Gimme a Break: Haley Claims That in the South, She Was ‘Teased Every Day for Being Brown’

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Can Nikki Haley read the room? Apparently not. With the New Hampshire primary just two days away, on Sunday she played the race card in a big way, making outlandish and implausible claims about her youth in South Carolina. Whose votes is she trying to win? Those of patriotic voters who are thoroughly sick of charges of “racism” being used as a weapon or those of the entrenched Washington establishment that weaponized those charges? The answer isn’t even close to being in doubt.


Haley came out big for identity politics on NBC Sunday, saying: “We were the only Indian family in our small southern town. I was teased every day for being brown. So anyone that wants to question it can go back and look at what I’ve said on how hard it was to grow up in the deep South as a brown girl.”

Now wait a minute here. It’s very common for kids to tease one another, and to seize upon whatever is available to do the teasing with, but did Nikki Haley really experience racism in the deep South? She was born in South Carolina in 1972. So she is talking about suffering from racist teasing in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Yet Haley didn’t grow up in the South of Theodore Bilbo and Bull Connor. She grew up in the New South of Ted Turner and Jimmy Carter, when even old segregationists including George Wallace and Strom Thurmond were apologizing for their old stances and courting support from blacks and whites who had earlier disdained them for their racism. 

Haley, however, dug even deeper, adding: “If you wanna know what it was like growing up, I was disqualified from a beauty pageant because I wasn’t white or black, because they didn’t know where to put me. So look, I know the hardships, the pain that come with racism.”

Oh, come on. Is she expecting us to believe that there was a beauty pageant in South Carolina in the 1980s that disqualified anyone on the basis of race or even took any note of race at all? If there had been, and if what she says happened had really taken place, Nikki Haley and her disqualification would have been international news. 


Discrimination on the basis of race had been a federal crime since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the New South was anxious to put its past behind it and project a new image to the world. Haley’s South is closer to Hollywood, where fat, drawling racist sheriffs still prowl the land, looking for poor black folk to devour, than to anything that has been seen in South Carolina or anywhere else in the South for decades.

And so Haley’s claims met with the scorn and derision they so richly deserved. The Babylon Bee quickly published an article entitled: “Nikki Haley Recalls Her Daring Childhood Escape From Slavery On The Underground Railroad.” Dinesh D’Souza noted: “I came to America from Bombay, India at age 17 and have spent the past four decades in the most conservative precincts of American life. I have never once been teased for being brown, and I’m browner than Nikki Haley. So what’s going on here?” Flagrant pandering to the left, Dinesh, that’s what’s going on here.

     Related: Is Nikki Haley the Real Frontrunner? 

It is hard to see what Haley’s strategy is. I’ve met numerous Southerners over the years who are thoroughly sick of the South’s persistent image, despite the societal transformation that has taken place over the last six decades. They’re rankled on a consistent basis by non-Southerners who assume that if they visit Atlanta, Nashville, or Charleston, they’ll see segregated lunch counters and water fountains marked “Whites Only.” 


The Republican primary in Haley’s home state of South Carolina on Feb. 24. Could Haley, who did, after all, grow up there, conceivably think that tarring South Carolinians as racists at this late date will do anything but lose her votes in a state where she might have made a decent showing, if not won an outright victory?

It’s clear, however, that Haley isn’t really interested in South Carolina voters. She is interested in the favor of the Republican establishment, which is happy to play identity politics as energetically as their masters among the Democrat leadership do. But that establishment already hated Trump and loved Haley. So all she has done is shoot herself in the foot, which she very much wants us to know is brown.


Trending on PJ Media Videos

Join the conversation as a VIP Member