Vote for Kamala Harris for California Attorney General 2010. That’s right, the sign reads correctly, a South Asian woman is running for Attorney General of California. The news inspired me to research San Francisco District Attorney (DA) Kamala Harris, cited by the New York Times as one of 17 most likely women to become the first female President of the United States. Democratic candidate, DA Harris sat down with SAPNA to share her story.
DA Kamala Harris was born in California. Her mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris who passed last year was a cancer researcher and civil rights activist. Kamala’s maternal grandfather was the Joint Secretary for the Indian Government (comparable to our Deputy Secretary of State). Her mother’s successful career was driven by her passion and guided by the well-wishes from DA Harris’ grandfather. He didn’t think twice about sending his 20-year-old daughter to America to pursue her passion and talent for science. DA Harris had the opportunity to travel back to India every two or three years to see her mother’s family. She recalls, ” I remember walking along the beach with my grandfather and his friends, retired public servants who spent their careers trying to make India a better place.” Her grandfather played a significant role in DA Harris’s life, especially by impressing upon her the importance of applying an unwavering ethical lens to every single problem she would face.
In the 1990s, DA Harris began to see what she calls “the Indian American Political Movement in California.” She explained, “Our state’s Indian American population doubled from 1990 to 2000.” Moreover, she noted that Indian Americans not only represent an expanding community reflected in a more diversified local job market but have also fueled and contributed to a thriving technology sector. The Indian-American community not only contributes to the economy but expands cultural and ethnic diversity. DA Harris expressed her love for the community in which she lived, stating, “Along University Avenue in Berkeley, near where I grew up, or on Pioneer Boulevard in Los Angeles; the streets are lined with Indian restaurants and sari shops. One cannot help but appreciate the impression that Indian Americans are having in our communities by contributing to our economy, collective culture, and diversity.”
DA Harris is acutely aware of the evolving South Asian community. “My mother’s generation tended to work primarily as scientists, doctors, or engineers. Now, we see Indian Americans working not only in the technology sector but also working in the legal field and politics and government in increasing numbers.” But just like so many other Americans right now, Indian American families in California are confronting issues regarding foreclosures and being misled by “mortgage counselors,” who are preying on elders and the equity in their homes. If elected as Attorney General, DA Harris wants to create solutions by narrowing the issues impacting particular communities, such as South Asian families. She hopes to provide various communities with “innovative solutions based on a deep knowledge of our varied demographics.”
DA Harris started her campaign for Attorney General with merely $117,000, not much in terms of financial capital for a CA statewide race. But she’s continued to campaign harder, and the support has poured in, raising about $1.2 million in the first half of 2009. The Indian American community is taking pride, on both the state and national levels, and helping DA Harris with her campaign. One example is the South Asians for Kamala Leadership Team that has been taking an active role in organizing grassroots and community outreach events and fundraising efforts. DA Harris wishes to have a shared vision with the South Asian community by creating an open dialogue about how best the California Attorney General can improve and protect the lives of South Asians. A long-lasting relationship based on this mutual support will be critical throughout the course of her campaign and beyond.
Her work as DA proves that she’s committed to the citizens of California. DA Harris has developed programs such as Support for Kids and Youth Program (SKY) for children who are victims of family violence, she has taken a stand on such topics as Hate Crimes and Protecting Victims, and helped develop the Human Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act, to name a few of her efforts and accomplishments.
If elected, Kamala would be the first Indian American State Attorney General in United State’s history.