A year ago, we predicted that S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley – then a fifth-place Republican gubernatorial candidate – would come under attack over pictures of her wearing a “bindi.”
Wait … what’s a “bindi?”
It’s a forehead decoration worn by women and young girls in many Southeastern Asian cultures – including Indian culture. Of course the “bindi” isn’t just for decoration. According to some religions, the area between the eyes is the seat of “concealed wisdom,” and placing a bindi there prevents that wisdom from escaping while also warding off demons and bad luck.
Haley – who was raised a Sikh – has worn bindis on numerous occasions, although not during her public campaign events.
Come on, people … this is South Carolina – a state where our leaders still dress up as Confederates and some people define “tolerance” as not lynching anybody.
Anyway, in keeping with our prediction, FITS received an anonymous email earlier this week that lampooned Haley as “Her Excellency The Hindu Nimrata Randawa (sic).”
Nimrata Randhawa is Haley’s maiden name.
Attached to the email (which was purportedly sent by a “Lifelong Republican”) were two pictures of Haley at an unknown event wearing a bindi and a green “gagra choli,” which is a traditional dress typically worn by unwed Indian girls at weddings and festivals.
The message field of the email was left blank, so it’s unclear in what “spirit” the pictures were sent – jokingly or hatefully.
Either way, this isn’t the first time that Haley has been either attacked or lampooned along racial lines.
Last year, Haley was the butt of a racially-charged joke allegedly told by former S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, who is said to have speculated that Upstate evangelical voters would “love Nikki Haley” because of the fact that she had been “born again … and again … and again.”
More recently, S.C. political cartoonist Robert Ariail created a stir when he challenged Haley on the issue of government transparency with a racially-themed sketch. In the first frame of his controversial drawing (dubbed “what she promises”) Haley was shown in a bikini with a pageant sash proclaiming herself as “Miss Transparency.” In the next frame (dubbed “what we get”) Haley was shown wearing a burqa – which women in some Muslim cultures are forced to wear in public to hide their bodies.
Many viewed Ariail’s cartoon as over-the-top … and racist.
Undeniably racist, however, was the national embarrassment caused by S.C. Senator Jake Knotts, who infamously referred to Haley (and President Barack Obama) as a “raghead” this summer on an internet talk show.
No real debate on the racist nature of that comment … or the boost it provided Haley’s campaign.
Also, largely unknown to the public (but known to our founding editor), is the fact that in the years prior to announcing her candidacy for governor, Haley was forced to call S.C. law enforcement agents on numerous occasions to investigate racist hate mail that was sent to her Lexington, S.C. home.
One of the threatening drawings that Haley showed us at the time contained a monkey with a red dot on its forehead.
Obviously, we’re all for “equality in joking” but genuine racism like that is flat out wrong … no matter how disappointed we may be with the leftward lean of Haley’s general election campaign.
Also, to those who would seek to make Haley’s race or culture an issue in the current gubernatorial race: Remember that such attacks have not only backfired against her in the past, but they also backfired against Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who benefited from them in his successful 2007 campaign.
Of course those who would seek to make Haley’s race or culture an issue in this race are likely incapable of making such a logical leap …