Reuters

Why some Pakistani-American voters' anxiety over Kamala Harris is unjustified

Dismissing Harris over her Indian heritage could backfire when it comes to the cause of equality and justice in the US.
Updated 21 Oct, 2020 02:15pm

Many Pakistani-Americans — who have consistently opposed Donald Trump over his anti-immigrant, anti-minority, and anti-women rhetoric — are wondering whether to vote for his Democratic opponent Joe Biden in the upcoming US Presidential Elections on November 3rd, 2020. Their apprehension stems from the selection of the Democrat’s vice-presidential running mate, Senator Kamala Harris. The irony is that Senator Harris as an African American woman, born to immigrant parents, personifies the values of diversity that most Pakistani-Americans advocate.

Senator Harris and the Kashmir Issue

The topic of Kashmir is naturally near and dear to the hearts of many Pakistani-Americans. Since she was born to an Indian mother, some Pakistani-American voters are worried that Senator Harris might somehow be partial to Narendra Modi’s policies in Kashmir if Joe Biden were to become the next US President. On the top of the ticket, Vice President Joe Biden himself has expressed disappointment over not just India’s revocation of Article 370 but also on the Citizenship Amendment Act as well as the National Register of Citizens. However, here the questions are not being raised about the candidate but his running mate.

Three simple facts can thwart any concerns about Senator Harris being compliant with current Indian policies. First, Harris, born in the United States, identifies herself as primarily an African-American, Christian woman — an elected representative — not an Indian diaspora member. Second, even policymakers and members of Indian descent in the Democratic Party — whether they be Muslims, Christians, Hindus, or Sikhs — have adhered to the party’s position of deriding Modi’s human rights violations in Kashmir and the infringement of minority rights in India. And third, Harris is on the record for having said: “We’ve to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping track of the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.”

Elections are about contrast, comparison, and choice. With India’s size and purchasing power, a US President choosing to maintain harmonious trade relations with that country is understandable. Having said that, President Trump has been unabashed in his support of Modi’s radical and anti-secular policies. Trump remains unmoved by a series of human rights violations in Kashmir — and towards minorities — perpetrated by the Modi administration. He instead chose to celebrate a “Howdy Modi” event with the Indian premier when he visited Houston in 2019.

Moreover, the Trump Organization has established Indian financial interests with the launch of Trump Towers. For a President to blatantly be benefiting directly from economic engagement with a foreign country is unheard of in US history. Setting aside the ideal and just on the merit of Trump’s disregard for human rights, who is likely to be pro-Modi: The Trump administration or the Biden administration?

Start with the values

People vote on what they value as best for them, their families, communities, and the world at large. Not just on the matter of Kashmir, but also on opportunities for their children, a Democratic ticket promises relief from Donald Trump’s drive to create a caste system in America based on race. Polls have consistently shown that in terms of bringing the US together as a nation and improving race relations, Americans feel that a Biden administration would do a far better job than Trump.

Senator Harris’ rise to the Democratic Party’s highest levels also reflects the fantastic opportunities that lie ahead for the next generation of minorities — including Pakistani Americans. The immigrant story that Harris’ life highlights is not much different from the aspirational values Pakistani-American parents coach their sons and daughters to adopt.

So what are the choices?

The only way for Pakistani-Americans to exert influence on American policies is to show up consistently at elections — not to stay on the sidelines and potentially sit out the most important election of a generation over their ambivalence on foreign policy matters. Staying at home for the elections sends a clear signal to the politicians to not take their South Asian, Muslim, or Pakistani-American constituents seriously in the future because they won’t affect election results.

And how could one not equate voting for Trump over Biden with leaving the knee of white supremacy on the necks of our next generation? Trump’s Muslim ban was swift after he took office in 2017 — knee-capping the analogy that barking dogs in politics seldom bite. The Muslim ban was challenged in courts — and eventually watered down — but continued to present hardships to many Muslims returning to their homes, workplaces, or educational institutions in America from overseas.

What if, after his re-election, Trump revisits another Muslim ban or some similar discriminatory policy? Who would stand up to his discriminatory policies in the legal system if — now with the demise of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — he manages to place on a delicately balanced US Supreme Court a conservative Justice who keeps offering the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt on policy challenges?

It’s about Donald

The election is a referendum on Donald Trump and his regressive policies that have harmed America's social fabric and emboldened right-wing nationalists like Modi around the world. It is not about Senator Kamala Harris — and anyone making it about her Indian heritage could well risk the political equivalence of cutting off their nose to spite their face. By focusing on a person’s origin instead of their deeds or values, we risk the same error we accuse the likes of Modi making — letting prejudice cloud our judgment.

