An Indian American mother reflects on the significance of Harris’ victory for her family, community and country.
Joy. Pride. Optimism.
These are the emotions and sentiments that overcame me, an Indian American mother of two, I listened to the election results announcing the victory of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. As I held my 6-month-old daughter and looked down at her curious, gleaming eyes, I was overcome with emotions over the plethora of opportunities that stretch ahead of her in her horizon.
If an African American, Indian American woman can be the first ever woman to overcome multitude of barriers to secure the position of Vice Presidency, then it’s not unreasonable for me to be hopeful or be expectant my daughter will be able to pursue any dream without hesitation, limitations or hindrances.
Born into a biracial family, Kamala Harris’ story, as a woman of color growing up in an academically motivated immigrant family, strikes a chord with many of us who were raised with similar values and goals to persistently follow the American dream.
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Her late mother Shyamala Gopalan was a breast cancer researcher earning her PhD from UC Berkeley and later pursued a research and teaching position at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and her Jamaican American father Donald J. Harris was a professor at Stanford University.
Harris was also deeply influenced by her maternal grandfather P.V. Gopalan, who held progressive views on democracy and women’s rights. With such a blueprint of academic and ambitious spirit and success in her family, it is of no surprise that Harris would pursue the pathway of breaking many barriers.
As the first female district attorney of San Francisco, the first female attorney general of California, first Indian American to serve in the US Senate, and first Indian American to be elected Vice-President, a woman with so many “firsts” in her resume, it is safe to say that she carried through with her family’s legacy of hard work and perseverance to achieve her American dream.
So going back to my emotions upon hearing her name being announced as the first female Vice President of the United States, how could I not feel immense joy for all American women, pride as an Indian American, and optimism for my daughter’s future in America?
Our President-Elect Joe Biden had the strength and conviction to select someone like Harris as his running mate, someone who was raised in a very similar fashion as many of us, who looks like many of us, and who represents the kaleidoscope of culture, race, faith, and values that define the soul of true America.
In her victory speech Vice President-Elect Harris addressed young girls of the nation when she said “dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.”
What a strong and poignant message to instill in my daughter to “see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before”! Did I see myself in such a manner? Growing up in America, like many immigrant families, my desire to achieve was always fueled by parent’s values and emphasis on hard work and higher education and their many sacrifices which allowed me to pursue my very best.
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But at the very core of it, did I push that inner fighting spirit in me enough or did I allow realistic or imagined limitations in my environment from not seeing myself “in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before”?
As I reflect on my journey thus far as an Indian American woman and ponder about the future of my sweet little bundle of joy as she happily sucks on her thumb, I feel such immense elation for her future in this country. As much as I am going to follow in my parents footsteps and ingrain in her the importance of hard work and higher education, I also realize that I must always remind my precious daughter to see herself outside the box, to not allow being defined by society, and to not set boundaries on her limitless pursuits.
The idea of limitless pursuits is what represents Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, her fighting spirit to break so many barriers, her conviction to stay true to her values and background, and her legacy will be a permanent fixture to young girls of all races to continuously pursue and achieve.