A GIF of presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris waving has become a popular reaction GIF on social media.
Harris' wave, followed by a hand over her heart, has been interpreted by many as a patronizing gesture, but that doesn't take into account what was going on when the video was recorded.
Harris wasn't just doing the usual politician thing and trying to look sincere and caring. She was witnessing a heartbreaking scene and doing her best to be supportive of the people she could not help.
The GIF in question:
This clip was taken during Harris' visit to the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children outside of Miami, FL. Homestead is one of the many privately owned detention centers where immigrant children are being held.
The tweet that seems to have started the trend was posted by @DewaynePerkins.
Me waving goodbye to the stranger I unknowingly gave wrong directions too. https://t.co/Q9XSfaRZOP— Dewayne Perkins (@Dewayne Perkins)1564292533.0
Others soon followed.
Grandmas on their porch still waving at y’all from 25 miles down the road https://t.co/7BecLgP1Xa— BLANCO 🕺🏾 (@BLANCO 🕺🏾)1564277756.0
me waving to the stranger who is waving to the person behind me https://t.co/JXm3ZEmByL— little king trashmouth (@little king trashmouth)1564340199.0
Saying goodbye to a co-worker and then taking the long way to the subway so you don’t get on the same train https://t.co/tI0MI9lP0s— Mike Drucker 🔜 PAX (@Mike Drucker 🔜 PAX)1564321950.0
Waving at people who sent me an “I’m in your city today! Wanna hang out?” text from my bed. https://t.co/PiILg8Nt7X— Just Justin (@Just Justin)1564250122.0
Me waving to my son as he ships off to raid Area 51 https://t.co/rS8XCyxjsW— Siraj Hashmi (@Siraj Hashmi)1564342531.0
Without context, lots of folks read completely different meanings in Senator Harris' expressions and actions in the clip.
Harris has since talked about what was going on, and what was running through her head, when the video was taken. It definitely wasn't the snark that many are using the GIF for.
She called the moment "heartbreaking" in an interview with BuzzFeed News:
"It's been sort of strange to see it become a meme because of how heartbreaking the actual moment was."
She then moved on to where she was and why she was there:
"I was standing on a ladder outside Homestead juvenile immigration detention center outside Miami, looking over the fence, and I saw children lined up like prisoners."
"They had been separated from their families and put in this private detention facility. It was horrible."
Harris and other members of congress had been denied entry to inspect the facility, despite positions on oversight committees.
"I sit on the Homeland Security Committee and they wouldn't let me see this facility where children are being detained."
She then revealed another heart wrenching detail:
"Here were parents outside the fence who are crying because they can't get to their children who were inside."
Harris also went on to condemn those responsible for this treatment of children:
"it was awful and I was just heartbroken to see it all. What this administration is doing is a human rights abuse."
So it turns out Harris was feeling genuine emotion when the video clip was taken, and wasn't being sarcastic or fake in the slightest, as many had believed.
This is a great example of how we can sometimes read more into someone's facial expression and body language than was really there. Video recordings can only tell us so much when we don't have the context of where the video was taken to inform our assumptions.