President Obama’s last State of the Union address on Tuesday evening was followed, as always, by a Republican response. This year, the response was delivered by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India.
Haley came into the national spotlight in 2015 when, in the wake of a mass shooting in Charleston by a white supremacist, she authorized the removal of the Confederate flag from state government flag posts. Apart from being a staunch conservative who first came to power with Tea Party support, Haley has had an interesting (to say the least) relationship with race and identity throughout her career.
In her response, Haley promoted conservative values but offered critiques of Democrats and Republicans alike. She also urged voters not to “follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” which was considered a dig at Donald Trump.
But when discussing her own immigrant background, Haley juxtaposed immigrants who “work hard” with undocumented immigrants and refugees, and implied that her family’s experience was a universally accessible ideal. This serves to perpetuate the idea that there are good immigrants and bad immigrants – but of course, Haley and other South Asian-Americans are supposed to be “the good ones.” Desis on Twitter took her remarks to task:
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) January 13, 2016
Gov Haley touts her own immigration history but then makes it clear that America should exclude immigrants who don’t fit the mold. No. #SOTU
— Deepa Iyer (@dviyer) January 13, 2016
— Arun Gupta (@arunindy) January 13, 2016
I just really… I just can't with Nikki Haley. Like – she literally has undone all the step forwards South Asian American women have taken.
— Taz Ahmed (@TazzyStar) January 13, 2016
SEE? NIMRATA IS A *GOOD* GIRL. SHE UNDERSTANDS OUR SACRIFICE! LEGAL IMMIGRATION ONLY! MORE PEOPLE LIKE ME! TO SHOUT AT YOU! CHUTIYAS.#SOTU
— Sepia Mutiny (@sepiamutiny) January 13, 2016
Despite her rhetoric, far-right conservatives still felt the need to criticize her for being too soft on immigration.
Trump should deport Nikki Haley.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 13, 2016
It seems that not even Nikki Haley is safe from racism.