“For me, that starts right where it always has: I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country.
“Growing up in the rural south, my family didn’t look like our neighbors, and we didn’t have much. There were times that were tough, but we had each other, and we had the opportunity to do anything, to be anything, as long as we were willing to work for it.” ~ Nikki Haley, Republican Response (2016)
On Tuesday, January 12th, after President Obama’s last State of the Union address the Republican Party gave it’s response. Who spoke on behalf of the party? Well none other than Nimrata, I mean Nikki Haley herself. She spoke about everything from the Charleston 9 (she is the governor of South Carolina) to ISIS. While she spoke on a range of issues, I couldn’t help but wonder—Who is this woman? Yes, I know her title, but who is Nikki Haley? I came to the conclusion that not even Nikki Haley knows who she is. Nikki isn’t even her first name. So I ask: Nimrata, where you at girl? Don’t get me wrong she has accomplished a lot, but she has obviously lost herself in the process. Born of Indian heritage, but she seemingly chooses to identify with her secondary name probably because it’s easier to say. It’s easier for people to “identify” with. The governors of the Republican Party is filled with names like Bobby Jindal (I’ll get to him in a minute), Susana Martinez, and Mary Fallin so it’s no wonder she thought it easier to switch to Nikki.
Now, I have to ask: What are you teaching young Indian girls who want to get into politics? To be the first woman and minority governor EVER in the state of South Carolina, the youngest current governor in the United States, one of three female governors from the Republican party, and the second Indian American governor in the United States, you who think she would understand the power in her position. You would think she would understand that little girls of Indian descent, and possibly girls of color in general, look up to her. Instead by using a different first name, changing her religion (she was raised Sikh and now identifies as Methodist), and as of 2001 identifying with white on her voter registration card, Nikki has left Nimrata behind (Read more on that here).
Now this is not the first time we’ve seen something like this. It seems she’s following Bobby Jindal’s footsteps. Bobby Jindal, whose name is Piyush, decided long before his governorship he didn’t want to be called Piyush. He opted for the name Bobby because of the popular sitcom, The Brady Bunch. He also switched to Christianity. So there you have it, Piyush and Nimrata, our first two Indian American governors in the United States and neither of them represent their culture. It makes me wonder–—Is it really that simple? I mean could I get ahead by using my middle name instead of my first name? Would it make me more acceptable to society? Would I move up in Corporate America quicker or gain more contacts? What’s in a name? Obviously a lot because the first thing these two tackled was a clear and calculated image overhaul.
This one has me irritated because I knew a young lady in college who obviously hated her first name, and decided to go with her middle name. She was what we would call an “Isha” baby, as am I. I remember telling her to love herself because it’s just a name. I’ve never lost an opportunity because my name was DeLisha. If anything, people of the opposite race were often fascinated by it. Of course there has been the all too frequent joke of comparing my name to the word “delicious.” I just quickly shut it down. The only thing I’ve ever had an issue with is people pronouncing my name, but never have I thought of changing it. Why? Because it makes me unique. It’s what my mother named me, and I can’t lose sleep over someone else possibly stereotyping me because of it.
At the end of the day, you can change your name, you can change your religion, you can choose to identify with any race you like (Rachel Dolezal we aren’t talking about you), but the fact still remains: You’re not them. Even if you’re half white, you’re not them. I don’t say this to say that children of mixed race shouldn’t represent both sides, but in this country the one drop rule is in full effect.
You will always be a representative of your minority race when no one else is there to speak for them. You will often get the “Where are you from, because you don’t act/speak/look like…” statements. You should embrace it. Not to confirm that it is an acceptable way of thinking, but to show them why it is unacceptable. It sucks to have to represent your race at all times, but at the end of the day completely removing yourself from it does nothing positive. All it does is show Indian-American children that in order to get ahead in this country you must drop your faith, your customs, if possible your ethnicity, and lastly your name in order to properly assimilate with white American culture.
I think Eesha Pandit said it best in her article—The curious case of Nikki Haley: What the Republican governor can tell us about American racial identity. She stated that:
Nikki Haley is not white, but her own political party touts xenophobic, anti-immigrant and racist policies and practices. Some of her colleagues are directly funded by white supremacists. Given the racism inside her party, and the hostility toward non-white immigrants in so many places in the U.S., it’s no wonder that Nimrata Randhawa would find it easier to maneuver the political terrain as Nikki Haley that the Sikhism she was born into would be much more difficult to navigate than a conversion to Christianity.
I hope that one Nimrata stops letting Nikki kill her with the self-hate Kool-Aid because the kids are watching, and they’re wondering: Nimrata, where you at girl?
“NIKKI HALEY IS … WHITE?” Fit News. 27 July 2011. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <http://www.fitsnews.com/2011/07/27/nikki-haley-is-white/>.
Pandit, Eesha. “The Curious Case of Nikki Haley: What the Republican Governor Can Tell Us about American Racial Identity.” Salon. 23 June 2015. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <http://www.salon.com/2015/06/23/the_curious_case_of_nikki_haley_what_the_republican_governor_can_tell_us_about_american_racial_identity/>.
“Republican Response to State of the Union Address: Transcript.” CNN. CNN Politics, 12 Jan. 2016. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/12/politics/state-of-the-union-2016-republican-response-nikki-haley/>.