As President-elect Joe Biden has seen off Donald Trump, the one people are talking about is Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. In her appointment, and even throughout this whole campaign, it is evident that race and America are like two peas in a pod; yin and yang; ice and fire… and Biden choosing her as his Vice President provokes America’s underbelly to show its teeth. Born to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, in Britain Kamala is someone that we would call Multiracial or Mixed-Race. However, in America, they still practice the one-drop rule where one Black ancestor makes a person Black.
And you only have to look at the media headlines as well as the rhetoric on Twitter to see how she, like many Black women in past and present is a victim of misogynoir
Being celebrated in numerous places as the first Black, first Asian, first Indian, first woman Vice President; of course there were flare ups on social media and it really makes me think about identity, pertinently for people that do not fit into monracial boxes. Mixed-Race is the fastest growing racial group but it’s also the one where important conversations are not being had. Like Kamala Harris, former-President Barack Obama is Mixed-Race, raised by his white mother but he is racialised as Black. Harris’ Jamaican and Indian heritage means she is also from a Multiracial background.
Moreover, Jamaica: a place that has been home to Africans, Jews, Lebanese, white European, Indians, Chinese, white creoles and more. What happened in Jamaica is also indicative of what happened on other islands, including Trinidad, Grenada and St. Kitts & Nevis. The Caribbean by its history of migration is Mixed-Race. Blackness has a Mixed-Race history. As far as race is concerned, the Black Lives Matter movement has shown me that Black is more of a political stance and identity, than a race. Race is a construct but if we take that construct at face value, there’s millions of people like me that “look Black” (darker skin / tighter hair) who are actually Multiracial.
The Black Lives Matter movement also is making me think about how much we don’t know about Blackness, Black identity, heritage and history; furthermore, how in Black communities, this is still an uncomfortable conversation
Barack Obama was celebrated as the first Black president of the United States but his mother was white. Both Harris’ Black and Indian identities are being celebrated, as well as being the first woman Vice President. In this reflection, it can be noted what identities are being used in political football and which ones aren’t. Using Obama and Harris as a conduit, it is a reminder of the monoracial boxes that Black history is being seen through. What we also have to realise is that Black has changed meaning over time and Black is not a monolith, and neither is Mixed-Race. Blackness is fluid.
Whether we agree with her politics is another conversation entirely, and whether Harris claimed her Black ancestry prior is another discussion; we don’t know what her relationship is like with her Blackness, as the road to being one with your own racial identity is a long one… I am not sure anyone’s in a place to judge – Black, white or otherwise.