WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Indian American supporters and fundraisers of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Devi Harris, were as incensed as her Democratic rivals -- including front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, whom she forensically took to task during the debate on June 27, for his anti-school busing position in the 1970s—over the racist tweet by an extreme fringe conservative right-winger, which was re-tweeted by Donald Trump, Jr., alleging that she’s not an “American Black” and casting innuendos on both her ‘blackness’ and ‘Americanness.’
After Harris attacked Biden for opposing school busing that had left the former Vice President stumbling for an effective response, an alt-right fringe conservative Ali Alexander, posted that "Kamala Harris is implying she is descended from American Black Slaves. She's not. She comes from Jamaican Slave Owners. That's fine. She's not an American Black. Period."
And almost immediately Trump Jr. retweeted the remark, asking “Is this true? Wow!” but then deleted it, and when he was attacked for re-tweeting it, his spokesman Andy Surabian in a statement provided to the New York Times, said, “Don’s tweet was simply him asking if it was true that Kamala Harris was half-Indian because it’s not something he had ever heard before.”
“And once he saw that folks were misconstruing the intent of his tweet, he quickly deleted it,” Surabian said.
Biden in a tweet, condemning the social media attacks against Harris, reminiscent of the “birtherism” campaign fomented by Donald Trump years before he became president that former President Barack Obama was not a natural-born U.S. citizen and thereby ineligible to be president, said, "The same forces of hatred rooted in 'birtherism ' that questioned @BarackObama's American citizenship, and even his racial identity, are now being used against Senator @KamalaHarris.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.), also a presidential candidate, tweeted that the attacks against Harris—who was born in Oakland, California, and is of Jamaican and Indian parentage—“are racist and ugly.”
“We all have an obligation to speak out and say so. And it’s within the power and obligation of tech companies to stop these vile lies dead in their tracks,” she said.
Other Democratic candidates who stoutly defended Harris, included Sen. Bernie Sanders who tweeted,"Donald Trump Jr. is a racist too. Shocker,” Sen. Cory Booker who tweeted, "Kamala Harris doesn’t have shit to prove,” and Southbend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who tweeted, “The presidential competitive field is stronger because Kamala Harris has been powerfully voicing her Black American experience. Her first-generation story embodies the American dream. It’s long past time to end these racist, birther-style attacks."
Tweets also came fast and furious from other candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who said, "These troll-fueled racist attacks on Senator Kamala Harris are unacceptable. We are better than this (Russia is not) and stand united against this type of vile behavior.”
Rep. Beto O’Rourke said, "There's a long history of black Americans being told they don't belong—and millions are kept down and shut out to this day. Kamala Harris is an American. Period. And all of us must call out attempts to question her identity for what they are: racist."
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state tweeted, "The coordinated smear campaign on Senator Kamala Harris is racist and vile. The Trump family is peddling birtherism again and it’s incumbent on all of us to speak out against it,” while Rep. Tim Ryan tweeted, "The attack on Kamala Harris is racist and we can't allow it to go unchecked. We have a responsibility to call out this birtherism and the continued spread of misinformation.
Subodh Chandra, a Cleveland, Ohio civil rights attorney and a longtime community and political activist, who a staunch supporter of Harris and has hosted fund-raisers for her, told India Abroad, “Birtherism is the false claim that a non-white person is somehow magically ineligible for the presidency despite being a natural-born U.S. citizen, or the false claim that someone who was born here was not—let's face it, just because they are non-white. And birtherism is racism. Period. The only thing animating birthers is racism.”
He said, “That Trump's feeble-minded, corrupt son Don Jr. would retweet a birtherist message is unsurprising because his father was birtherism's original sinner, who baselessly attacked President Obama and rose to political prominence in the Republican Party because of the racism. The rotting fruit doesn't fall far from the morally hollow tree.”
Chandra, A former federal prosecutor, law director for the City of Cleveland, and large-firm litigator, and the founding and managing partner of the Chandra Law Firm LLC, argued, “The birtherism message originates with well-known Nazis and white supremacists. The fact that bots online are replicating that message shows you that the Russians are not done sowing division among us and interfering with our elections—and the Republicans are not done suckling on the Russians' interference.”
