Oh, Kamala!: Harris’s Identity in 3 Acts, Affirmative Action, and the Postal Service

Kamala Harris: How immigrant parents shaped her life

In a late-Sunday-night mega-recording session, we discuss the big news of the past week: Kamala Harris, the first major vice presidential candidate who’s Black, Asian American, and a woman. Commentators have tried to pick apart her identity from countless angles: Is she Black enough? Indian enough? Caribbean enough? An Asian-immigrant icon? In other words, the kind of juicy shit you KNOW your podcast hosts are ALL ABOUT.

0:44 – Our promise to improve TTSG’s audio quality is followed by a recording glitch

1:20 – Updates on Tammy’s temporary life in Montana, Andy’s teaching by Zoom, and Jay’s love of nonstop road trips

9:40 – Who is Kamala Harris?  

17:28 – Identity, Act 1: Kamala the politician: Is she a cop? Is she malleable, or does she have a motivating ideology? Also: Jay and Andy award her 30 speaker points for last year’s debates. 

26:42 – Identity, Act 2: Is she a second-generation immigrant? Will her familial ties to Jamaica and India (and, briefly, Zambia) matter to West Indian and Asian voters? What can we glean from her strategic and rhetorical uses of immigrantness? 

35:30 – “Two or more races”: Why are we so bad at talking about mixed-race identity? Do hapas have privilege because they’re hot?

42:05 – Identity, Act 3: Is she Black? Jamelle Bouie wrote last week that, “because of heritage, upbringing and the realities of American racism, Harris calls herself Black and is also understood as Black by people within and outside the Black community.” ADOS adherents disagree. Is Blackness a matter of choice? Is Blackness international or American? 

51:45 – Choice and reparative policies

The Kamala announcement was followed by the DOJ’s accusation that Yale discriminates against white and Asian applicants. Is anti-Asian discrimination like anti-Black discrimination, or is any similarity negated by the apparent fact that Asians “chose” to come to the US? We dissect this concept of choice, which leads us to a theory of Asian identity that’s less about what we have in common than why we’re here in the first place.

1:26:10 – Save the mail!!

A look at the US Postal Service, which has one of the largest, most racially diverse, unionized workforces in the country. It is also a paragon of the types of universal, social-welfare services we should defend vigorously. We unpack the November election theories and distinguish them from troubling long-term trends toward privatization, racist dog whistles, and exploitation by Amazon. Bonus: Tammy achieves her dream of discussing Bureau of Labor Statistics data and the USPS in one segment.