Vice President Kamala Devi Harris knows how to stand up against bullying.
As an interracial child of immigrant parents growing up in America, she faced bullying in her school.
As an attorney, politician, and Senator working in fields dominated by white men, she has had to raise her voice just to be heard, even when she’s the only person in the room saying the right thing.
As the first woman, Black and South Asian Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris will face her share of criticism, bullying and hatred, but with her resilience, compassion and dedication to equity, we believe she will rise above the hate and be an example to youth across our country.
Harris’s oath to become Vice President today sends a message to children in all marginalized communities, a message that says, Yes, your stories matter.
As Harris said, she may be the first woman in this office, but she won’t be the last.
In kindergarten, when a boy grabbed her best friend’s clay art project and broke it, 5-year old Harris stepped in and stood up for her friend. When Harris was bullied by a Senator who mocked her name saying “Kamala mala mala … whatever”, the whole nation stood up for her, storming Twitter with beautiful #MyNameIs messages that explained the history, the culture, and the legacies of our ancestors that our names carry.
“#MyNameIs Maulik. In Sanskrit it means ‘Original.’ In Hindi, ‘Precious.’ My grandfather said it’s ‘the origin of thought’ – the unknown place from which ideas spring forth,” says Maulik Pancholy, co-founder of Act To Change.
“#MyNameIs, 雷小小, which means thunder small small. I liked to think I was Pikachu when I was growing up – it made me feel cute and powerful!” says Belinda Lei, Managing Director of Act To Change.
“#MyNameIs Saad. In Arabic it means happiness and luck. In Urdu, it means blessed, and I truly feel that everyday,” says Saad Qureshi, Board Member of Act To Change.
“#MyNameIs 유민 Yumin. Yu means beauty and Min means gem. In Korean, siblings often share one syllable so my sister’s name is 유진 Yujin!” says Board Member Mindy Kordash-Shim.
AAPI youth are no strangers to having our names butchered by our classmates, or being bullied for our accents, our lunches, or our appearances. With Harris in the White House, AAPI youth can confidently carry and claim our cultures.
When Harris took the Vice President debate stage in October, the AAPI community again poured their support on social media, with the hashtag #AAPISheRose. We shared stories of our immigrant mothers and grandmothers, many of whom fled war, abuse or political unrest, and sacrificed everything in their lives to raise us.
In that same debate, when Mike Pence repeatedly interrupted VP Harris, she reclaimed her time with a firm “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking”, giving a voice to every woman who has ever been talked over at the workplace.
VP Harris continues to be an active advocate against bullying. She kicked off the Stand Up for AAPI Youth During COVID anti-bullying program, which offers schools lesson plans that address issues such as the model minority myth, implicit biases, microaggressions, self-acceptance, cultural appropriation and more. During the COVID pandemic, 1 in 4 kids of Asian descent have reported being bullied due to their race. When 14 year old Tyler Gordon, who was bullied severely in school for his stutter, painted a portrait of VP Harris, she personally called him to express gratitude and praise his talent.
VP Harris’s Inauguration today also serves as a reminder of the importance of appreciating and embracing our intersectionalities. We are also reminded today of how much stronger we are when our communities band together. Harris’s election victory has sparked many critical discussions within AAPI families to confront our implicit anti-Blackness. When we celebrate the first South Asian woman taking the oath today, we must also remember to celebrate the Black woman, and thank generations of Black activists who made it possible for us to enjoy our civil, voting, immigration, and interracial marriage rights.
However, many AAPI parents still believe “everyone can make it with enough hard work” perpetuating the Model Minority Myth. Many of us are still reminded by our families to not stay out in the sun for too long, lest our skin become too dark. These racist beliefs and actions are still inherent in our community, and it is upon us to have constructive conversations to eradicate anti-Blackness.
Actor and activist Ryan Alexander Holmes, who like Madame VP Harris is 100% Black and 100% Asian, is joining us this Saturday, along with co-founder Maulik Pancholy and a panel of youth leaders, to discuss ways to Talk To Our Parents About Anti-Blackness. We are grateful to Leadership Conference’s Education Fund’s “Black Justice Is Our Justice” project for sponsoring #LeadershipConvos, and hope you’ll tune in!
Saturday, Jan 23 at 12-1PM PT/ 3-4PM ET