“There is only one answer to the birtherism directed at Senator Kamala Devi Harris, just as there was only one answer to the birtherism at President Obama,” he said. “We must elect her. Only that kind of thappard or jhaapard to the racists will leave them in the ashes of history.”
Chandra, who unsuccessfully ran for Ohio Attorney General a few years ago, asserted, “The answer is not to capitulate to racists or their enablers. The answer is to defeat them.”
His angry reaction to the trolling of Harris, was echoed by Dr. Rachakonda D. Prabhu, of Las Vegas, Nevada, another Indian American supporter of Harris, who recently hosted a major fundraiser for Harris.
Prabhu, also a longtime community and political activists and one of the most influential Indian Americans on the West Coast, described the racist tweet against Harris and the retweet by Trump Jr., as “despicable.”
He too referred to Trump Jr’s father, now President Trump, promoting the “birtherism” conspiracy against Obama and declared, “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Prabhu told India Abroad that the racist attacks against Harris was undeniably a consequence of Harris’ stellar performance at the debate and the fact that “she is a formidable candidate who is going to emerge victorious among the Democrats, and then she will crush Trump in the debates.”
He also pointed out that in just 24 hours after the debate, Harris had raised $2 million, and urged that “the Indian American community should also get-together and condemn these racist and birtherism attacks against her and support her campaign.”
Deepak Raj, co-founder of the Indian American Impact Fund, which very early after Harris declared her candidacy for the presidency, strongly endorsed her said, “The Impact Fund is extremely proud of Senator Harris’s command of the issues and her strong and passionate stance on matters that impact minority communities and all Americans.”
Former two-term Maryland state legislator Aruna Miller, now the Executive Director of the Indian American Impact, obviously implying that the Trump re-election campaign is running scared, told India Abroad that the debate clearly showed that “Senator Harris demonstrated that she is better positioned than any other candidate to defeat Donald Trump.”
While in Osaka, Japan, for the G-20 meeting, Trump complained that Harris got “too much credit” for her skewering of Biden, although acknowledging that the former Vice President “didn’t do well, certainly.”
Speaking to reporters after the summit, he implied that Harris’ attack against Biden, which he described as “so out of the can” may have been a salvo she came prepared with to launch at Biden.
“It wasn’t that outstanding, and I think probably he was hit harder than he should have been hit,” Trump said.
When he was asked if Harris would be a tough opponent, if she were to get the Democratic presidential nomination, Trump demurred before answering, “You never know who’s going to be tough. One who you think is going to be tough turns out to be not so much.”
Sources have said that ever since Harris’ impressive roll-out of her presidential campaign in her hometown of Oakland that was attended by over 20,000 people, Trump who has a penchant for large crowds, has had a healthy respect for her and may very well fear the former prosecutor as a formidable opponent than he would Biden, the front-runner in the polls.
Harris is also one of the few Democratic candidates that he’s yet to give a nick-name to, even though she’s gone after him calling him a “racist” and a “security threat” to the nation.
The President, who constantly refers to Biden as “Sleepy Joe,” and Warren disparagingly as “Pocahontas” for allegedly falsely claiming Native American heritage, has in the case of Harris, only gone as far as to call her “nasty,” description he reserves for his opponents among African-American women.
The Washington Post noted in a report on June 29, in the aftermath of the racial attacks on Harris that when she is asked how she identifies herself—whether African American or Indian American—"she will often say, as ‘an American.’ But recently, she’s leaned in more to what it meant to grow up black in the wake of the civil rights movement — Harris was born in October 1964, just months after the Civil Rights Act had been signed into law.”
According to the newspaper, “At a recent campaign event sponsored by Planned Parenthood, Harris spoke about growing up and realizing that people treated her mother with less respect because of the color of her skin.”
“I remember people looking down at my mother, assuming she was somebody’s housekeeper and treating her like she was a substandard person,” Harris said. “She was a housekeeper, she kept our house, and happened to be a breast cancer researcher. There was an assumption that this woman had no power and should be given no power.”
“I realize now that I made a decision at a young age,” she said, “that I’m not going to let anybody do that to anybody else.”