VP Kamala Harris drops “F” bomb urging Asian Americans to break down barriers

WASHINGTON, May 14 : US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is of Indian origin, dropped the “F” bomb as she urged Asian Americans to break down barriers in America.

Harris, who has broken several glass ceilings, in her run-up to becoming the vice president of the US — the first Indian-American, the first African-American and the first woman to do so — on Monday used the word during a conversation with actor and comedian Jimmy O. Yang.

Yang during the interaction organised by Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies Legislative Leadership Summit asked Harris, 59, what it meant to be the first vice president of Asian descent and how that heritage informed her views and role as a leader.

Harris’s mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris was from Chennai, India, and her father Donald Harris was from Jamaica.

“My mother would say to me, “Don’t you ever let anybody tell you who you are.  You tell them who you are.”

“Don’t ever carry as a personal burden your capacity to do whatever you dream and aspire to do based on other people’s limited ability to see who can do what,” she said.

“We have to know that sometimes people will open the door for you and leave it open. Sometimes they won’t. And then you need to kick that f****** door down. Excuse my language,” she said amidst laughter and applause from the audience.

“We got to make T-shirts with that saying, ‘Kick the f****** door down’,” Yang said amidst laughter.

In her answer, Harris explained the influence of her mother and maternal grandfather on her life.

“My mother gave my sister and me a lot of advice. One of the things that she said to me that has had a lasting impact is: ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things. Make sure you’re not the last.’ My mother was 19 years old when she arrived in the United States by herself. She was the eldest of my grandparents’ four kids,” Harris said.

“She was part of one of the first waves of Indians to come to the US in relatively modern history in the ‘50s. So, anybody with a South Asian background, you’ll know that this was early, early, early. There were not many Indian-Americans or Indians who had come in at that point. My mother said to her father when she was 19 years old, ‘I want to cure cancer.’ What I learned later is she secretly applied to UC Berkeley. And she got accepted,” said the vice president, who is contesting the November 2024 presidential election as the running mate of incumbent President Joe Biden.

“She went to my grandfather and said, ‘I want to go.’ And my grandfather was very progressive. His eldest child — we know, in Asian culture, what birth order means… I am the first grandchild too, I’ll say. And my grandfather said, ‘Go.’ So she arrived in the United States by herself because she had a passion and she had a goal,” Harris said.

Harris said her mother’s life was committed to two things — raising her two daughters and ending breast cancer. “My grandfather was probably one of my favourite people in my life, especially during my childhood. We were pen pals… We would go back to India every two years growing up. Trying to avoid the monsoon season.  So, it was sometime between October and December around the Christmas holidays, usually,” she said.

“I, as the eldest grandchild, had the honour among anyone in our family of being invited by my grandfather to take his morning walk with his retired buddies. They would, every morning… These, you know, old men, who were very smart and very knowledgeable, and they would take their walk. And I would hold my grandfather’s hand, and I was the one who was able to go on the walk with him,” she said.

“My grandfather and his friends would passionately debate the importance of democracy and a government that treated people equally and with fairness and a government that was not corrupt. That influenced my life in more ways than I can ever explain, even though I didn’t realise it at the time. And all of that had an impact, then, on what I decided to do with my life,” said the vice president.

“My mother, when she arrived in the United States, she automatically, given who my grandfather was and about the fight for independence in India, my mother, then, you might know this in retrospect took to the streets to march for civil rights in her saree. That’s how she met my father. And all of that has had a profound influence,” she said.

“I will also add to this about being the first because there are so many firsts here, and there are so many who we, who are the first, have decided. We will mentor you and we will support you and we will remind you of what it involves and also that you have an incredible community of people that are encouraging you every step of the way,” Harris said.

“Here’s the thing about breaking barriers. Breaking barriers does not mean you start on one side of the barrier and end up on the other side. There’s breaking involved. When you break things, you get cut and you may bleed. And it is worth it every time. Every time,” asserted the vice president.

According to the White House website, Harris always fights for the people – from her barrier-breaking time as District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California to proudly serving as a United States Senator and Vice President. (PTI)