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Essay: Loyalty

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Drew Angerer
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Getty Images
Kamala Harris spoke the day after being chosen as Joe Biden's running mate. Her selection made history as Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party.

One week ago Vice President Joe Biden announced his running mate would be California Sen. Kamala Harris. Biden pledged months ago to choose a woman as his running mate. 

But Biden and Harris have not always seen eye to eye. They engaged in debates against each other early on in the election process when Harris was still a presidential candidate.

Essayist Seungmi Cho was moved by one exchange where Harris called on Biden to work with her and stand up against racism. She talks about it in her essay “Loyalty.”

Decades ago while attending Saint Paul’s Lutheran elementary school in Franklin, Wis., I learned the constitution of the United States prohibits me from serving as president. Because I am a Korean woman who was born in Seoul, my loyalty to America is always in question despite being transracially adopted and assimilated into a white family and community in Wisconsin.

I am acutely aware of my contingent status as a foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizen as the pundits engage in a “colorblind” debate of Kamala Harris’s loyalty to Joe Biden. It was spurred by her so-called “attack” on the topic of integrating racially segregated schools through busing.

On June 27this year, then-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris addressed her fellow candidate Joe Biden as follows:

I do not believe you are a racist … But I also believe, and it’s personal — and I was actually very — it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.

I recall witnessing Sen. Harris’s strength through vulnerability — admitting she was “hurt” by a white man in front of a national audience — while also skillfully “inviting” her fellow white candidate to partner with her in resisting racism by “seeing” the “hurt” he inadvertently caused by prioritizing the reputations of “great white men” over the lived experiences of Black children and families.

As the pundits non-critically discuss this “critical” debate on the enduring struggle to integrate a racially segregated United States, I hope that we may shift focus to “hear” Sen. Harris’s “invitation” to work together towards a more perfect union. One that is inclusive of Black and brown communities. As a social worker and social justice educator, I am grateful for Sen. Harris and Vice President Biden’s contribution to showing us the hurt and discomfort of uprooting racism from our pasts to move forward together. Their winning partnership is generated through this struggle, not despite it. 

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