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The author is a Pakistani-American who lives and works in the United States.


The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (54) Closed

Dvs
Oct 06, 2020 06:51am
Haha
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Ibrahim S
Oct 06, 2020 06:56am
Why are we so obsessed with people with Indian ancestry. Don’t we all have Indian ancestry. It’s thought Of the day for those we have serious identity crisis.
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R S Chakravarti
Oct 06, 2020 07:11am
Kamala Harris believes in human rights for everyone. She has learnt about this and many other things from her mother and her mother's family in India, not from her father. Not all Indians support Modi!
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Moghul
Oct 06, 2020 07:11am
By that contrast indian Americans should vote for Trump
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Ukasha Rajpoot
Oct 06, 2020 07:12am
Democrats and Republicans does not really matter. State department with all those think tanks makes the policy. Personal thing is just a thing. She might tilt a little bit towards India but that still is not a big thing. India's future is bright till the whole America is not in China's pocket. Both parties are the same. Vote responsibly.
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Tariq from Houston
Oct 06, 2020 07:20am
We ourselves are to blame for the place we are at. Everybody loves people except us. In fact it not some thing I am even proud to say. We find everything wrong and put up that argument. How come people from Europe and South Asia have no issues. We do.
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T. M. Reddy
Oct 06, 2020 07:20am
The lesson to everyone’s constructive, constituencies and constitution is: Building and maintaining a diverse workforce leads to better business outcomes—increased cash flow, innovation, readiness for change, and more. A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.... So, maintain it dear people who think only one way is right way....
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INDEPENDENT
Oct 06, 2020 07:23am
Donald Trump is racist and anti-Muslims. He tried his best to ban Muslims travelling to the US. It is now clear that Muslims will not vote for Republicans this time and the chances of Joe Biden to become the next President of the United States are bright. I believe that Kamala Harris will work for the freedom of the people living under siege in India occupied Kashmir.
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Dr.AsHamed.
Oct 06, 2020 07:25am
American Pakistanis are not concerned about what is going on in South Asia let alone in Kashmir.They are in the US for good and are trying to bring their extended families to the US. When it comes to American politics, Pakistani Americans don't have the numbers to influence the election one way or the other. In the end regardless who wins this election American policy will not change towards Indo-Pacific region as long as China try to challenge the status quo.
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INDEPENDENT
Oct 06, 2020 07:27am
I praise this writer for raising awareness among American-Muslims.
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INDEPENDENT
Oct 06, 2020 07:28am
Kamal Harris is pro Israel and pro Kashmiris (India occupied Kashmir).
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VIMLA R DHARAWAT
Oct 06, 2020 07:28am
No matter who wins, they will favor India. Look at history since President Clinton on ward, very consistent ! India is the only answer to China's aggressive posturing in South east Asia. So go vote for who ever you like, they change when they come to power. They may say whatever to get vote. Besides even when Pakistan had good relation with USA ,it did not get any help during 1965!
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Gorden D. Walter
Oct 06, 2020 07:28am
Biden and Harris will follow in foot step of Trump and Pence. They can't afford to loose India on their side as there is no other country can take on China.
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Sualeh
Oct 06, 2020 07:31am
Vice President Biden has been a friend always supportive of Pakistan and was recognized by by the award of Hilal e Pakistan by the government of Pakistan.
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Sarcasm
Oct 06, 2020 07:39am
Indian american community is a dominant and powerful section in US which both parties intend to woo but Pakistani american lobby is not strong and does not form a sizeable chunk to be considered important in these elections.
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SATT
Oct 06, 2020 07:40am
Certainly Pakistani American will vote for Trump.
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HAJI
Oct 06, 2020 07:50am
She can harm Pakistan and Muslim interests. Don't worry she is not going to win no matter what. Zionist cannot get a better pawn than Donald.
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Yawar
Oct 06, 2020 07:53am
There is absolutely no question that if Pakistani Americans feel the plights of the Kashmiris and Palestinians need to end, then they should vote for Biden and Harris. Because Trump has never displayed any goodwill or positive feelings about the Kashmiris or the Palestinians.
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Ramana
Oct 06, 2020 08:19am
Yes, because she is Indian origin
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Banglamitra
Oct 06, 2020 08:24am
Are you suggesting all Indians should vote for Trump because it will be in the interest of India? Point well taken.
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kashif
Oct 06, 2020 08:37am
Its almost certain that Trump will be elected for a second term.
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skumar
