Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made history by selecting Kamala Harris as his running mate, making her the first black woman with Asian ethnicity to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate.
When Biden’s campaign first announced the news, many Taiwanese were quite surprised to find out that, in fact, Kamala Harris has a Chinese name — He Chin-li (賀錦麗).
The main reason behind Harris’ Chinese name is due to the federal Voting Rights Act which dictates that every candidate in San Francisco running for political office, no matter the race, has to register a Chinese name.
This is required when a significant percentage of voting-age citizens speak limited English.
As many noticed that Harris’ Chinese name was not a direct translation of her English name, many wondered who helped picked her name.
According to local media, Su Jung-li, a Taiwanese-American who has been friends with Harris for several years was the mastermind behind her name.
When Harris first came to Su for advice on how to win the votes of the Chinese-dominated population, Su suggested that having a Chinese name might be helpful for securing Chinese-speaking votes. Harris loved this idea and asked Su and her father for help.
According to reports, Su said the last name “He” (賀) implies “congratulations”, and wished Harris a bright future in the public service.
In addition, Su revealed that Harris initially disliked the word “Li” (麗), meaning “beauty” in Chinese as she wanted to be known for her intelligence rather than her look.
However, Harris soon came to appreciate her name after Su pointed out that her name also had the same Chinese character and explained more of the traditions and history behind the word.
When speaking of her good friend, Su stated that though she doesn’t necessarily support every item on Harris’ policy proposal, she firmly believes Harris has the ability to unite people of all races.