Pricey U.S. media: Can we skip the ‘Kamala Harris’ ancestral village’ tales any more?


Harris’ grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, was a civil servant whose profession included stints in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and as far as Lusaka, Zambia, and who retired to Chennai, in his house state of Tamil Nadu. Harris’ mom, Shyamala Gopalan, subsequently grew up in main cities round India. Whereas her determination to go to the U.S. for varsity at 19—and her household permitting it—was extraordinarily uncommon for a single girl on the time, it’s not like she had spent her life in a single small village. How many individuals rising up in america within the Forties and Fifties can say they lived in a number of cities with populations within the thousands and thousands?

Kamala Harris grew up visiting her grandparents largely in Besant Nagar, which is variously described as one of many “coolest neighborhoods” or an “upscale, exclusive residential neighborhood” in Chennai, now a metropolis of some eight million individuals and a significant cultural and financial heart in its area. These descriptions of the village of Thulasendrapuram, “ringed by lush inexperienced rice paddies” and full of dhoti-wearing villagers writing in “colourful rangoli powder on a dust lane in entrance of their houses”? They get creepy with repetition, as a result of nowhere in any of a number of that I learn did anybody draw a more in-depth connection between Harris and Thulasendrapuram than that her grandfather was born there. To contemplate the leap being made right here, take into consideration your individual household. My grandfather was born in rural Nevada and, like P.V. Gopalan, left his birthplace to turn into a civil servant. Meaning I grew up visiting my grandfather in a ranch-style home in Bethesda, Maryland, not an precise ranch in Nevada, and nobody would contemplate me to have deep private ties to Nevada. 

So, gee, what’s it concerning the village the place Harris’ grandfather was born that pulls such consideration? The sheer quantity of protection of the villagers’ celebrations confirmed U.S. publications to be extra considering portray a portrait of a poor rural space than in reflecting the India that Harris’ shut relations have inhabited. Studying the protection, it’s laborious not to consider Edward Stated’s Orientalismwith its argument that western thought has produced Asia and different “Oriental” elements of the world as unique and inferior others. Harris has been clear that the best way her mom’s household formed her was of their assist of a single daughter going the world over to graduate college; in listening to her grandfather and his mates speak about politics and “the significance of democracy,” as she stated in a single 2018 speech; in her ongoing relationships together with her mom’s siblings, of whom she’s stated “Not one among them was conventional.” These tales give us vital details about Harris herself, even when they’re not as clicky as celebrating villagers.

The humorous half is that Thulasendrapuram’s large celebrations of Harris’ candidacy and election additionally had an angle: Folks there are overtly hoping that the connection, nonetheless tenuous, to a outstanding particular person will ship some cash the best way of the village, and apparently they know what is going to draw the eye of the U.S. media. However for that U.S. media, there are higher—and fewer racially problematic—tales to be instructed.