Kamala Harris' Stepkids Have a Fitting Name for Her

They call her 'momala'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2020 12:25 PM CDT
What's in a Name? With Kamala, a Whole Culture
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and her husband Douglas Emhoff stand together during a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

You'll now know her as Joe Biden's running mate—a role that could soon turn Kamala Harris into the first woman, first African American and first Asian American to claim the role of US vice president. To others, she's known as "Momala" and "Kamala Aunty." A personal dive:

  • Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff, is getting some attention as he could be the first "second gentleman" of the United States. NBC News digs in with a profile of the entertainment lawyer, who has two kids from a previous marriage. It includes Emhoff's telling of how he tumbled into politics after a blind date with the "hot" attorney general of California. They married in 2014.
  • Emhoff's kids, Cole and Ella, both in their 20s, affectionately refer to Harris as "Momala," per O magazine. Harris previously said they all "agreed that we didn't like the term 'stepmom.'" Harris is also close with Emhoff's ex-wife, Kerstin. "We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional," she's said.

  • To others, the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother might instead be known as "Kamala Aunty," per the AP. Aunty is a term of respect for elders in Indian communities. "The fact that she is both Black and brown is what makes this so exciting," says Tamani Jayasinghe, who tweeted out the phrase.
  • Harris' name is rooted in Indian culture, as is that of her sister, Maya Lakshmi Harris. "A culture that worships goddesses produces strong women,” their mother, Shyamala Gopalan, once told the Los Angeles Times. Per the AP, Kamala (pronounced Comma-la) means lotus, while her middle name, Devi, means goddess.
  • Tucker Carlson fumbled the name on his show on Tuesday. When a guest corrected him, he responded, "So what?" At the Washington Post, media writer Margaret Sullivan sees it as a sign of disrespect. "We get names right if we care enough to," she writes, noting it’s a first rule in journalism.
  • On the right, Breitbart instead hones in on an interview with Tara Reade. The former Senate staffer questions why Harris was "so aggressive" in her questioning of Brett Kavanaugh over a rape claim during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings but seems to ignore Reade's accusation that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993.
  • Meanwhile, conservative site RedState suggests the Harris-Biden team might get an unfair advantage on social media because Harris' former press secretary, Nick Pacilio, is senior communications manager at Twitter. "Safe to assume where his allegiance may rest in the coming election," writes Brad Slager, noting it was Pacilio who announced action taken against President Trump's account.
(More Kamala Harris stories.)

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