At a Trump rally, Senator David Perdue, a Republican locked in a re-election battle in the state of Georgia, wilfully mispronounced Kamala Harris' name.
"Commah-lah," Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris has given repeated prompts in the past to clarify the pronunciation of her name.
In blatant disregard, “KAH’-mah-lah? Kah-MAH’-lah? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know,” said Perdue, who served on the Senate with Harris for three years.
Here is the video of Senator David Perdue mangling the pronunciation of Kamala Harris’s name. pic.twitter.com/aVJU451bDi
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) October 16, 2020
Although neither former Vice President Biden, nor Senator Harris came out with an official statement regarding the apparent insult, it somewhere struck a chord with the immigrant population of the United States.
"Many of us who have different, or foreign sounding names have experienced this kind of mockery," Parag Mehta, long-time Democratic party leader, told The Quint.
The defence of Harris resulted in '#MyNameIs' trending on Twitter – a rebuke that extended beyond politics. It was personal and authentic, neatly formatting within the Twitter character limit stories that immigrants in the US have carried through their names.
#MyNameIs Parag. It means nectar. My mom named me after the hero in a Bengali romance novel she read as a kid. She wanted her son to have a great love story. And I did. Our names matter. They have meaning and beauty. pic.twitter.com/CgsYj5Xwwx
— Parag Mehta (@paragie) October 17, 2020
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) October 17, 2020
#MyNameIs Pramila. It comes from the Sanskrit word “prem” which means love. The name is constantly mispronounced as is my last name. I only mind that when it is done willfully and continuously. Let’s build an inclusive America. Vote #BidenHarris2020. Our vote, our power.
— Pramila Jayapal (@PramilaJayapal) October 18, 2020
#MyNameIs Ted W. Lieu. The “W” is short for “Win-Ping” which in Mandarin means Cloud of Peace.
Also, make sure you vote. And if you are voting by mail, don’t forget the stupid secrecy envelope if your state requires it.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) October 17, 2020
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) October 17, 2020
#MyNameIs Ayanna Soyini Pressley. My mother, may she rest in power, gave me this name which means beautiful flower in Swahili. She told me I’d make history and the world would learn how to say it right. https://t.co/H9joGm8akh
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) October 17, 2020
#MyNameIs Vijay. It means victory. And that’s exactly what @JoeBiden, @KamalaHarris and @ossoff are going to have on Nov. 3.
Republicans like @sendavidperdue are about to learn a lesson that most of us #ImmigrantParents taught our children: (thread)
— Vijay Mehta (@DrVijayMehta) October 18, 2020
'It's Time to Call the Bully Out'
The incident "symbolises a bankruptcy of ideas on the part of the Republicans, because when you have to resort to name-calling, it means that you don't have any good ideas of your own," said Parag Mehta referring to Senator Perdue's remarks.
"Anybody who has been bullied in a school yard knows that the bully doesn't have anything substantive or clever to say, so they resort to that".
Referring to this behaviour by adults who are vying to lead the United States, the Democratic leader referred to it as "disappointing", stating that it is "time for us to call it out".
Mehta was among the group of key grassroots supporters who launched the hashtag #MyNameIs.
#MyNameIs Jennifer Ho and my Chinese name is Ho Jasu—my YeYe named me for the qualities he hoped for me—to be ladylike and studious (my parents say he got one right). Growing up I was made fun of for my last name. @sendavidperdue is a playground bully promoting anti-Asian racism
— Jennifer Ho (@DrJenHo) October 17, 2020
#MyNameIs is giving me life. Your name is the prayer your parents breathe into you. It is a promise, a hope, and a gift. It should be respected. Sen. Perdue & every other public figure who mocks a name to score racist and anti-immigrant pts should be ashamed of themselves. https://t.co/rAm3HXoTT5
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) October 18, 2020
Painting the Canvas of 'Us Versus Them'
"“Any of us who are immigrants in this country, or are children of immigrant; this is an attempt to otherise us, particularly Asian-Americans.”" - Parag Mehta, long-time leader of the Democratic Party
"When people look at Asian Americans, they see perpetual foreigners. My parents generation who came from India, they were willing to accept a little bit of that. My generation understood that this is the price you pay. But, we'll be damned if we allow our children and grand-children to keep paying that price."
"At some point, enough is enough," he said, seeing a reflection of his own immigrant experience in the alleged deliberate mispronunciation of Harris' name.
'My Name is My Story, My Identity'
Extending beyond just the distortion of the name of someone on a major party's presidential ticket, the #MyNameIs movement became something bigger.
"It became cathartic for a lot of people to share their stories, not only of the meaning of their name, but the story of where their name came from," Mehta told The Quint.
This, arguably, can be characterised as the opposite of the intended consequence of 'otherising'. It generated a sense of pride in immigrant heritage and ancestry, Mehta explained.
#MyNameIs Linda Sue. My Korean name is 명 진 Myung Jin. My two names symbolize my family's #immigrant story: I'm fortunate to have grown up w/ the richness and depth of two cultures, & to have married into a third. #VoteBlue
— Linda Sue Park (@LindaSuePark) October 18, 2020
#MyNameIs Anatole Elonzo. Means "from the east, rising sun" & "ready for battle". As a kid, some mocked & I even heard Tylenol & "Faggot-ol" a time or a dozen.
Men like @sendavidperdue have only made me MORE proud of my name. And call me "Faggot-ol" now, I might kick your ass. https://t.co/arewLlXMT5
— Anatole Jenkins (@AnatoleJenkins) October 18, 2020
"“People finally get to stand up and say, ‘I give a lot of credit to Shyamala Gopalan in the 1960s Berkeley California, saying I’m going to name my daughters Kamala Devi and Maya Lakshmi, and they’re going to grow up in this society and they’re going to be proud of their names!’”" - Parag Mehta, long-time leader of the Democratic Party
According to reports, a spokeswoman for Perdue's campaign defended his remarks in a statement.
"Senator Perdue simply mispronounced Senator Harris' name, and he didn't mean anything by it," she said.
. Read more on World by The Quint.Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You‘#MyNameIs’ Trends Among Immigrants in the US in Defence of Harris . Read more on World by The Quint.