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Kamala Harris: 'She is an opportunity for us to revisit our assumptions about race in the U.S.'

Nitasha Sharma available to comment on mixed race identity politics

The nomination of Kamala Harris to the Democratic presidential ticket has set off a flurry of discussion and debate about race and identity across numerous social and political spheres -- in Black and Asian American communities -- that range politically from the conservative to super progressive.

 

Nitasha Sharma, a scholar of Asian American studies and African American studies, is available to talk about mixed race identity and politics, specifically dual-minority biracials, Kamala Harris and Barack Obama, and Black and Asian relations.

Sharma is an associate professor in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. She can be reached at n-sharma@northwestern.edu.

 

 Quote from Professor Sharma

“We’ve seen this before historically, and specifically with Obama. They are both children of immigrants; they were both raised by their non-Black mothers, rather than their Black fathers; they are both viewed by the public with skepticism due to their biraciality and their non-Black mothers, and they both identify as “both/and” rather than “either/or.” One important difference is that Kamala does not have a White parent.

“She presents an opportunity for us to revisit our assumptions about race in the U.S., meaning a renewed focus on the fastest growing population in the U.S., which is multiracials, something the 2020 Census will show us. We generally think of people with a White and non-White parent when we think of biracial people, and here Kamala Harris presents a dual-minority biracial. How do we juxtapose the power relationship between someone who is South Asian and Black, or Indian and Jamaican, as opposed to someone who is Black and White. Obama presented a classic American and biracial tension between the oppressor and the oppressed in one body, Black and White. When you look at someone like Kamala Harris who is a dual-minority biracial (she does not have a White parent), and her parents are both immigrants to this nation, the discourse gets more complicated. In this case she was raised by her Indian mom and she identifies as Indian, and she is also a Black woman and identifies as Black as well.Kamala Harris will have Americans grappling with the relationship between Black and South Asian people and the relations between Black and Asian people in the US. Both Obama and Harris have us question monoracialism, or the presumption that people have just one racial identity. Finally, these figures raise the question of multiracial peoples’ commitments to progressive politics and their communities of color.”