What Is Kamala Harris's Ethnicity?

Her Vice President candidacy is historic.

Kamala Harris Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock

It's a pretty big deal that Joe Biden decided to pick Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election, but it's not just a big deal because she's a woman — it's because she's a person of color, too.

Though some may disagree with Harris's policies and the way she's voted as a member of the Senate, it's hard to deny the impact she's making and the way she's changing the world by virtue of the barriers she's breaking down.


But as she steps even more into the spotlight, especially on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, ready to be sworn in as the country's first woman Vice President, some people are wondering:

What is Kamala Harris's ethnicity?

RELATED: Who Are Kamala Harris' Parents? Everything To Know About Donald And Shyamala Gopalan Harris


Where are Kamala Harris's parents from? They're both immigrants.

Though Harris herself was born in Oakland, California, her parents were not.  

They met after they both traveled to the United States to attend the University of California Berkeley to go to grad school and got involved in the civil rights movement, and little did they know that they'd give birth to a daughter who would work to change the country as well. 

Who is Kamala Harris's father? Donald Harris is Jamaican.

Donald Harris, a Stanford professor turned economist, comes from St. Ann's Bay in Jamaica. He and Harris's mother got a divorce when she was young, leaving custody of her and Harris's sister, Maya, to their mother.

Who is Kamala Harris's mother, Shyamala Harris? She was from India. 



A post shared by Kamala Harris (@kamalaharris) on Aug 13, 2020 at 5:51am PDT

RELATED: Who Is Kamala Harris' Niece, Meena Harris?


Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who was known for her work In breast cancer research, was from Tamil-Nadu, India, and attended the University of Delhi for undergrad before moving to the U.S. to continue her education.

Harris has always spoken about how close she was with her mother and how much she was influenced by her — and continues to be influenced by her in this new chapter of her life and her career. 

Harris said she was raised with her Black heritage in mind.

In her book, The Truth We Hold, Harris wrote that her mom wanted her daughters to be raised to be proud to be Black women, even though she herself was from India.

“My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters,” Harris wrote. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see [my sister] Maya and me as Black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud Black women.” 


Kamala Harris also acknowledges her Asian heritage. 



A post shared by Kamala Harris (@kamalaharris) on May 1, 2020 at 4:23pm PDT

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Harris shared this video about what it meant to her to be the daughter of an Indian immigrant, and what her mother's journey meant to her.

"My mother had the ability to dream anything was possible. Born in India, she came to the United States alone at age 19 with the hope of curing cancer," she shared on Instagram. 


"This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I’m thinking of her and other members of the AAPI community who overcame obstacles to make the world a better place," she added. 

Kamala Harris defines herself as "American." 

Instead of putting herself in any specific category, Harris said in an interview that she simply defines herself as she chooses to, and doesn't worry about what other people say. 

"When I first ran for office that was one of the things that I struggled with, which is that you are forced through that process to define yourself in a way that you fit neatly into the compartment that other people have created," she said. “My point was: I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it." 

On Jan. 20, 2021, Kamala Harris became America's first Black and South Asian woman Vice President.

On Jan. 20, Kamala Harris made history, as she was sworn in as the country's first Black and South Asian woman Vice President. 


Among those attending Inauguration Day with her was her family, including husband Doug Emhoff and her stepkids, Ella and Cole Emhoff, and their mom, Kerstin Emhoff. 

Harris's sister Maya, her husband Tony West, and her niece Meena, along with her husband and two young kids, were also in attendance. 

Meena Harris has been posting pictures on social media for the last 24 hours, posting one with her "cousins" Ella and Cole, and one of her two little girls "screaming 'INAUGURAAAATIONNNNN.'"


Former First Lady Hillary Clinton also tweeted a supportive and heartwarming message in honor of Harris's history-making day, writing, "It delights me to think that what feels historical and amazing to us today—a woman sworn in to the vice presidency—will seem normal, obvious, 'of course' to Kamala's grand-nieces as they grow up. And they will be right."

RELATED: Who Is Ella Emhoff, Kamala Harris's Stepdaughter?

Nicole Pomarico is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Cosmo, Us Weekly, Refinery29, and more.