americans of color are having the same kinds of complex conversations about Harris. Her upbringing as the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants has evoked both joy and, in some left-wing quarters, skepticism about the senator who has tried to strike a course between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic Party.

"Kamala Harris -- a woman of Jamaican American and Indian American descent -- as vice president is nothing short of historic," Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, which promotes women of color for office, said in a statement. "This is one step in a much larger fight for representation towards the multiracial democracy women of color have dreamed of, fought for and bled for, for generations."

Black actress Kerry Washington, star of the TV show "Scandal," said she was "overwhelmed by this historic moment."

 

"My heart is soaring for all the kids out there who see themselves in her and will dream bigger because of this," Washington tweeted.

Some liberal Black women feel more guarded about the tough road ahead, facing the challenge of pushing a Democratic woman of color to be more progressive while defending her from inevitable racist and sexist attacks.

"Women of color, particularly progressives, might feel torn. Perhaps even closeted excitement," Derecka Purnell wrote in a widely shared op-ed in the Guardian newspaper about the conflicting emotions felt by some liberal Black women about Harris' selection.

"Then, there's the fatigue. Progressives will have to defend the California senator's personal identity, while maneuvering against her political identity."

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