This past weekend, in the afterglow of watching the woman who will be the first Black, first Asian American, and first female vice president take the stage in Wilmington, Delaware, I binged the excellent podcast Kamala: Next in Line, hosted by Joy Reid. It chronicles Kamala Harris’s life, from her childhood in California to the moment President-elect Joe Biden picked her to be his running mate. It makes clear that Harris is a fighter.
The person I keep thinking about, though, is Harris’s late mother, Shyamala Gopalan. On the campaign trail, Harris spoke about her often—how she moved from India to the United States at 19. How she was only five feet tall, but if met her “you would have thought she was 10 feet tall.” And how she would push Harris and her sister, Maya, to see a world beyond themselves.
In one speech, Harris shared a question that her mother would often ask:
If you ever came home complaining about something, our mother would look at you with a straight face, one hand probably on a hip, and she’d say, “Well, what are you gonna do about it?”
It’s a simple but powerful question that 1) I’m definitely going to use on my kids, and 2) I don’t think any of us ask ourselves enough.
Things can be terrible, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways. So what are we going to do about it? Even if we don’t figure out the answer right away, pausing to acknowledge our individual power seems like a good place to start.