Oct 06, 2020 08:43am
You can take out a madrasi from madras but you cannot take out the madras from her. .. Its (her values) from her tamil mother, chithi and grandapa and she cannot deviate .. She will be fair to all. Her parents stood for an equal society .
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Zak
Oct 06, 2020 09:23am
Regardless of who comes, IIOJK will get their independence from foreign Indian occupation.
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SHAHID
Oct 06, 2020 09:32am
HARRIS is neither black nor a Christian. She has chosen to be so. Harris is the show case of democrats.
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Brad
Oct 06, 2020 09:35am
@T. M. Reddy , Very well said and hit the point home.
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samirz
Oct 06, 2020 09:38am
Americans, whether Pakistani or Indian ancestry, are Americans first and their priority will be what is good for US.
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Sami
Oct 06, 2020 10:12am
You need not worry about Kamala supporting the Modi agenda of bigotry and right wing nationalism. She was raised by an incredible mother who was a champion of civil and human rights. Kamala herself is a fighter for equality and human rights. She is an outspoken supporter of the rights of the Kashmiris. There is no stronger supporter of the Kashmiris in the US Congress than Pramila Jayapal. Coincidentally, she hails from the same hometown of Madras as Kamala’s mother.
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John
Oct 06, 2020 10:41am
@Sarcasm, President trump will win and make sure Indians no longer buy H-1 visas at cost of American kids!
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GK
Oct 06, 2020 11:34am
Pakistanis want the western leaders to accept and act on their narrative against the facts from India. They think it is all politics.
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Amer
Oct 06, 2020 11:35am
Personally, I love Trump !! He hasn't started any new wars and has done more for world peace than any other US President in history.
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Raj
Oct 06, 2020 11:57am
Trump or Biden, both will support India.
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Chrís Dăń
Oct 06, 2020 12:01pm
@Ibrahim S, yes.
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Peace2
Oct 06, 2020 12:15pm
No matter who will come to power, India has a strong lobby on both sides
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Gp65
Oct 06, 2020 03:28pm
@SHAHID, “ HARRIS is neither black nor a Christian” Her father was black and Christian and so is she.
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Kunal, Gurgaon
Oct 06, 2020 03:49pm
Whoever wins, India wins.
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Tamilselvan
Oct 06, 2020 04:02pm
@Ibrahim S, rightly said sir! Religion is different from ethnicity.
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SyntaxError
Oct 06, 2020 04:09pm
It is a win-win for India anyways, since they have strong lobby for both Trump and Biden.
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Rahul S.
Oct 06, 2020 05:30pm
@Gorden D. Walter, exactly
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Rahul S.
Oct 06, 2020 05:31pm
Both Parties will favour India. It's just a reality now.
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Habib A. Zuberi
Oct 06, 2020 05:43pm
@INDEPENDENT , How do you know?
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Habib A. Zuberi
Oct 06, 2020 05:57pm
@samirz, I agree with this statement.
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Ehsan
Oct 06, 2020 07:16pm
Pakistani Americans need to actively participate in politics rather than rely on Arabs or Indians to take up their causes
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Samofmich
Oct 06, 2020 07:17pm
Responsibility of a US citizen should be first towards issues and future of US then to anything else outside. Please vote and for US first.
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Rahul S.
Oct 06, 2020 07:39pm
Kamala is extremely proud of her Indian roots and also has spent her formative years as a young girl visiting India with her mother and her family. India has a solid ally in the white house in her if Democrats win the election.
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Rahul S.
Oct 06, 2020 07:41pm
If Republicans win the election India is covered and if Democrats with the election India is covered !!
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well-wisher
Oct 06, 2020 08:05pm
Harris is for human rights and will uphold that.
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Majnu
Oct 06, 2020 08:18pm
No matter who wins in US. It will be pro India and anti China alliance. That also includes Pakistan.
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Suhail
Oct 06, 2020 09:31pm
Very well argued! Thanks for writing this piece!
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S.Ahmad
Oct 06, 2020 11:19pm
Very timely clarification,
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Quidpro
Oct 06, 2020 11:22pm
Indians will not vote for democrats based on Kamala Harris origin. Definitely they would choose the best president. Personally, I would recommend Thrump to win
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Gas
Oct 06, 2020 11:37pm
@Zak, that I doubt. Pipe dream
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Zak
Oct 07, 2020 01:13am
Biden will lose because of her. Bad choice.
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Gulshan Omar
Oct 07, 2020 05:50am
To my view Kamala will neither get the Pakistani nor the Indian votes. She will turn-up as a looser.
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RK
Oct 07, 2020 06:03am
Trump will be back with win in all 50 states!
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