How Kamala Harris' mum Shyamala touted 'top caste' Brahmin lineage and justified daughter 'using' Willie Brown

Many have accused Harris of using her scandalous relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown for political gains


                            How Kamala Harris' mum Shyamala touted 'top caste' Brahmin lineage and justified daughter 'using' Willie Brown
Kamala and Shyamala Harris (Getty Images/Legacy)

Kamala Harris, who officially became Joe Biden's running mate on August 20, has to be one of the most controversial vice-presidential picks in modern political history. But does her apparent elitism have anything to do with her "bloodline"?

The California Democrat found herself at the center of numerous controversies as she made her way up the slippery rungs of the political ladder. Many have accused her of exploiting the color of her skin to advance her own interests, while her scandalous relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown in the '90s has also been linked to similar motivations.

"Kamala Harris is African-American because she identifies as African-American. But does thinking something make it so?" conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza asked in a recent social media post titled 'Here's the Part of Kamala Harris' Past the Media Won't Show You'. "If Donald Trump identifies as African-American, would that make him African-American? Doesn't he need African-American roots?"

D'Souza may have a point. In reality, Harris' ethnic roots are Indo-Jamaican — Her mother is an Asian Indian while her father is Jamaican. However, it seems the vice-presidential hopeful never really faced pushback for cashing in another minority's check after having casually "identified" herself as African-American throughout her career. Instead, she is now being touted as the first Black woman to be nominated for vice president.

Dinesh D'Souza (Getty Images)

Harris was born in 1964 in Oakland, California, two years before her sister Maya came into the world. Shyamala, their mother, belonged to an elite family of high-ranking Indian civil servants. She immigrated to the United States from her native country in the early 1960s. “I came to study at UC Berkeley,” she told San Francisco Weekly in 2003. “I never came to stay. It's the old story: I fell in love with a guy, we got married, pretty soon kids came.” The guy she married was Donald Harris, a Jamaican native who went on to become a Stanford economics professor.

Kamala, her eldest daughter, graduated from Howard University and studied law at the University of California. She began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and was soon recruited to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

Kamala Harris met Brown in 1994, when he was serving as the speaker of the state assembly. The duo started dating despite their significant age difference. She was 29, he was 60 — and their affair became the talk of the town the year before Brown became mayor in 1995. In his capacity as speaker, Brown appointed Harris to two political posts — first to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, and then to the Medical Assistance Commission. However, she parted ways with him shortly after he won the mayoral office.

Former San Francisco mayor and attorney Willie Brown (Getty Images)

Harris received intense backlash after she was seen as having used Brown to boost her political career. However, she somehow managed to wade through the controversy and eventually became a junior United States Senator. Commenting on the criticism of her elder daughter's unseemly relationship with Brown at the time, Shyamala said the “malevolence” of personal attacks on her daughter infuriated her.

“What has Willie Brown done for her? Introduce her to society people when they dated? If they did not like Kamala on her own right, they would have dropped her after she dropped Willie. Kamala is comfortable in all kinds of social scenes. She can pull it off in high society, too. She has the manners, the eating habits," she told SF Weekly. “Why shouldn't she have gone out with Willie Brown? He was a player. And what could Willie Brown expect from her in the future? He has not much life left," she added at the time.

During the interview, Shyamala also touted her family's elite "bloodline" — appearing to embrace the notorious caste system that is deeply entrenched in Indian society. “In Indian society, we go by birth,” Shyamala said. “We are Brahmins, that is the top caste. Please do not confuse this with class, which is only about money. For Brahmins, the bloodline is the most important. My family, named Gopalan, goes back more than 1,000 years.”

(Getty Images)

D'Souza branded these remarks as "morally disgraceful" and took the liberty of linking Kamala's apparent "elitism" to her mom.

"Educated Indians reject the caste system. It's really sad to see an educated Indian woman boasting about her bloodline and how superior her family is to other Indian families," he said, before slamming the "ruthless cynicism" of Shyamala's justification for her daughter dating Brown. "Here you have an Indian woman taking a certain calculating pleasure in renting out her daughter to advance the family's fortunes," he declared.

D'Souza himself is of Asian-Indian origin. He was born in Bombay in 1961 and grew up in a middle-class Roman Catholic family. He moved to the US as a foreign-exchange student in 1978.

Shyamala G Harris, after a courageous battle with cancer, passed away on Feb 11, 2009.

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