Kamala Harris, former San Francisco District Attorney, California’s former Attorney General and U.S. Senator, frequently corrects people on the pronounciation of her name: “Comma-la.” She told this to the hosts of The View not long ago.
The Washington Post weighed in on the pronunciation of Harris’ name over the weekend, insinuating that anyone who doesn’t pronounce her name as “Comma-la” is racist.
In “Mispronouncing ‘Kamala’: Accident or message?” The Post reports Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) “stood in front of a crowd of Trump supporters at a Georgia rally this month and called her ‘Ka-mal-a, Comma-la, Ka-Mala-mala-mala,’ signaling that he didn’t know how to pronounce her name and it didn’t matter anyway. ‘Whatever,’ he concluded before moving on, as some in the audience applauded appreciatively.”
I watched the video. The audience did not applaud appreciatively. There were a few laughs, but that was about it. And Perdue appeared uncomfortable with the mispronounciation.
Purdue may be called “insensitive” with a colleague, but that’s about it. Names are challenging for many people, even colleagues. But the Post reported his stumble was a “dog-whistle to his base.”
In 2010 when Kamala Harris was running for California Attorney General, I remember very specifically being told her name was pronounced KAM-A-la – like “Barack Obama,” who was President at the time. When I first heard of her when she was San Francisco DA, I thought her name was pronounced the way she prefers today: “Comma-la,” but was corrected by another member of the media to KAM-A-la.
The Post continues:
Mocking Harris’s first name — which means lotus in Sanskrit — is not original to Perdue. President Trump has eschewed the correct pronunciation of her name, “Comma-la,” for “Ka-MAL-a” at rallies for months now.
When a guest corrected Fox News host Tucker Carlson on his pronunciation of the vice-presidential nominee’s name, Carlson seemed affronted at the suggestion that mispronouncing it showed disrespect. After a few more attempts, he, too, brushed it aside with a “whatever.”
“I absolutely meant no disrespect to the Senator from California,” Perdue said in an email. “My role in this is to point out the differences in what their agenda is and what our agenda is. A lot of Democrats will do or say anything right now to hide their radical, socialist agenda.”
The Post says Harris’ supporters say this is “not simply a matter of confusion, but often intended to telegraph that they are different, foreign or in some way un-American.”
“Well that is incredibly racist,” Harris’s press secretary, Sabrina Singh, tweeted after the rally.
Think of all of the times Speaker Nancy Pelosi stumbled over a name. Presidential candidate Joe Biden couldn’t even get Kamala Harris’ name right at first. But Joe Biden doesn’t get a lot right verbally. Which is likely the real motive behind the Post’s article painting everyone who stumbles over her name as racist – distraction from Joe’s daily verbal gaffes.
Even with my own name – Katy Grimes – I frequently am called Kathy. And my last name is also usually butchered. Siri even calls me “Katy Grimmess.”
Whether it’s Kamala or her staff and supporters who cry “racism” whenever anyone mispronounces her name, this happens to many people throughout their lives, regardless of race. The bigger issue is the Washington Post turning it into a racial issue – it’s a headline in search of a story.