What is Nikki Haley’s ethnicity? Start Here

By Chege Karomo — ON Feb 15, 2023
Nikki Haley
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Having stated that she wouldn’t vie against Donald Trump for the Republican presidential election ticket, Nikki Haley announced her bid for the White House. Nikki stated that the need for ‘generational change’ influenced her decision to vie for America’s top job. 

She was a former Trump lieutenant, serving as his administration’s ambassador to the United Nations from January 2017 to December 2018. Nikki has refrained from openly criticizing the former president, preferring to subtly support those who criticized Trump after the January 6th attack on Congress. 

Polls show that Nikki trails her Republican competitors, including Trump. However, Nikki, a political trailblazer, has beaten the odds before. 

Nikki’s Indian parents immigrated to the United States through Canada

Nikki Haley parents

Nikki was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa to Raj Kaur and Ajit Singh Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina. Her Indian Punjabi Sikh parents grew up in Punjab, India. 

Raj moved to Canada after receiving a scholarship from the University of British Columbia. Ajit joined him, and after Raj earned his PhD, the couple moved to South Carolina, where he’d secured a job as a professor at Voorhees College. 

“We were the first Sikh family in Bamberg,” Ajit told Lassi with Lavina. “It was a small town in South Carolina, a closed community at that time.” Ajit stated that Nikki and her sister Simmi weren’t eligible to compete in the Little Miss Bamberg contest due to their ethnicity. 

“Nikki was five years old at the time and sang, ‘This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to New York Island’ and received a resounding applause,” Ajit said. 

On 23rd December 2022, Nikki posted a photo of Raj’s birthday celebration. Decades after his move to the United States, Raj still wears a turban, expressing pride in his Sikh heritage and faith. 

Nikki converted to Christianity in 1997, a year after marrying Methodist Micheal Haley. Raj told Lassi with Lavina that he didn’t object to Nikki’s conversion as long as she maintained her spirituality:

“… spirituality is the common thread in all religions, all anchored in faith. So long as children believe in God and have an abiding faith in God, the virtues become a part of your psyche.”

Nikki has faced accusations of hiding her Indian ethnicity, with some observers questioning whether she would have prospered politically if she vied as a Sari-wearing Sikh. During a September 2022 episode of The View, host Sunny Hostin accused Nikki of racial passing. 

Racial passing happens when a person is perceived as a member of a different racial group. Nikki protested, tweeting: “Nikki is an Indian name and is on my birth certificate – and I’m proud of that. What’s sad is the left’s hypocrisy towards conservative minorities.”

Nikki has made contradictory statements about racial prejudice in the United States

In 2015, Nikki called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Capitol in response to the mass shooting of African American congregants by a white supremacist. 

Nikki recalled how her family had faced racial profiling: Two officers showed up at a produce stand and stood over Raj until he paid. She said:

“That produce stand is still there, and every time I drive by it, I still feel that pain. I realized that that Confederate flag was the same pain that so many people were feeling.”

Nikki received praise for the politically risky but morally sound gesture. The flag had been a divisive issue in South Carolina, with some seeing it as a representation of ancestral struggles and others perceiving it as a reminder of the state’s cruel past. 

“The events of this week call upon us to look at this in a different way,” Nikki, the state’s first female governor, said. “While [the flag is] an integral part of our past, [it] does not represent the future of our great state.”

In 2019, Nikki asserted that the Confederate flag wasn’t inherently racist, drawing intense backlash. She responded with an opinion piece in The Washington Post, reminding readers that her Indian family experienced racism and doubling down on her assertion that supporters of the Confederate flag weren’t racist. Nikki wrote:

“Today’s outrage culture would instead have made the case that everyone who respects the Confederate flag is an evil racist. Not only is that untrue; but more to the point, if I had tried to make that argument, the flag would never have come down.”

During the 2020 Republican National Convention, Nikki denied that systemic racism is a problem in America. “That is a lie,” Nikki said. “America is not a racist country. We [her family] faced discrimination and hardship. But my parents never gave in to grievance and hate.”