Kamala Made History — Now Everyone’s Revisiting Hers

Harris's groundbreaking victory is causing the Brown community to confront the limitations of identity politics, as well as its rewards.

Michaela Stone Cross

November 10, 2020

Kamala Made History — Now Everyone’s Revisiting Hers

In October of 2011, a Sikh man named Trilochan Oberoi settled a six-year-long lawsuit against the state of California, after being refused a job as a correctional officer due to his religiously-mandated beard. Oberoi argued that this was a form of religious discrimination: after all, observant Sikhs had fought in the army until the Reagan administration decided that their beards would interfere with their gas masks. Oberoi’s same argument eventually won over the military, but it did not win over Kamala Harris. Harris, who at the time was attorney general of California, upheld the law, though Oberoi was given a decent settlement, and a managerial job.

Harris — who just became the first female vice president-elect in American history — isn’t famous for sticking her neck out for minorities. Brown Gen-Z Progressives are more likely to bring up her support of California’s draconian three-strikes-law than that time she made dosas — and oblivious casteist remarks — with Mindy Kaling. Yet when she spoke about her Indian mother during her acceptance speech this Saturday — “she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible,” said Harris —  the effect was undeniable: many of her critics were touched.