Opinion: To Be Black and Indian Right Now

As the country struggles to understand the dual narrative of its Black-South Asian vice presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, one man reflects on his own identity.

Tauhid Chappell

October 7, 2020

Opinion: To Be Black and Indian Right Now
Kamala Harris (Gage Skidmore)

After the historic nomination of Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman to be part of a U.S. presidential ticket, I sat in reflection — you might even say, literal reflection. In Harris, I recognized myself: someone intimately aware of the tricky intersection of Black and Indian identities in America, an experience that goes beyond eating dosas, listening to rap music, and dancing Bhangra and hip hop in the same song. In her biracial identity, and my own, I see opportunities to have deeper conversations that connect and align the histories and complexities of Black and South Asian communities. I work in media and understand the power of narrative — and this is a critical moment to ensure that these intertwining histories are contextualized to the broader public without erasing one identity to emphasize another. 

Kamala and I are not exactly the same, of course — it is important to stress this, too, or else we run the risk of painting our communities with the same old brush that masks our specificities. My mother is Bengali and my biological father is Black; Harris is of Jamaican and Tamil descent. But as the spotlight narrows on Harris, on her background and her life story, there is something to be said about being Black and South Asian at this critical juncture in our country’s history, as it teeters towards a fascist future amid a pandemic that refuses to abate.