WASHINGTON – After Senator David Perdue, R-Ga., Spotted Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris’ name, supporters of the Democratic ticket responded with a viral Twitter campaign dismissing Perdue’s comments as “backhanded racism.”
The social media push featured a tweet from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Biden, a coalition of grassroots groups backed by the campaign that blew up Perdue and urged followers to share the stories of their own names with the hashtag #MyNameIs.
“We can all relate to this kind of backhanded racism ̵
Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, would achieve a series of historic first-time elections if elected president: the first Indian-American, first woman, and first black person to serve in that role.
Perdue made his comments on stage at a Friday meeting in Georgia moments before President Trump was to set the stage. The senator, who sits with Harris on the Senate Budget Committee, said he did not know how to say her first name and donated it while Trump supporters laughed.
“Kamala or Kamala or Kamala or Kamala-mala-mala,” Perdue said, emphasizing different syllables. “I do not know. No matter what.”
After backlash over the remarks, Perdue’s campaign issued a statement saying he “simply mispronounced Senator Harris’ name and he did not mean anything by it.”
The Biden and Harris supporters who posted on hashtags started by the campaign’s Asian-American group clearly did not buy this explanation. The hashtag went viral with celebrities, political figures and others sharing the roots of their names. Harris’ niece, lawyer and author Meena Harris, was among those who joined the push.
“#MyNameIs Meenakshi. I am named after the Hindu goddess as well as my great-grandmother, ”she wrote. “I come from a wide range of strong women who taught me to be proud of my legacy and demand respect – especially from racist white men like @sendavidperdue, who are threatened by us.”
Several senior Biden employees also weighed in, including former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, who works as the campaign’s director of surrogates.
“#MyNameIs Michelle Wing Kwan & in Chinese Pinyin it is pronounced Guan Ying Shan. It means beautiful, strong and smart. “What is not beautiful, strong or smart, people mock their ‘foreign-sounding’ names,” Kwan wrote.
Some of the people who tweeted about Perdue’s comments invoked former Virginia Senator George Allen’s “macaca moment” in 2006, when the Republican lawmaker used the racial sign against an Indian-American volunteer for his opponent. The incident was widely seen as crucial to Allen’s subsequent defeat.
“#MyNameIs Seema, which means ‘border.’ It’s ok (but hard) to mispronounce my name, but spotting an Indian name in 2020 is just as wrong as it was in 2006 (remember when George Allen called a Sen. Webb employee macaca and welcomed him to America?). Vote. Them. Out, ”wrote former Democratic National Committee CEO Seema Nanda.
“#MyNameIs Daniel Dae Hyun Kim, or in Korean, 김대현. It means ‘great and powerful’. My name is not ‘Macaca’ or ‘Kung Flu.’ “Wrote” lost “actor Daniel Dae Kim.” And @sendavidperdue, her name is not ‘Kamala Mala Mala, I do not know what.’ #Respect. Another reason to vote for @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. “
According to Twitter analytics service RIteTag, the hashtag from Sunday morning generated 483 tweets per hour and reached over 950,000 viewers every hour.
The Trump campaign, for its part, has not responded to questions about Perdue’s comment. The Biden campaign has also refrained from issuing a direct statement on the matter.
Asked about this, Pili Tobar, Biden’s coalition community director, framed Harris’ social media defense as a growth of the campaign’s efforts to engage Asian and American island communities.
“We are proud to have earned the trust and support of the community,” Tobar told Yahoo News. “Now they are happy to be part of a campaign committed to building the broadest coalition and raising their voices.”
The Biden campaign has made a point of reaching out to Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and South Asians, a diverse group that has not always received tailor-made outreach. While voting focused on society is sparse, the third annual Asian-American voter survey released last month showed that Biden has an advantage over more Asian-American and Pacific islanders. The survey also showed that there are a significant number of undecided voters in the community, making it a potential growth area for the democratic ticket. The Biden campaign’s efforts on this front have included a historic TV ad acquisition and targeted placements with a political platform translated into 19 languages. “AAPIS For Biden”, the campaign organization that launched the hashtag #MyNameIs, includes Thai Americans for Biden, Hmong Americans for Biden and AAPI veterans and military families for Biden.
The network of grassroots supporters in the community also gathered around Harris with a hashtag campaign during the Vice President’s debate on 7 October.
Harris’ sister, lawyer and Democratic activist Maya Harris, responded to the outburst on Twitter Saturday night, describing it as a moment for people from different communities to demonstrate their political power.
“Rolling through #MyNameIs at the end of a long day and it gives me life. My name is Maya (magic / illusion) Lakshmi (goddess of beauty and wealth), ”she wrote. “People mispronounce my names all the time, but you can ‘t tell me anything. I know who I am. Show these people who we are. ”
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