Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley is quoted several times as saying, “America is Not a Racist Country.” I’m inclined to believe that what she says is sincere. So, I read this THR interview with her with great interest.
She notes that she spent much time discussing race relations in a recent interview with Charlemagne. “What I said was, I’m not denying that there is racism in America.” She noted, “We should stomp it out every time we see it, and I did that as governor, and I did it as UN ambassador, and I will do that in everything I ever do.”
Here’s her nuance on the topic. “I said America is not a racist country, and my reasoning for that is I don’t think that America was intended to be a racist country. All men were supposed to be created equal with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It took America a while to get that right.”
Ah, that’s an interesting take on the Founders. My rhetorical question: And when was the point she believed that the goal was achieved? I’m not trying to be pedantic here. Was it after the Civil War, maybe with the Civil War amendments? (And BTW, I didn’t care much about her muddled comment about whether slavery was the cause of the Civil War.) Or perhaps a century later? Or 2008?
The discussion is relevant about how we see our nation and what we should address if there are things to fix. Unfortunately, that question was not asked. But I think we’re dealing with definitional differences.
Try that in a small town.
She noted, “As a brown girl who grew up in a small rural town, if my parents had told me that ‘you were born into a racist country,’ I would’ve always felt like I was disadvantaged. Instead, my parents always said, ‘You may encounter racism, but there’s nothing you can’t do, and you should work twice as hard to prove to everybody that you deserve to be in the room.'” Hmm. That sounded like the message that black kids of my generation always heard. So, she experienced individual racism.
In The Breakfast Club discussion, she stated that the division of the people over race started with Barack Obama because he used executive orders extensively. Since the Tea Party and its ilk arose, the Republicans failed to compromise or work with him. They wanted to make him a one-term president.
My take is more in keeping with what William Spivey suggested, that Obama’s election sparked the “fourth wave of white supremacy.”
“The general election [of 2008] removed any pretense that race was not a factor. Surrogates for John McCain depicted Barack and Michelle as monkeys. Obama faced birtherism charges of being born in Nigeria, Kenya, or maybe both, led by Donald Trump. Racist memes flooded the Internet… One might think things would have calmed down [after he was elected], but there were outbreaks of racism and race-based attacks throughout the country well before Obama took his oath of office.”
I give Nikki Haley props for “removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House following the racially charged murder of nine Black parishioners at Mother Emanuel Church” in 2015, after defending the flag as part of the state’s “heritage” five years earlier. But I find her thoughts on race in America less compelling than I had hoped.