(Ben Sellers, Headline USA) Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff released an official message via Twitter to wish Americans a happy Kwanzaa and share some of their own cherished Kwanzaa traditions. Or so they said.
“During Kwanzaa, we celebrate the history and heritage of the African–American community and the African diaspora,” said Emhoff, who was raised Jewish.
Likewise, Harris’s background does not offer any clues that she would have celebrated the seven-day festival, which was first created two years after her birth by black nationalist Maulana Ron Karenga.
Harris was raised largely by her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who was brought up as part of an elite Hindu caste in India.
Her father, Donald Harris, a native Jamaican, was unlikely to have felt any great connection to the Afrocentric holiday. According to a recent article from the Jamaica-based newspaper The Gleaner, Kwanzaa has struggled to take root there due to the strong Christmas traditions on the Caribbean island.
“Kwanzaa will never be popular in Jamaica because the majority of Jamaicans celebrate Christmas, and also, many Jamaicans reject their ties to African identities,” said Sophia Walsh–Newman, a Jamaican performance artiste and teacher, in the article.
Harris herself was reportedly brought up in the Baptist church.
But despite the inconsistencies, she claimed in her holiday greeting to have had a long history of celebrating Kwanzaa.
“Growing up, Kwanzaa was always a special time,” she said.
“We came together with generations of friends and family and neighbors,” she continued. “There were never enough chairs. so my sister and I and the other children would often sit on the floor, and together we lit the candles of the kinara, and then the elders would talk about how Kwanzaa is a time to celebrate culture, community and family.”
Harris then pivoted to a bit of self promotion, boasting how the second principle of Kwanzaa—Kujichagulia, or self-determination—helped pave the way for her historic path from being a lowly local prosecutor to dating her way up the ladder of success through men like California political boss Willie Brown and talk show host Montel Williams.
“The power to design your own life and determine your own future … is a deeply American principle, one that guides me every day as vice president,” she said.
Emhoff then chimed in to close out the holiday message.
“To everyone celebrating, we hope your week is filled with love and light,” he said. “From our family to yours: Happy Kwanzaa.”
Harris has been accused of embellishing elements of her past before in order to make her privileged upbringing appear more culturally black.
She reportedly plagiarized a story about attending a civil rights march as a young child from a 1965 Playboy interview with Martin Luther King Jr. penned by Roots author Alex Haley.
Harris also claimed to have smoked marijuana in college while listening to rappers Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur, despite the fact that she graduated in 1986, before either rapper had attained widespread success.
However, the Emhoff–Harrises would not be alone in their efforts to culturally appropriate Kwanzaa.
In one of her final acts as House speaker before Congress adjourned for the holidays, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered her own Kwanzaa benediction—while unfortunately mispronouncing the holiday as “Schwanzaa.”
Pelosi ends her final speech as Speaker of the House by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and a "Happy Shwanza" pic.twitter.com/LtcMeA8KIT
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) December 23, 2022