October 30, 2020
By Kelli Chinn, Special to The Citizen
The census, job applications, and any form that has asked me to “choose one” race or ethnicity made my skin crawl. Presented with these antiquated and racist forms, I’d start to sweat and hear my father’s voice: “You’re a Chinn, no matter what anyone says!” and my mother say: “You are a strong beautiful Black woman too!” I’d feel a sense of anxiety within my soul as I was dared to actually pick one part of myself to represent. My mother and father demonstrated all they knew to embed the values of both cultures onto their three racially ambiguous children. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t “pick a side” in any lifetime. I felt like a rebel as I checked off two boxes instead of one: “African American” and “Asian.”
Fast forward to today. It’s 2020 and days prior to the election. We are down to exactly two choices. This year’s kicker is that we have a woman of color as a vice presidential candidate — California Senator Kamala Harris. Why is Kamala Harris exceptional to me? She is of mixed heritage, the same mix as myself. She was born in Oakland, California. She is also a Libra. She graduated from a HBCU, Howard University, and then went on to complete law school. She started her career in law within the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, then became a city attorney, and later progressed to the attorney general of California. She serves as a senator for California, and previously ran as one of 2020’s democratic presidential candidates. In January, she could become the first African American and South Asian woman vice president in US history. Even without my personal biases, that should provide plenty of context to sway your vote, right?
Besides upholding her many accolades in contrast to the current administration, I cannot fathom why her races are a topic for conservatives to define. One standout remark is that because she is Jamaican, she is therefore not considered wholly Black — a claim that singlehandedly disenfranchises the beholder and true descendants from claiming pride in their own race. How can anyone else depict your race or races besides yourself?
As I discover more headlines stating that she’s forcing us to look beyond Black and white or reporting that she embraces her roots, I begin to wonder where these people have been over the last couple of years. Why is it a new notion that mixed races beyond Black and white thrive? Why would anyone not embrace their roots? I’ve been at it since the late eighties, but I remind myself of the precious gift my Chinese father and Black mother bestowed upon me: the gift of being born and raised in Oakland, California. Mixed pride was a societal norm for my family and my community. What will allow my wonderment is that a woman of Kamala Harris’ caliber could quite possibly become our next vice president, and she is everything I am.
The representation Kamala Harris models is the epitome of an illustrious leader. She breathes life into the Asian woman who wants to be an attorney general, the Indian woman who wants to run for president, the Jamaican woman who wants to attend a HBCU and the Black woman who wants to become vice president. The fact that she encapsulates true diligence and resilience ought be her feature story, not what oppressive propaganda pushers make of her heritage. Just know she’s a rebel with a cause who checks two boxes instead of one when asked: “What’s your race or ethnicity?”