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Kamala Harris: The Power of One’s Name

Kamala Devi Harris. A Black, Jamaican, and Indian American woman. Born and bred in Oakland, CA. Her laugh bountifully replenishes the earth. She has astounding conviction and pioneering strength in politics, attributed to Black women before her including former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and Charlotta Bass, who was the first Black woman to run for Vice President in 1952. 

On August 11th, 2020, when Kamala Harris was announced as the vice presidential choice by former vice president Joe Biden, the moment came from Black women demanding Biden choose a vice president who is a Black woman. Older Black women, in particular, were crucial for Biden to become the Democratic presidential nominee. He understood the command by choosing Kamala, who will hold him accountable for inclusive leadership.

Of course, seeing a Black woman in leadership, who is also admired by millions of people from various walks of life, can be jarring to most. The closest insult by lowercase white men is to….mispronounce her name. Kamala has spent her life having her name mispronounced. Senator David Perdue and Vice President Mike Pence, among many lowercase white men, mispronounce her name for laughs, revealing the fear they have of her. Like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose name is put into initials like an airport search, Kamala Harris affirms that there are people who do not have a mouth strong enough to hold a powerful person’s name in it. On the other hand, these powerful Black and Brown women, among many, have penthouse suites in these lowercase white men’s minds. 

Every time you mispronounce Kamala’s name, Uzo Aduba’s skin moisturizes.

Every time you mispronounce Kamala’s name, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s pen becomes sharper.

Every time you mispronounce Kamala’s name, Padma Lakshmi’s senses are renewed.

Every time you mispronounce Kamala’s name, Luvvie Ájàyí Jones’ side-eye will gather you accordingly.

When you mispronounce someone’s name with cruelty, you only affirm their name and most remarkable attributes. 

Kamala will have another achievement to her name that will be difficult for many. Can you pronounce Madam Vice President Kamala Harris?! As many have resented her with vile retorts, including that she is not Black enough, the fact that she is Vice President will become a canker sore in the mouths of many. To that I say, buy stock in Abreva. Then, get used to saying her full name.

Ultimately, disrespecting Kamala’s name is an attempt to lessen her integrity. Disrespecting her name also ties with the denigration of her cultures. Disrespecting her name is a doctoral program in cowardice. 

Kamala is a beacon for representation. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a biomedical scientist who became a breast cancer researcher. She also raised Kamala and Maya, Kamala’s sister, to become phenomenal women. Kamala keeps her mother’s name in the present. 

Pronouncing a name is an honor. Respect its power.

Ashley Paul is a hopeless wanderer, baker, runner, and photographer. She is passionate about supporting high school juniors and seniors to write compelling stories for their post-secondary careers. Her favorite genres are young adult, literary fiction, and memoir.

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