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Image: Instagram.com/kamalaharris

Kamala Harris on the Presidential Ticket: It’s Okay to Be Conflicted

By:
Jeevan Sangha (@jeevanksangha)

Last week, Joe Biden picked California Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate on the Democratic Presidential ticket -- and the response has been overwhelmingly mixed. 

Harris is the first Black woman, and first woman of Indian descent to run for Vice President on a major party ticket. 

The Twitterverse exploded in response to the news, and the South Asian community in particular had mixed views in relation to the more problematic aspects of Harris’ political record. 

Over the course of her career, Kamala Harris served as the District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California, before becoming Senator. 

Harris has faced criticism for her amorphous stance on marijuana legalization, among other things. 

According to Rolling Stone, during her time as Attorney General, “at least 1,560 people were sent to California state prisons on marijuana related offenses.”

Last year, Harris received backlash for claiming she smoked weed in college, due to her history of incarcerating individuals for the very same thing. 

Since 2017, however, Harris has changed her views, and signed on to Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Acts which moves to legalize marijuana federally

At the same time, Harris is responsible for an anti-truancy policy that established harsh consequences for parents of students who consistently missed school without a valid excuse -- a policy that disproportionately affects low-income people of colour.

The VP candidate is also a strong supporter of body cams on police officers in order to increase transparency and accountability with law enforcement in California. Moreover, during her time as Attorney General in 2015, “the California Department of Justice became the first statewide agency in the country to adopt a body camera program.” 

While there is no denying that this is a huge  step, this requirement did not require local law enforcement to wear body cams. Instead, Harris told the Sacramento Bee that we should, “invest in the ability of law enforcement leaders in specific regions and with their departments to use ... discretion to figure out what technology they are going to adopt based on needs that they have and resources that they have.”  

Concurrently, Harris was also responsible for the successful “Back on Track” program launched in 2005 in order to reduce recidivism within first-time drug offenders. The program includes a Personal Responsibility Plan (PRP) that supports individuals through education, goal-setting and community service. 

In the past few years, Harris has also had many viral moments including questioning powerful figures in the Senate, and speaking her mind to her future running mate during the Democratic debate. 

When I heard that Kamala Harris had been chosen as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, I felt a stir of confusion. 

I felt neither elated, nor disappointed.

Yet before I could form a coherent thought, my Twitter feed was saturated with opinions from all ends of the spectrum. 

Many people from the South Asian community rejoiced at the thought of someone with a similar background as them having an opportunity to reach such an important and visible position. 

They agreed that she may not be perfect, but she is someone they think could get things done should she make it to the White House.

Others expressed disdain with the Biden-Harris combo, lamenting that their policies are not as progressive as they seem. 

They spoke of some of the policies that they found dangerous, and stated emphatically that this duo does not represent their political views. Many even thought that Elizabeth Warren would have been a better move.

And some people felt as I did -- right in the middle. 

I felt excited at the prospect of a strong woman with Indian descent achieving what I never dreamed was possible for someone who looks like me.

It also made me happy to think of a world where little Black and Brown girls could grow up and think they too could one day be Vice President of the United States. 

Seeing people like Kamala who has faced sexism and racism throughout her career, particularly in such a high-profile position, opens doors for the next generation of women and people of colour. 

When that excitement faded, I struggled with the fact that I do not unabashedly support the record that Kamala Harris has cultivated throughout her career. 

However, like many things, my views on Kamala Harris reaching this point does not exist on the binary of simply good or bad. 

We can be excited to see a strong and powerful woman on the presidential ticket, and still be critical of her policies, and hold her accountable for her actions.

We can accept that this is a powerful moment in history for representation, and recognize that this is merely a step, not the destination. 

There is still so much more work to be done.

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