On Aug. 25, 2020, the political advocacy organization, South Asians for Biden offered an apology for an earlier tweet it had posted regarding former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley who spoke on the first day of the Republican National Convention.
In her speech at the GOP Convention, Haley had accused the Democratic Party of describing America as racist and countered it with her personal journey to becoming the governor of South Carolina.
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country,” Haley said in her speech. She however, went on to say that while living in a small town in South Carolina as a “brown” girl, life was not always easy.
South Asians for Biden responded to her comment on the Democratic Party calling America racist, with the following tweet, “If America isn’t racist, why did Namarata Haley feel compelled to change her name to ”Nikki”?” Her first name was misspelled.
Needless to note that most Indians and Indian-Americans know why ‘Nikki’ is her popularly used name – it stands for ‘the little one’ and possibly was the one she was called most often growing up. And it stuck and even made it into her birth certificate, spelt the Indian way and not as Nicky.
It appeared that those in South Asians for Biden either did not know the history of Haley’s name, nor were aware of the customs in Indian households and in this case, Punjabi households, where nicknames rule the roost and live forever, often overtaking one’s official name.
A barrage of responses on social media characterized the South Asians for Biden tweet as racist in and of itself.
That led to SAFB not only pulling the earlier tweet off Twitter, but also later, offering an apology of sorts for the now non-existent tweet on Haley.
“Upon further reflection, an earlier tweet drawing attention to the name of Ambassador Nikki Haley has been removed. South Asians for Biden regrets the tone of the message. We will continue to focus on the very real issues facing South Asian voters this election.”
However, the apology was not spared either on social media.
It’s amazing that you only regret the tone. The messages at its absolute core intent, not just the tone of the message, was broken and flawed. Take a step back and have some deep introspection,” said someone going by the name Thony The Thaigirl.
“A simple Google search would have prevented this in this (sic) first place and shown that Nikki is a common Punjabi name. Seems this account isn’t even run by people of South Asian descent.” said Eric Hovland.
“It’s not the tone of the message that is a problem. It’s the tone of the messenger and no one is fooled,” said RaleighLlama.
The reaction to the apology went further to question the concept of South Asian-ness.
“I knew of Indian Subcontinent but what’s South Asians? Does it mean everyone else except Indians in the Indian Subcontinent?” questioned Rahul snarkily.
One tweet by Rohit Kumar Jha went so far as to say, “I’d ban the term “South Asians”