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          Volume 10 |Issue 30 | August 05, 2011 |


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Writing the Wrong

Step and Fetch It, Continued...


Nikki Haley

This week has been about rejection for me. Writers, artists of any type, actually, are intimately acquainted with this phenomenon. I guess most people who venture out of their shells and attempt to live life will experience some form of rejection during their stint on earth. Many people I know are living half lives precisely because they are so frightened of it. Rejection can manifest itself on a larger scale, it can indicate to an entire group of people that, somehow, their collective identity is undesirable, which leads to a great deal of resentment and indicates, at least to me, that we are not necessarily evolving out of archaic notions of race and class. Further, some of us are still very much reeling from post colonial shock syndrome.

African Americans are well versed in this phenomenon. After hundreds of years that community appears to be moving away from rejecting their own--though some will argue and say, lighter skinned men and women are still considered more attractive and superior. Bangladeshis also, generally prescribe to that ridiculous idea, especially where women are concerned. The Indian American community (some members) are incensed because Nikki Haley, the incumbent Governor of S. Carolina, who is of Sikh heritage declared herself white on a 2001 census. A group has been started to tar and feather her. I think, given the circumstances it is exactly what it appears to be, a political manoeuvre tinged with a healthy case of self loathing. Naturally, changing her ethnicity seems to have worked in her favour, as she has arguably achieved a most extraordinary thing; being elected in a notoriously bigoted state that demanded to secede from the Union long before the American Civil War began in 1861. The very first shots of that war were fired in Charleston. The citizens of South Carolina were resolute in their position where slavery was concerned, and they fought to the death to defend the institution. And now they have a Sikh (ish), light skinned female Governor who's real name is Nimrata Randhawa.

Given everything, that would have to be the first thing to be discarded; the name, the first step in self deconstruction, denial and re-invention. Take it from me, who changed her name to Sharon in third grade, confusing my teachers and mother when she came for a parent-teacher conference, there IS something liberating about it, but only because there is no self acceptance and the need for others' acceptance trounces one's self love. How sad I was. But, in my defence, I was eight. Gov Haley is 39.

Americans are notoriously allergic to anything remotely foreign sounding or looking. I want you to imagine a southerner trying to pronounce her name, with that slow drawl of theirs. Actually, when I say it out loud, Nimrata, slowly in my lame impersonation of a southern accent it sounds damn romantic. A sight better (as they would say in the South) than NIKKI. Nikki, that is what one names their daughter if they feel a life walking the streets will be her best bet. Sorry, but how terribly ordinary and, sigh, everywoman Haley's chosen moniker is.

There are some social anthropologists who believe race is a myth and a mere social construct. Well, if enough people prescribe to it, and enough do, it can be rendered very much real. It obviously is for Haley. It is plain to me that she felt her political aspirations would be stymied if she did not shed her cultural heritage and make herself more palatable to her constituency. You'll notice that I have not mentioned her party affiliation. ONE guess as whether she is a Republican or a Democrat. Do I even have to ask?

It appears that Haley has a brother in arms, so to speak, in Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, or should I say PIYUSH Jindal? Who, not only changed his name, but also converted from Hinduism to Christianity. Note: keep an eye out for Piyush, he's fixing (another Southernism) to sit in the Oval Office someday. Imagine this ticket: Piyush and Nimrata 2016. Their platform: taking a marvellous American idea and perverting it. What's in a name or an ethnicity? They would declare while stumping. In Amrika y'all can be anything you want and better yet, you can fully disavow your entire ancestry while doing it and get yourself a newer, shinier, Whiter one! Now, if that aint the American way, I don't rightly know what is!

Haley did not feel she had a choice, let us say, for argument's sake. Ever since she was a kid, she might have wanted to be in politics and was instinctively a political creature. Her family landed up in S. Carolina and that is where she took root. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to take stock of the immediate environment to know that in order for her to get anywhere she was going to have to adapt to the MAN's way. Right? WRONG! It is obvious that Haley is not an inspired leader or a visionary. She lacks audacity, hopeful or otherwise. It is not brave to re-invent oneself in this manner, by denying one's ethnicity and name. True courage would have been to maintain her platforms (The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund gave the then Rep. Haley a grade of A, if that is ANY indication of where this woman leans) and run as herself, not some narrow White Male notion of who she is supposed to be. Imagine if Nimrata had run as a proud Sikh-American, who is obviously committed to addressing her constituency's concerns and won. Now, as misguided as her politics are, THAT would have been a true victory, and a sign we are emerging from the cave. But, maybe she can't win. If she ran as the Republican she is but as the Indian she also is, that would have also displeased many of us. Perhaps the way the world is set up gives those of us who lack the moral stamina and a powerful imagination very little wiggle room.

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