- Political commentator Michael Knowles took to YouTube to criticize the teen’s oeuvre as ‘as being political and anti-Trump.’
Political commentator Michael Knowles, host of the “Michael Knowles Show,” but better known for calling 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, “a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left” on Fox News, is back to slamming children once again. This time, a 15-year-old Indian American poet Kashvi Ramani has caused the commentator to have a hissy fit.
Ramani spoke with American Kahani about the incident. The election of Kamala Harris to the second highest office in the United States inspired Ramani to write and record a poem about the vice president, whose life Ramani saw echoed in hers. “I had just read an article on Harris and her mother. She described her mother as someone who was very strong, passionate with a clear view of what her life should be after she immigrated to America. She was very strict with Kamala, but always encouraged her to dream big. That related to me. I saw the person behind the political figure. And like her mom, my mom is the exact same way with me.”
Ramani is from the Washington, D.C. area, and alternates between two schools – Academies of Loudoun (Entrepreneurship, math and Science) and Rock Ridge High Schools (performing Arts and Creative Writing).
She publishes her poems on her YouTube channel.
Ramani, who spent two-weeks writing and rewriting the poem adds, “For example, when I was little, I modeled once, my mom, immediately was like ‘we have to sign with an agency, you’re going to be a famous model’. She always has me dream big like Shyamala Gopalan Harris made Kamala dream big. My mom believes it’s better to dream big rather than not dream at all. So I wanted to document the similarities somehow and so I thought a poem might be the most fulfilling way to do this. My intentions were not political at all.” Ramani saw herself in Harris because they both share not only an Indian American identity, with strong maternal role-models, but also their gender.
Ramani knew Harris had broken the glass ceiling and shared in the excitement and possibilities for her own future. Her poem exulted the pride she felt and the determination she saw inHarris. Ramani is a member of Washington, D.C.’s youth slam poetry team and told American Kahani that she just hoped her poem would encourage the vice president in rough times which inevitably any political figure has to face.
It stunned her when word got back to her that her poem had been ridiculed by political commentator Michael Knowles who has 434,000 subscribers on YouTube alone. “At first, when people said I was featured on the Michael Knowles Show, I was excited as I thought he was going to support my poem.”
But after she watched the clip from the show and found out that her poem had been ridiculed by Knowles as being political and anti-Trump, Ramani said, “I was appalled,” adding, “I was upset that after I was dreaming so big, it was the exact opposite. It was someone bashing my poem. Michael Knowles makes it seem very political. My poem wasn’t political at all. It was just a comparison between me and Kamala. He (Knowles) used one line from my poem – ‘Trump 2020 is set on a loop as a comeback to all accusations’ – and which in hindsight was pretty political and maybe not necessary in the poem, but I was passionate about that piece, however, the intention of the poem was not political at all.”
A visibly upset Ramani says, “It was just one line. He used it to deem my poem entirely political and full of propaganda. He used that one line to bash my poetry writing skills. I felt very disappointed. Not all publicity is good publicity.” But the very mature Ramani adds, “Later, I thought, who is he (Knowles) to judge my poetry. He’s not qualified. So I didn’t let it bring me down, even though initially, I did question if my poem was really good enough.”
This is not the first time Knowles has gone after a teenager in his commentary. Fox News even banned Knowles as a guest after he called teenage global climate activist Greta Thunberg a “mentally ill Swedish child,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. The 16-year-old Thunberg has been open about being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, embracing it as her “superpower.”
Ramani’s mother, Kirtana Ramani told AsAmNews, “My husband and I are more interested in limiting this negativity,” adding, “The divide between political choice and race is happening too much. I just want people to be kind and understand the point of view. It was just a child of color who had finally found a person in a prominent position that looks like her. It was more about mother and daughter than about politics.”
As for Ramani, she will continue to share her thoughts through poetry. “I’m not going to let this experience affect me in future. There will always be people who hate. Being a woman and an Indian, I’ve had to face a lot of racism and sexism. I will continue uploading my video on my YouTube Channel,” the determined Ramani said. She adds, “I want writing to be my lasting career, a way to make a difference in the world. I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. So, I won’t let my first instance of remote fame be a black mark on my career.”
Ramani has received a plethora of support. “Lots of comments on my YouTube channel have pointed out to Knowles that I am a minor and my parent’s permission should have been sought. They also pointed out that I am a great poet and should continue to write. There was no hate towards him. Just support me. It was really nice to see people rallying with support, even from people I barely knew.”
Ramani has a wide variety of interests, of which writing – song, script or poetry – admits it is her favorite, “I love acting too and have a manager and agent as well.” Ramani, who is aware that there aren’t many roles for people who look like her yet, has starred in the TV show, Alex Inc. (2018), with Zac Braff, along with numerous stage performances.
American Kahani reached out to Knowles via social media and asked him if Ramani and other teens were fair game for political commentary. He did not respond. He has also not contacted the Ramani family with an apology.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.