FWEEDOM RIDER: The Secret Life of Kamala Harris

January 5, 2021

Kamala Harris has lived an unbelievable life. The aspiring vice president has detailed, in books and interviews, moments from her childhood and early adolescence that inspired her to pursue a career in politics by dating Willie Brown in the mid-1990s. Here are some of the most heartwarming examples:

The time she marched for "fweedom"

Senator Kamala Harris started her life’s work young. She laughs from her gut, the way you would with family, as she remembers being wheeled through an Oakland, California, civil rights march in a stroller with no straps with her parents and her uncle. At some point, she fell from the stroller (few safety regulations existed for children’s equipment back then), and the adults, caught up in the rapture of protest, just kept on marching. By the time they noticed little Kamala was gone and doubled back, she was understandably upset. "My mother tells the story about how I’m fussing," Harris says, "and she’s like, ‘Baby, what do you want? What do you need?’ And I just looked at her and I said, ‘Fweedom.’"

Her first day of preschool

I remember sitting in a large group at the coloring station. A few of the kids were talking about their mommies and daddies, but everyone went quiet when I started to cry. The teacher rushed over to see what was wrong. Honestly I didn't even know. "She'll be fine," the teacher assured my classmates. Suddenly it hit me. "Pwonouns," I blurted out between sobs. "Gin-doored pwonouns." My parents had to come pick me up. "What's the matter?" they asked, looking concerned. "Twans wives," I said, no longer crying. "Twans wives matter."

Her first day at the University of Alabama

It didn't occur to me at the time that I was making history as one of the first black students to enroll at U of A. I just wanted to get to class on time. Not even George Wallace could stand in the way of my penchant for punctuality. He was a lot like Trump, albeit less of a racist. I just wish I hadn't dropped my textbook in front of all those photographers. It was really embarrassing, but a nice white boy picked it up for me. He looked like he might have been a little "slow," but my mother always told me not to judge a book by its cover.

The time her brother died in Vietnam

Bubba, that was what we called him, dreamt of becoming a shrimping boat captain. Instead, he died by a river in Vietnam, cradled in the arms of a fellow soldier. His last words—"I wanna go home"—echo in my mind to this day, a reminder of the senselessness of war, and the futility of resisting communist aggression.

The time two white dudes got into a fight in the middle of her Black Panther party

We were just trying to blow off a little steam before the protest, and Masai thought hosting a party would be a good idea. Some of the Panthers were smoking weed. I think some of them were supposed to be in school. In retrospect, I wished I had called the cops to report the illegal activity, but hindsight is 20/20. Things went off the rails when some white poser named Reuben started beating up his hippie girlfriend, and another white dude dressed as a soldier stepped in and started whooping on him. "Me too!" I shouted, acknowledging my approval. "Criminals must learn to fear the swift and ruthless hand of justice."

Her semester abroad in China

The summer of '89 was an absolute scorcher in Beijing. I got so fed up with the heat that I cut off most of my hair. Most people thought I was a man, which was annoying at first, but I got used to it. I never got used to the tanks, though. They were always blocking my favorite route from the square to my apartment. On one particular occasion, after a long day of souvenir shopping, a whole line of them cut me off. "Excuse me, I'm still walking," I said, with as much sass as I could muster, daring them to run me over. China is a complicated place, I thought to myself.

Published under: Kamala Harris , Racism