Donald Trump lastly has a Republican challenger for president. The previous governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is the social gathering’s second candidate. Her 14 years in political workplace should give critics enough to work with, however in a political environment the place substance takes a backseat to the tradition struggle, some progressives are most invested within the South Carolinian’s identify.
To those gatekeepers of cultural authenticity, Haley should both be Nimarata or a self-hating Indian who’s attempting too laborious to be white.
For many who don’t know, Haley’s first identify is Nimarata. Nikki is her center identify. They’re each Punjabi names, however Nikki is yet another acquainted to Anglophone ears and possibly why Haley selected it; to not run away from her ethnicity, however for comfort.
Over time, there was no scarcity of tweets, articles, and different commentary explicitly or implicitly malicious by mentioning that her first identify is Nimarata. At the same time as a little-known native politician, her identify was used to counsel that she was white-washing herself, a lot that Haley talked about it in her 2021 memoir.
The extra distinguished she obtained, and the extra she grew to become a nationwide determine, the extra nationwide this silliness obtained. It first grew to become a nationwide meme when she was serving as UN ambassador. At the same time as a non-public citizen in 2021, activist Bree Newsome attacked her for going by Nikki. And there’s a resurgence now that she’s a presidential candidate.
Responding to a Nikki Haley quote—“Take it from me, the primary minority feminine governor in historical past: America is just not a racist nation”—the controversial sports activities journalist (who primarily focuses on problems with race and identification) Jemele Hill tweeted, “So why did she change her identify then?”
CNN pundit Asha Rangappa, who has been attacking Haley for not utilizing “Nimrata” for years, was one individual leading the charge following Haley’s announcement, writing, “‘Nikki’ helps her assimilate greater than if she glided by ‘Nimrata.’” (Quickly after, Rangappa modified her identify to Renuka on Twitter after the revelation that, anticipate it, Asha is her center identify.) Mary Trump, cursing at Haley, additionally called her “Nimrata.” Twitter persona Claude Taylor tweeted, “Is Nimrata nonetheless speaking?”
For the file, Haley’s first identify is Nimarata, not Nimrata. Has it occurred to the critics that they is perhaps the issue, and that Haley goes by Nikki as a result of she’s uninterested in folks misspelling (or mispronouncing) her identify?
The caveat of utilizing one’s center identify as a substitute of first identify is lacking when somebody mentions former presidents Stephen Cleveland and Thomas Wilson and incumbent senators Cynthia Shaheen and Willard Romney. And let’s not get into the entire Hiram Ulysses Grant screwup at West Level that completely modified the person’s identify with out his consent. None of them was or is working away from their ethnicities. And none of them was or is shamed for utilizing their center names—on the contrary, Grant was celebrated as U.S. Grant through the Civil Struggle. Solely Haley is. As a result of she’s South Asian with an unfamiliar first identify.
This infuriates me as a result of it’s private. I dwell a twin life. I dwell in English and, to Anglophone buddies and colleagues and readers, as Shay. And I dwell in Farsi as Khashayar, my first identify. No blood relative of mine calls me Shay.
It will get higher. My mind doesn’t correspond if somebody calls me Shay in Farsi. And it doesn’t correspond if I’m known as Khashayar in English. On a regular basis, receptionists must name my identify a number of occasions till I do not forget that Khashayar is me. Instantly, I say that they need to name me Shay.
Ask anybody who is aware of me, they usually’ll inform you that I’m not working away from being Persian. I hated that Baraye, the Iranian revolution’s anthem, was nominated for a Grammy this yr as a result of it pressured me to be emotionally invested in and watch the Grammys for the primary—and presumably final—time.
A bulk of my writings and work is about Iran coverage. It’d be laborious to have identified me for a month and never acquired certainly one of my lectures about Cyrus the Nice—who liberated the Babylonian Jewish slaves and gave them immunity in Persia whereas additionally helping some to return to Jerusalem: he’s the one gentile mashiach within the Bible; he created the primary nation-state in historical past—OK, I’m getting distracted once more fanboying on Cyrus. I additionally prepare dinner ghormeh sabzi and fessenjun and militantly argue that Persian delicacies is the superior kind of meals—as a result of it objectively is, and individuals who disagree want tastebud transplants to repair their downside.
I’m named after Cyrus the Nice’s successor thrice eliminated as emperor, identified to most People as Xerxes. Within the Bible, he’s remembered as Achashverosh. For those who’re accustomed to the story of the Jewish vacation Purim, then you already know him as Queen Esther’s husband. Suffice to say, I by no means miss a chance at a Purim social gathering to make a degree out of this to make the entire feast about me! The which means of my identify is “the one who’s a hero among the many kings.” I’m neither embarrassed by my identify—with that which means, how may I?—nor ashamed of being Persian. Fairly the other, sitting in my snug chair within the capital of the liberal civilization, I’m ashamed that I’m not one of many freedom fighters in Iran right this moment. But I insist on remaining Shay.
It is because I like Khashayar an excessive amount of, and, mixed with an unhealthy urge to right folks, I can’t stand it when folks mispronounce my improbable identify.
On my bookshelf sits an award I accepted from the Johns Hopkins College’s Alumni Affiliation, nevertheless it has my identify misspelled as “Khashayer.” Once I noticed it, I needed to assume whether or not to dwell with the incorrect celebration of a second of my life I’m immensely pleased with. Equally, I’m left with deciding whether or not I ought to let go of the mispronunciations or train folks tips on how to pronounce a reputation they’ve by no means heard of together with a consonant that doesn’t exist in English.
However it’s additionally for comfort. My identify has three syllables—Nimarata has 4—whereas most People’ names have both one or two syllables, and people with names longer than two syllables shorten theirs: Most Jonathans go by Jon, Williams by Will or Invoice, Annabelles by Annie, and Cassandras by Cass or Cassie. So I am going by the center a part of my identify, Shay.
Virtually actually, Haley’s determination to go by Nikki comes out of nothing however comfort, and there are numerous overlaps between our identify tales. She may go by a made-up identify like Nim or Nimmie, as I did, or her different precise identify that’s acquainted to everybody locally she grew up in. And, similar to me, in case you’ve ever heard her communicate with out listening to her point out that her mother and father are immigrants from India, you weren’t paying consideration. She’s many issues, however ashamed of her heritage she isn’t.
There are political criticisms of Haley that apply—and I share a few of them—however to ridicule her for her identify is directly juvenile and cynical, one thing that solely schoolchildren and partisan operatives are able to.
There are immigrants who come to the USA in the hunt for alternative, however most of us come right here looking for freedom, not merely hoping for political freedom, but additionally liberation from intolerant social orthodoxies.
That folks of supposedly related backgrounds get to make very completely different choices is the range that’s worthiest of celebration as a result of it’s the muse of a liberal society. In the USA, immigrants search to guide lives that swimsuit us greatest. A few of us hold our names. For others, it’s a matter of courtesy to make use of nicknames—or our center names—as a result of we don’t wish to drive a nation so form that it took us in to undergo a needlessly uncomfortable strategy of studying our unattainable names.
And for a number of who’re too proud, we do it not as a result of we’re embarrassed by our names, however as a result of we love them a lot that we are able to’t stand listening to them butchered. Most immigrants come right here to slot in, not match the society to ourselves, and that is the important thing to the immigrant success story. It’d be good if the supposedly immigrant-loving left stopped telling us that we must always cease assimilating.
No matter Haley’s flaws, she’s the daughter of immigrants who represented America earlier than the United Nations—an immigrant success story, and an American success story. Cease attacking her for being Nikki. You’re solely embarrassing yourselves.