How Kamala Harris’s lineage became a source of misinformation


Claim: Kamala Harris is not eligible for president

Kamala Harris’s parents are Jamaican economics professor Donald J. Harris and Indian cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan. Since both her parents were immigrants and Harris lived in Canada for part of her childhood, rumors circulated online that she would not be eligible for the vice president – or even for the presidency, in the event that Biden died during his tenure.

An internet meme describes her as a “Jamaican-Indian who grew up in Canada pretending to be African-American”. Notorious far-right conspiracy theorist Jakob Wohl already tweeted in January 2019, when Harris announced her candidacy for president, that she ‘natural born citizen’ could be because her parents had lived in the United States for less than five years when she was born. And the magazine Newsweek published a controversial opinion piece by law professor and former Republican politician John C. Eastman on August 12, in which he also questioned Harris’s nationality.

It is these Eastman claims that President Trump recently reiterated at a press conference.

What’s the matter now? Harris’ parents divorced when she was seven years old. At the age of twelve she moved to Montreal, Canada for a few years. Once she graduated, she attended Howard University in Washington DC. So it’s true that Harris spent part of her childhood in Canada, but that doesn’t exclude her from running for president.

This case carries the echoes of the so-called ‘Birtherism’ at the time of Barack Obama’s presidency. Obama was also falsely claimed to be ineligible for president, based on the erroneous claim that he was not born in Hawaii – as stated on his birth certificate – but in Kenya, the country where his father came from. Donald Trump was one of the most prominent instigators of these in the years leading up to his presidency ‘birther’-theory. It wasn’t until 2016 that he admitted that Obama was actually born in the United States.

Of such ‘birther’claims are regularly accused of having a racist undertone. Yet Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Ted Cruz have faced similar accusations in the past. McCain had two American parents but was born in the Panamanian Canal Zone, a territory under American control where his father was stationed as a soldier. Cruz had an American mother and a Cuban father and was born in Canada. For a long time, he had dual American-Canadian citizenship – he gave up the latter in 2014.

Claim: Kamala Harris is not of black descent

Harris is the first black woman at one of the major American parties to be part of a duo of presidential candidates. But it is precisely that background that is called into question in an often-shared photo of Harris, in which she is flanked by two elderly people of Indian descent, captioned: “Hello everyone. I am Kamala Harris and these are my parents. But why am I pretending to be a black American? ”

In reality, this is not about Harris’ parents, who are of Jamaican and Indian descent as previously mentioned. The photo was taken at a fundraiser for education NGO Pratham USA in August 2016 and shows Harris with two of her supporters. Harris’s mother died in 2009.

Claim: Kamala Harris is descended from slave owners

Another old right-wing blogosphere claim that is re-emerging is that she is a paternal descendant of Hamilton Brown, an Irish plantation owner who was a slave owner in Jamaica in the early 1800s. That information is used to criticize her African-American lineage and her advocacy of reparations for slavery.

Kamala Harris’s father, Donald J. Harris, wrote this story of his ancestry in an autobiographical essay for Jamaica Overall. In any case, it is certain that Hamilton Brown was a historical figure who owned dozens of slaves and was a fierce opponent of abolitionism.

However, American fact-checkers (such as Snopes or Lead Stories) disagree whether Harris’s precise genealogical ancestry is demonstrable. They do stress that, if the story is true, Harris’s ancestor would have been the child of an affair or even rape between Hamilton Brown and one of his female slaves. So if Kamala Harris is descended from a slave owner, she is also descended from slaves themselves. DNA research has shown that this would be the case for about 35 percent of the current African American population.

Claim: Kamala Harris has called Biden a racist during the primaries

Trump campaign officers and conservative news media like Fox News and The Daily Caller stated that Kamala Harris, during one of the debates within the Democratic primaries, called her then rival candidate Biden a racist.

They refer to an excerpt from a debate in June 2019, where Harris criticized Biden for his attitude towards the desegregation of American schools in the 1970s, and during the same period he had voted against a federal law that ‘busing’ imposed: move students to schools outside their school district to make the school population more mixed.

What about Harris’s statement now? That leaves one particularly important fact unmentioned. While Harris certainly criticized Biden in the debate for his past views, she started her comments with the literal quote “I don’t believe you’re a racist.”

Claim: Kamala Harris has announced that she will retaliate against Trump supporters after her election

Another viral meme combines a photo of Harris with a so-called quote about Donald Trump and his supporters: “And once he’s gone and we’ve taken our rightful place in the White House, watch your count if you’ve supported him or his actions. approved, because after this we will come and get you. You will feel the revenge of a nation. ”

Although the meme adds to it “Yes, she really said this!” (“Yes, she really said that!), That’s not right. It’s a made-up quote from the satirical website


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