American Turban

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: first not a Sikh, now not even Asian

“When she registers to vote she says she is white. She has developed a pattern of saying whatever is beneficial to her at the moment,” he said. “She can’t even tell the truth about her racial heritage.”

Nikki Haley (photo: pakistanisforpeace.wordpress.com)

Nikki Haley (photo: pakistanisforpeace.wordpress.com)

— South Carolina’s Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian brings up Governor Nikki Haley’s inconsistencies in reporting her identity.

Haley is often trumpeted in being the first female Indian American governor in the United States, and that from a Sikh family.  She has openly used her roots and upbringing as a testament of her character, and the Republican Party has used her as an example of the growing ethnic diversity of their ranks.Notwithstanding the above, Haley had long converted to Methodist Christianity and is raising her children in the Methodist tradition, commonly downplaying any attachment to the Sikh faith.  Evidently, by the stroke of some kind of magical pen, she also has changed her race as well.

However the Governor of South Carolina chooses to categorize herself is certainly her option, but it is interesting to observe her shifting self-identification.  She certainly doesn’t deserve the credit she gets based on her ethnicity, as even she herself doesn’t seem to respect where she is from.

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2 comments

  1. Veer ji, I’m assuming that you were not around in the 80s or were too wee to remember the infamous day that Indians became Asians overnight. It was indeed a magical pen that changed Haley’s race: from “White” to “Asian” in the first place! In prior decades, Indians were legally classified as Caucasian/White. In the late 60’s, the white guy at the US embassy in India the put down white as my parent’s race on all their immigration paperwork. But somehow, during the eighties, my White Indian parents became my Asian Indian parents. Magic or politics, you be the judge… During the roaring 80’s, in places like NJ, Indian businessmen, wanting to take advantage of special business loans meted out to non-whites, sued to have themselves declared nonwhite. Additionally, many Indian groups at that time lobbied the Reagan administration to have Indians declared non-Whites so that Indians would also be in a legally protected category. It’s my understanding that the term Asian was first used in US census by the Nixon administration to refer to the “race” formerly called Oriental, who had lobbied for the new racial name because they considered the term “Oriental” demeaning. Even nowadays, many Asian groups object to the inclusion of Indians in their racial category, since many don’t believe that we Indians have anything racially, linguistically, or culturally in common with them. Apparently, they think that Buddhism, which was used as the common link for grouping Indians with Asians, a real big stretch!

    The US govt. has been confused as to which box to put in us Indians. Evidently, they seem to change their mind on the issue every decade, so I don’t fault Haley for not knowing which box to check this year, heck, maybe tomorrow we will be in the Black category… I’m sure there’s some Indian out there lobbying for that… to get better benefits. 😉 I don’t believe Haley’s ever denied her ethnic heritage: Indian. If she were trying to deny her ethnicity, I doubt she would have given her kids Indian names. Ethnicity is not the same as race, at least not according to the anthropologists, who came up the notorious racial classifications in the first place. I certainly don’t agree with most of Haley’s ethics or politics; however, in this case, I think the Dems are just being plain ridiculous. I’m sure the Repubs could argue or have already argued that Obama is lying about his race since he checks off only the Black race box and not the White or multiracial box. I do find it interesting that the Dems have never objected to any Hispanic-American or Arab-American politician checking off the White race box! Ah,alas, strong is the power of an illusion: race… (& also a great documentary!)

  2. Brady

    She is a really sad lady.

    To denounce and almost be ashamed of her Indian/Punjabi identity is so wrong and sad. She would go to any lengths to distance herself from her roots.

    Maybe it is due to her being traumatized by prior racism or something. She is pathetic

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