Former South Carolina Governor and current presidential candidate Nikki Haley insisted on Tuesday that America has “never been a racist country,” before claiming she had experienced racism in her own life.
Speaking to Fox News the morning after her third-place finish in the Iowa caucus, Haley was asked if she felt she belonged to a “racist” party.
“No, we’re not a racist country,” Haley replied. “We’ve never been a racist country. Our goal is to make sure that today is better than yesterday. Are we perfect? No. But our goal is to always make sure we try to be more perfect every day that we can.”
“I know, I faced racism when I was growing up,” Haley added.
Nikki Haley: "We've never been a racist country" pic.twitter.com/qcB0wTjvJS
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 16, 2024
Laughable contradiction aside, Haley’s comments, made the day after a national holiday commemorating civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., are of course completely ahistorical. From slavery, to segregation, to the ongoing discrimination and vilification faced by immigrants and minority groups, racism is a central component of the nation’s history — one that continues to have profound effects on American life.
Haley seems wholly ignorant of that history. Last month, she drew criticism after claiming that the American Civil War “was basically how government was going to run,” and “the freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do,” during a New Hampshire town hall — without making any mention of the role slavery played in the conflict. She later tried to defend the comments in part by saying she had “Black friends growing up.”
Haley, the child of immigrant Sikh parents from Punjab, India, has spoken about her experiences with discrimination throughout her life. In 2011 she described to The New York Times having been kicked out of a beauty pageant as a five-year-old because she did not fit into a specific racial category. In 2010, during Haley’s run for the South Carolina governorship, former GOP state Sen. Jake Knotts was asked to resign after referring to Haley as a “raghead” because of her Sikh background.
During the 2020 Republican National Convention, Haley made a similar — contradictory — denial of the nation’s racist past. “America is not a racist country. This is personal for me,” Haley said. “I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. They came to America and settled in a small Southern town. My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. I was a brown girl in a Black and white world. We faced discrimination and hardship. But my parents never gave in to grievance and hate.”
As the GOP works to rewrite the history of racial struggle in the United States and undermine efforts to correct past wrongs through book bans, fighting diversity and inclusion initiatives, and horrendous conspiracy theories about minorities, Haley’s comments underscore Republican’s inability to acknowledge even the most basic truths about our nation’s past.
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