The ignorant and racially charged attacks on Nikki Haley
March 2, 2023
Only in 21st-century America can you call yourself the "proud daughter of Indian immigrants" and get accused of whitewashing your background.
For the left, the verdict is in and has been for a long time - Nikki Haley is not Indian American enough.
The offenses of the former South Carolina governor are myriad, from using an easily pronounceable name to converting to Christianity, to once checking "white" on a voter registration card, to touting the value of hard work in getting ahead, to defending America against charges of racism.
This has subjected her to ignorant, highly personal, racially charged attacks.
The NAACP activist (and pastor!) Talbert Swan tweeted that she said say her "real" name and asked if she's too afraid of "white folks" to do it.
This is long-running criticism. When Haley came on an episode of "The View" last year, Sunny Hostin asked derisively, "What is her real name again?" Hostin, whose given name is Asuncion, called her a "chameleon" and remarked that it might be different "if she leaned into being someone of color."
This is dumb and ill-informed. As a USA Today fact-check noted, Haley's name at birth was Nimrata Nikki Randhawa. Rather than being a westernization, "Nikki" is a common nick- name in Punjab, where her parents are from. She used the name Nikki since she was young, and then took the last name of her husband Michael Haley, in what is still the common practice in the U.S.
All that aside, the Hostin critique gets to the bottom of the real indictment of Haley from the race obsessives - she's not obsessed with race enough. Or, as "South Asian American experts" cited by NBC News put it, she has "an on-and-off relationship with their Indian identity."
What does "on-and-off" mean except that, while expressing pride in her background, she doesn't let it wholly define her? In what world is this not a healthy, well-adjusted attitude?
Was her announcement video, which did acknowledge the difficulties of growing up as an Indian American in the South Carolina of that time, supposed to be a screed about all the terrible things that have been done to her by the country her parents chose to come to?
The answer for her woke critics is basically "yes." Again and again, critiques of Haley mention that she's perpetuating the "model minority myth," by which they mean she extols up-from-the-bootstraps hard work instead of painting a picture of immigrant futility in a fundamentally racist country.
The other charges against Haley are as meritless. She reportedly checked "white" on a voter registration card more than 20 years ago. Apparently, the card only offered the options of white, Black/African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or other. These categories, an unavoidable aspect of American life, are insanely reductive and imprecise. Asian is often taken to mean East Asian, not South Asian, and if Haley didn't want to "otherize" herself, she might have checked white as one of a number of not-accurate options.
Regardless, what's the allegation here? That she thought no one would find out about her Indian heritage if she checked a certain box on a card no one knew about?
Haley also converted to Christianity, which she has explained thoughtfully and sensitively. It's a feature of Christianity, not a bug, that it is open to all, from every nation and every background. And she's not the first person to convert to Methodism.
At the end of the day, the left is willing only to accept the legitimacy of minorities who toe the party line and are adherents of the worst sort of identity politics and of "The 1619 Project" version of America.
This is why Justice Clarence Thomas is never considered truly Black and why it doesn't matter how often Haley says she is proud of her heritage. She'll still be assailed as a false Indian American working to support white supremacy.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.
© 2023 by King Features Synd., Inc.