Now that Nikki Haley has launched her campaign for president, critics have begun revisiting a personal choice she made long ago: She goes by her middle name, Nikki, instead of her first name, Nimarata. "To these gatekeepers of cultural authenticity, Haley must either be Nimarata or a self-hating Indian who’s trying too hard to be white," writes Shay Khatiri at the Daily Beast. Khatiri ticks off numerous examples of pundits accusing Haley of "whitewashing" her identity, suggesting she is shying from her Indian roots. He also notes (again citing examples) that these same critics often misspell the name as "Nimrata." At this, he heaves a sigh: "Has it occurred to the critics that they might be the problem, and that Haley goes by Nikki because she’s tired of people misspelling (or mispronouncing) her name?"
Khatiri can relate to Haley's decision on what to call herself. He goes by "Shay" to his Anglophone friends (and readers) but as "Khashayar," his actual first name, to his blood relatives. "Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I’m not running away from being Persian." Khatiri is proud of his heritage, just as Haley is proud of her Indian parents and their journey—for proof, listen to how much she talks about it. But he is tired of Westerners screwing up his real name, and "Shay" is easier for them. "It’d be nice if the supposedly immigrant-loving left stopped telling us that we should stop assimilating," he writes. Haley is "an immigrant success story, and an American success story," he concludes. "Stop attacking her for being Nikki. You’re only embarrassing yourselves." Read the full essay. (Read more Nikki Haley stories.)