Donald Harris, the father of Indian-origin Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, has said that close contact with his daughters “came to an abrupt halt” after a contentious custody battle, according to a media report.
The New York Times report said that the Jamaican-born economics professor expressed regret that the custody battle brought an end to the contact with his daughters.
Kamala Harris’ mother Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer biologist came from India to the US at the age of 19 to pursue her dream of curing cancer.
In her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Kamala Harris spoke fondly and profusely about her mother but had limited words for her father.
She said her mother met her father, who had come from Jamaica to study economics, at the University of California Berkeley, and “the two fell in love in that most American way-while marching together for justice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s”.
“My mother instilled in my sister, Maya, and me the values that would chart the course of our lives. She raised us to be proud, strong Black women. And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage,” Kamala Harris, 55, said in her acceptance speech on Wednesday.
“When I was 5, my parents split and my mother raised us mostly on her own. Like so many mothers, she worked around the clock to make it work-packing lunches before we woke up- and paying bills after we went to bed. Helping us with homework at the kitchen table-and shuttling us to church for choir practice,” said the Indian-American Senator from California.
“She made it look easy, though I know it never was. She taught us to put family first-the the family you’re born into and the family you choose,” Kamala Harris said.
The New York Times article said that her father Donald,81, is long retired from teaching and has remained mostly silent even as his daughter “has stepped into the national spotlight.”
The report cited a 2018 essay by Donald, in which he says his early, close contact with his daughters “came to an abrupt halt” after a contentious custody battle.
“This early phase of interaction with my children came to an abrupt halt in 1972 when, after a hard-fought custody battle in the family court of Oakland, California, the context of the relationship was placed within arbitrary limits imposed by a court-ordered divorce settlement based on the false assumption by the State of California that fathers cannot handle parenting…Nevertheless, I persisted, never giving up on my love for my children or reneging on my responsibilities as their father,” he wrote.
The report said that his only recent comments about her, published on a Jamaican website run by an acquaintance, “express a combination of pride in his daughter and bitterness over their estrangement”.
“He scolded her in a letter, which has since been removed from the site, for joking in an interview that, growing up in a Jamaican family, it was natural that she had smoked marijuana,” the report said
“Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty,” Kamala Harris’ father wrote in the letter, according to the report.
The report added that the divorce between Kamala Harris’ parents was bitter. Harris recalls inviting both her parents to her high school graduation, “even though I knew they wouldn’t speak to each other,” and initially fearing that her mother would not show up, it said.