Harris’ Indian family members demanded she do more to address COVID

Vice President Kamala Harris‘ aunt and uncle spoke to her from India earlier this month to give her a firsthand account about the COVID-19 crisis on the ground in her late mother’s home country. 

The Washington Post reported details of their conversation Tuesday, amid criticism from some Indian-Americans that Harris hasn’t done enough personally to address the horrific surge.   

Harris’ relatives told the vice president – the first of Indian descent – that they were healthy, but nearly everyone they know has a friend or relative with COVID-19. 

Cases in India have gone down since a high of around 400,000 new cases a day earlier this month, but they’re still hovering around 200,000 new COVID cases each day. 

Harris’ 80-year-old maternal uncle Balachandran Gopalan lives in New Delhi.  And one of her two aunts, Sarala Gopalan, lives in the Indian city of Chennai. 

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first vice president of Indian descent, spoke with family members from her late mother's home country about the COVID situation on the ground there in early May

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first vice president of Indian descent, spoke with family members from her late mother’s home country about the COVID situation on the ground there in early May  

Vice President Kamala Harris' 80-year-old maternal uncle, Balachandran Gopalan, lives in New Delhi, India

Vice President Kamala Harris’ 80-year-old maternal uncle, Balachandran Gopalan, lives in New Delhi, India

India has been devasted by COVID, with some 400,000 new COVID cases a day earlier this month. In this photo, relatives and volunteers wear protective suits to carry the body of a person who died from the coronavirus to a gravesite

India has been devasted by COVID, with some 400,000 new COVID cases a day earlier this month. In this photo, relatives and volunteers wear protective suits to carry the body of a person who died from the coronavirus to a gravesite 

The Post report didn’t specifically name who she talked to. 

The Associated Press reported in a May 6 story that she hadn’t spoken to her uncle since March, but The Post said the conversation happened on May 7, shortly after she delivered a speech on ‘bolstering U.S. COVID relief in India.’  

Prior to her participation in that event, Harris has been criticized for not speaking more personally about the tragedy in India. 

For example, 22-year-old Aditi Kharod, who recently graduated from the University of North Carolina, blasted Harris’ response to the crisis in the college newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, knocking her for sending out an ‘impersonal’ tweet.  

‘The U.S. is working closely with the Indian government to rapidly deploy additional support and supplies during an alarming COVID-19 outbreak. As we provide assistance, we pray for the people of India—including its courageous healthcare workers,’ Harris tweeted on April 25. 

Kharod likened the tweet to Harris writing ‘that sucks’ and wrote, ‘her silence during this crisis cut particularly deep’ in a column headlined: ‘Kamala Harris and the failures of identity politics.’ 

An op-ed written by 22-year-old Aditi Kharod in The Daily Tar Heel criticized this Harris tweet, calling it 'impersonal' and writing that it amounted to her saying 'that sucks'

An op-ed written by 22-year-old Aditi Kharod in The Daily Tar Heel criticized this Harris tweet, calling it ‘impersonal’ and writing that it amounted to her saying ‘that sucks’ 

The Post reported that Kharod’s criticism has softened as Harris has gotten more involved. 

Writing for The Independent, Sujatha Shenoy said that Harris’ reaction to the COVID-19 crisis in India has been ‘surprisingly cold.’ 

‘As an American vice president, Harris has no special obligation to empathize with another country. Identities, however, are not things that can be donned or discarded at will,’ Shenoy said. ‘By talking extensively about her Indian American roots, Harris and the White House positioned the vice president as having a special connection to India. That made her absence in the conversation particularly noticeable.’ 

But one of the four Indian-American lawmakers in Congress, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, told The Post that Harris is making moves behind-the-scenes. 

‘I know she’s incredibly passionate about her Indian heritage and her Indian roots,’ Krishnamoorthi said. ‘And I know she is fighting for assistance and aid and wants to make sure India, like any other hard-hit country, receives the assistance it should.’  

Leave a Reply