In the middle of the pandemic – when the United States leads the world in the number of cases and deaths – the country suddenly showed one of those flashes of its greatness and chose the daughter of an immigrant to be a candidate for the vice presidency. Kamala Harris is like the future of the United States: a woman of marvelous mixes and different origins.
Kamala Harris, 55, is the daughter of a prominent cancer researcher from India, Shymala Gopalan, and an economics professor from Jamaica, Don Harris. He lives but her mother died from colon cancer in 2009. Both came to the United States for doctoral studies and met during civil rights protests in Oakland, Ca.
“My parents marched and shouted in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s,” she once wrote on her Instagram account. “It’s because of them … that I am where I am today. They laid the path for me, as only the second Black woman ever elected to the United States Senate.”
She understands, like few others, what it is to be an immigrant or the daughter of immigrants in an multi ethnic state like California, which has the country’s largest number of foreigners. “One in two Californians was born outside the United States or has a parent who was born outside the United States. Myself included,” she told me during an interview in November in Long Beach, Ca., before the pandemic and when she was still running for the presidential nomination. “The issue of immigration – and by extension the issues that impact the Latino community – are very personal to Californians and to me.”
She also spoke about one of the worst attacks on Latinos in the modern history of the United States, the massacre of 23 people in a Walmart in El Paso, Tx, on Aug. 3 2019. “People ask me: Do you think Donald Trump was responsible for the massacre in El Paso? And I say: Obviously he didn’t pull the trigger. But he certainly has been tweeting out the ammunition.”
Kamala Harris says what she thinks, is not afraid of confronting President Trump directly and her candidacy has awakened a sleepy presidential campaign overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic. On Nov. 3, U.S. voters will decide if that’s what they want. The choices could not be more different. On the Republican side, we have two white men of European background. On the Democratic side, Joe Biden and a African-American woman, the daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean and India.
What cannot be challenged is the direction the United States is taking. It is, increasingly, less white and more diverse. In just 22 years, whites will stop being the majority and the country will be a collection of minority groups, according to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau.
And, despite the anti immigration policies of President Trump, the United States continues to be the country with the largest number of immigrants in the world. Right now we are about 40 million immigrants in the United States. One out of five immigrants around the world – like Kamala’s parents – lives here. Contrary to the narrative promoted by Trump since the start of his electoral campaign – hen he said that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists – the truth is very different. Nearly half the country’s largest companies, the ones on the Fortune 500, were created by immigrants or their children. And immigrants contribute much more to the economy than what they get out of it – an “immigrant surplus,” according to the National Academy of Sciences.
There are certainly many things that don’t work well in the United States. The pandemic is making it clear that the most powerful and wealthy country in the world has been incapable of protecting the most vulnerable. Racial and gender inequality is obvious. And I don’t remember a time of more political division in my 37 years as an immigrant. But, despite it all, the promise that any person – including the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica – can win the highest posts in the nation remains valid. The United States looks a lot more like Kamala Harris than Donald Trump.
We will soon know which path the country wants to follow.