If Senator Elizabeth Warren wins in 2020, the millionaire class warrior will break the glass ceiling as the first fake American Indian to become the President of the United States. But Senator Kamala Harris is outdoing Warren as the first 2020 fake black candidate who actually is black.
It’s easy to fake being a member of a minority group that your DNA test says you can lay 1/1,024th claim to, but what’s really challenging is being a fake member of a minority group you actually do belong to.
But Kamala Harris is making being fake look easy.
The other Senator from California decided to tout her racial cred by announcing her candidacy in Oakland on or around Martin Luther King Day. It all went according to plan except that photos showed a sea of white faces in the crowd. Behind her, you could see the sort of unwashed hipsters who haven’t figured out how to shave or cut their hair, but attend every Democrat event anywhere in America.
Harris had been born in Oakland, but grew up in Berkeley and Montreal. And when the LA Times interviewed African-Americans in Oakland, it found few who thought of her as a native daughter.
At her rally, Harris waved, alongside her Jewish lawyer husband, Douglas Emhoff.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Kamala Devi Harris, who was raised by her Tamil Indian mother Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, and who spent her formative years in Canada, had attended a Hindu temple, and wore a flower garland around her neck at her wedding to represent Indian tradition (while the groom broke a glass), exemplifies diversity.
As did calling an aunt before an election, asking her, “Please pray for me, break coconuts at the temple.”
But Kamala’s insistence on fake racial pandering, from her Wakanda Forever video to her claims of listening to Snoop before it was possible, makes Hillary’s hot sauce moment seem authentic.
Senator Harris began her series of racial gaffes by falsely claiming that “Two decades after Brown v. Board, I was only the second class to integrate at Berkeley public schools. Without that decision, I likely would not have become a lawyer and eventually be elected a Senator from California.”
Harris attended school in Berkeley, California, not Savannah, Georgia. Berkeley schools were not segregated by race. Her mother was an internationally famous cancer researcher and the daughter of P.V. Gopalan, a high-ranking Indian diplomat from the Brahmin caste. Her father was a professor of economics at Stanford who served as an adviser to multiple Jamaican prime ministers.
As a Los Angeles Times article described her, she was the “privileged child of foreign grad students”.
Kamala’s mother taught at universities in France, Italy and Canada. She smugly told Modern Luxury magazine “When Kamala was in first grade one of her teachers said to me, ‘You know, your child has a great imagination. Every time we talk about someplace in the world she says, “Oh, I’ve been there.”’ So I told her, ‘Well, she has been there!’ India, England, the Caribbean, Africa—she had been there.”
Modern Luxury also quoted “one of Harris’s Nob Hill friends” as saying that “her Brahmin background accounts for her ease around wealthy, powerful people.”
Everyone in the Gopalan family was expected to earn an advanced degree and usually did. Both sides of her family were upper class political figures in their respective countries with money and power.
Kamala Harris graduated from “Montreal’s tony Westmount” (École Secondaire) high school. Her mother had moved her to Canada when she was twelve years old and lived a privileged childhood there.
Senator Harris’ pretense that she would never have become a lawyer if not for school busing to Thousand Oaks is transparently fake racial pandering that tries to paint a privileged upper-class woman, as the victim of racial discrimination in one of the most progressive cities in America.
In her latest gaffe, Senator Harris tried to desperately overcompensate by claiming that she used to get high while listening to “Snoop” and “Tupac”. But as Nick Gillespie pointed out, Harris had graduated from school too early to be listening to either one while getting high or otherwise.
It was another unnecessary ‘Hillaryism’. An attempt to demonstrate her authenticity that only backfired.
And it wasn’t the first time that Harris had been caught awkwardly trying to fake music cred.
In an appearance on Colbert’s CBS Democrat late night fest, she debuted her “mood mix” and declared that the song that most reminded her of attending Howard University, an African-American college, was by Salt-N-Pepa, while pronouncing it, “Salt and Pepper”.
Senator Harris, who had previously opposed drug legalization, denied that she opposed marijuana legalization. “Half my family’s from Jamaica, are you kidding me,” she retorted.
Her family is from Jamaica. But Senator Harris is cynically playing on stereotypes about drug use.
Donald Harris’ Stanford bio describes him as an “economic consultant to the Government of Jamaica and as economic adviser to successive Prime Ministers”. He had been a Fellow at Cambridge and a Fulbright Scholar in South America. He had even done consulting work for the UN and the World Bank.
The Harris family is descended from slave-owner Hamilton Brown. His grandfather, Joseph Alexander Harris, was a landowner. There are values in Harris’ account of his family worth teaching.
Unfortunately, Senator Kamala Harris chose to use her ancestry as a drug stereotype punchline.
Harris didn’t spend her college years getting high. Instead she got two degrees. Those are values that she picked up from both her parents. Instead of passing those values down, she’s condescendingly pandering to racial stereotypes in order to demonstrate her inauthentic authenticity.
Blackface controversies have torn apart Virginia. But Kamala Harris is running her own kind of blackface routine, performing stereotypes about black people for mostly white audiences, in order to get ahead. And the awkward head movements, the phony cultural references and attempts at victimhood, is its own kind of political minstrel show reeking of contempt for both black and white people.
Both Warren and Harris, successful professional women, appropriated the cultural identities of oppressed people to get a leg up because much of identity politics is really performative social climbing by upper-class professionals trying to obtain special privileges by identifying with minorities.
The new political blackface routines, like the old minstrel shows, depend on insulting condescending stereotypes, like Warren’s Pow Wow Chow and Harris’ imaginary Jamaican pot smoking family. Minstrel shows dehumanized their targets and their participants. Political blackface does the same thing.
Senator Kamala Harris could run as a career prosecutor from two upper class families, who grew up traveling the world with her parents, who spent her formative years in Montreal, who counted Nancy Pelosi as a friend back in her Nob Hill days, who married at a Jewish-Indian wedding, and whose tastes in music, very obviously, don’t include either Snoop Dogg or Salt-N-Pepa.
Instead she decided to run as a self-made blackface cartoon because her background is too diverse and too complicated. Identity politics claims to value diversity, but favors simple identities that appeal to chauvinistic racial and ethnic national movements. Kamala’s diversity cuts across those neat lines, outraging racial and religious sensibilities, and necessitating a simpler story complete with blackface.
It’s also much too upper class. In an election where everyone is trying to speak for the oppressed, her real background explains all too well how she tapped into elite political networks (not counting the affair with Willie Brown, the much older Mayor of San Francisco, who appointed her to positions she wasn’t qualified for and bought her a BMW) and how those networks exclude the actual marginalized minorities whom they claim to represent. That’s the explosive reality that Harris is smoothing over.
Identity politics can do a lot for someone like Senator Kamala Harris. Or even Senator Elizabeth Warren. It’s going to do much less for a poor family from Oakland. That’s the ugly truth about diversity.
And the ugly truth is being hidden with a whole lot of blackface.