Kamala Harris blasted by her own dad for pushing negative stereotypes about Jamaicans
For someone running for the president of the U.S. on a politically correct identity politics ticket, it sure doesn't look good when you gratuitously throw out a negative stereotype of anyone. If you're shameless enough, not a problem. But when your own dad calls you out, yes, there is a problem.
The blowback is here for Kamala Harris, who, in a bid to pander to the pot vote, promoted the scuzzy stereotype of Jamaica as the pothead nation.
Much of the attention from her disastrous interview with "Charlamagne tha God" on a Bay Area radio station rightly went to her strange timeline of pot-smoking, answering the question of whom she listened to when she got high, from Charlamagne tha God and his sidekick, DJEnvy, after she confirmed she smoked pot in college.
Her giggling Cheech and Chong–like response was this:
HARRIS: And look, I joke about it — half-joking — half my family's from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?
That didn't go down well with Harris's father, Stanford University professor emeritus Donald Harris, 81, a Jamaican-American who, unlike her, has actually accomplished something.
I knew that this was going to happen. In a devastating article published in MacLean's, the leading Canadian news magazine, the retired professor of economics told a Jamaican newswire that Harris's stereotyping of Jamaicans as potheads — and pursuit of identity politics — was as distasteful as hell.
Her father exploded.
Donald Harris, 81, professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University, divorced from Shyamala Gopalan since 1972, offered this comment to the website Jamaica Global Online, whose editor, Ian Randle, shared it exclusively with Maclean's:
My dear departed grandmothers, as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family's name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics. Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty.
The dad, by the way, is right.
Jamaican-Americans are by far the most successful of all the Caribbean immigrants and are famous in America for their hard work, their educational achievement, their grace, and their talents. To put them down as all duplicates of Bob Marley (who had talent but did Jamaica no favors with his association with pot) is an endless topic of irritation for Jamaicans and Jamaican-Americans who didn't get the way they did by smoking pot.
According to this passage from Color Lines, Country Lines, published in 2007 by scholar Lingxin Hao:
Whatever its caveats, the passage pretty much highlights that Jamaicans are a successful immigrant group.
Did Gen. Colin Powell, probably the most famous of all Jamaican-Americans, get to where he got by smoking ganja? Not in the U.S. Army, he didn't. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say I doubt he's all in for promoting that stereotype, either. Jamaican-Americans have large numbers of highly educated, successful contributors to American society. Skipping the sports and entertainment crowd (which is plentiful), the prominent people you see among Jamaican-Americans include Maurice Ashley, chess grandmaster; Dr. Yvette Francis Barnett and Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, both ground-breaking pediatricians (and not for their race, but for their medical advances); David Paterson, governor of New York; and Susan Rice, President Obama's former national security adviser, who just happens to have a conservative kid at Stanford.
According to Wikipedia, there are about 400,000 Jamaican-Americans in the States, concentrated around New York and Miami. I used to live in a Jamaican-American neighborhood in the Bronx in the Giuliani era. It was one subway stop away from Powell's old neighborhood, actually, and rest assured: there was zero crime. You could walk around that place at 3:00 A.M. with no problems, and as I was covering a reporting beat at the time at Forbes requiring a lot of phone calls to East Asia at Asian work hours, I often did. You don't get that kind of safety in areas where pot dominates.
When your own father blasts you for promoting negative stereotypes about his culture and homeland, you know it's bad stuff. Harris probably knew all of this about Jamaican culture and the culture she came from, yet she chose to promote the stereotype, popular among whites and ignorant people of all races on the West Coast, in order to get in good with the radio station's hip-hoppers. Even though her father was not much in her life due to court stereotyping about fathers based on her parents' divorce, according to the MacLean's piece, I think she knew this. My question: Why didn't she cite her mother's former homeland of India, which is famous for its hashish, as her stereotype of choice? Nope, she wanted to go with the more popular one, insulting the Jamaicans as potheads, and it certainly doesn't jibe with the Jamaican culture she was exposed to as a child.
Jamaicans themselves are annoyed, too. In the MacLean's piece, Harris Sr.'s response triggered annoyed comments from Jamaicans agreeing with him, saying they sure as heck didn't want extra scrutiny at the airports because of it.
For someone running for office with an identity politics shtick, this is a colossal blunder, even as a "half-serious" joke. What it shows is that Harris will say anything to get elected just as she will do anything to get elected. Identity politics for thee but not for me. I seriously doubt she thought what she was saying was at all true. She knew, and being a hypocrite, she stuck the dishonest shiv in anyway.
Image credit: Twitter screen grab.