KEY POINTS

  • Sen. Kamala Harris was born to immigrant parents in California who were active with local civil rights groups
  • Harris' mother was an Indian immigrant and her father was a Jamaican immigrant who were both studying at Berkeley
  • Harris cites her mother as a reason for her pride in both her Black and Indian heritages

After months of stringing the public along, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his running mate for the 2020 election to be the long-rumored Sen. Kamala Harris. Should Biden and Harris win come November, it would make Harris the first woman of color to hold that high a position in the White House.

Reports have noted she could be, specifically, the “first Black woman,” “first Indian woman,” or “first Asian woman” to hold the vice president’s office, but is that accurate?

The answer: yes to all of the above.

Harris was born in 1964 to Indian-immigrant Shyamala Gopalan and Jamaican-immigrant Donald Harris. Gopalan came to the U.S. at the age of 19 to pursue her doctorate in nutrition and endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley. It was during this time she met Harris, who was also attending Berkeley on his way to eventually become a Stanford economics professor.

The pair met while attending civil rights meetings on campus and would eventually marry while still at Berkeley. The two would continue to work with other civil rights groups after Kamala Harris’ birth, with Gopalan even meeting Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967.

Gopalan would eventually file for divorce in December 1971 and won custody of Kamala Harris and her younger sister, Maya Harris, in June 1973.

Harris cites her mother as a reason why she is proud of her heritage, saying she raised her and her sister to see the strength in it. She said Gopalan put extra emphasis in teaching the two to have pride in the Black heritage, with posters and imagery of Black leaders in American history all around their house. Harris said she knew who George Washington-Carver was before learning about President George Washington.

“She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as Black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud Black women,” Harris told the Mercury News.

However, Harris has never hidden in her pride in her Indian heritage, either, often holding up her mother for the example she set in her life that led her to pursue a career in law before taking the leap into politics.

California senator Kamala Harris is the first black and Asian-American woman nominated for vice president California senator Kamala Harris is the first black and Asian-American woman nominated for vice president Photo: AFP / JOSH EDELSON