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Thursday, January 17, 2019

By Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency

Nikki Haley’s 44th birthday is this week. You would think her a little old for fairytales.

But a bizarre, little-reported remark the South Carolina governor made last week suggests that, age notwithstanding, Haley lives in Fantasyland, at least insofar as American history is concerned. The comment in question came the day after her Tuesday night speech in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which she cuffed Donald Trump for his strident anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant bigotry.

Haley told reporters, “When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.”

Some observers found that an astonishing thing for her to say as chief executive of the first state to secede from the Union in defense of slavery, a state that embraced segregation until forced to change by the federal government. Others observed that any fair reading of Haley’s quote makes it pretty clear she was speaking only in the context of legal immigration.

They’re right. The problem is, even if you concede that point, Haley is still grotesquely wrong. She thinks no immigration laws have been passed “based on race or religion”? What about:

The Naturalization Act of 1790, which extended citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person…”?

Or the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, whose title and intent are self-explanatory?

Or the Immigration Act of 1917, which banned immigrants from East Asia and the Pacific?

Or Ozawa v. U.S., the 1922 Supreme Court decision which declared that Japanese immigrants could not be naturalized?

Or U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the 1923 high court ruling which said people from India — like Haley’s parents — could not become naturalized citizens?

So yes, however you slice it, Haley is wrong and Haley is ignorant. But one wonders if Haley is to blame.

Americans, the historian Ray Arsenault once said, live by “mythic conceptions of what they think happened” in the past. And as school systems, under pressure from conservative school boards, retreat from teaching that which embarrasses the nation’s self-image, as ethnic studies classes are outlawed, as textbooks are scrubbed of painfully inconvenient truths, as standards requiring the teaching of only “positive aspects” of American history are imposed, we find those mythic conceptions encroaching reality to a troubling degree.

Suddenly, slaves become immigrants and settlers. The Civil War has nothing to do with slavery. Martin Luther King becomes a tea party member. And America has never passed laws “based on race and religion.”

Yes, Haley’s ignorance might be willful. There’s surely a lot of that going around. But it might also be that she’s simply part of that generation which has been taught fairytales under the guise of history. Such teaching will leave you comfortably indoctrinated in a kind of civic mythology — and wholly unprepared to interpret or contextualize what’s happening before your eyes.

To wit: What makes Donald Trump’s proposed restrictions on Muslims troubling is not that they represent the coming of something new, but the return of something old, a shameful strain in the American psyche that we have seen too many times before. It is not a deviation from America, but the very stuff of America, an ugly scapegoating that has too often besmirched our character and beguiled us away from our most luminous ideals.

This is something all of us should know, but do not. As a state official, perhaps a candidate for vice president, perhaps eventually a president of the United States, Nikki Haley might someday change history. It would be good if she understood it first.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at

Photo: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley speaks at the National Press Club  in Washington September 2, 2015.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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12 responses to “Nikki Haley living in Fantasyland”

  1. charleo1 says:

    It’s no secret the Conservative Right has been engaged in attempting to rewrite history for some time now. And given their sorry record, wrought from their horribly destructive policies over the years, why wouldn’t they want to rewrite the entire story? Did you know there’s a board of anti science, trickle down, conspiracy spewing, plain out Winger Nut Jobs, who control the mostly garbage in-garbage out rewrite that’s taking place in more than half the textbooks used in our public schools today? Books that whitewash American slavery, teach evolution as a debunked theory, and abandoned science in favor of Biblical dogma. Nonconforming evens such as the U.S. Government’s intentional, and systematic genocide that was carried out against the indigenous people of the North American Continent for over 100 years, is largely omitted. As for being what the TX. Board deems too unpatriotic, and critical of what was clearly God’s plan for America of a Manifest Destiny. Is it any wonder we have Governors making such broad, and exculpatory statements on the country’s history of xenophobia, scapegoating, discrimination, and exclusion against other cultures, races, and religions. What Trump is proposing is shocking, but in reality, nothing new for America. Only something many had fervently hoped we had moved beyond. Unfortunately, those who forget history, or more to the point, were never taught true history in the first place, can’t help but out of ignorance repeat it.

    • @HawaiianTater says:

      It’s not even ancient history they try to rewrite. They even act like the USA was in better shape before Obama took office. They not only want to continue Dubya’s policies that wrecked the economy and destabilized the ME, they want to double down on those policies. Let’s just hope enough voters remember how bad things were 7 years ago because if another one gets in charge now, it’ll be even worse.

      • Daniel Jones says:

        I do, too, but these people have weaponized future shock to where they ignore the past and deny the present yo make believe the future won’t be a dystopian nightmare then turn right around and blame the poor bastards stuck with the check, just like they did and still do to this *day* with President Obama!

      • FireBaron says:

        History always repeats itself. Look at England in 1189. After the death of Richard I, John attempted to assert the same authority their father did. Unfortunately for him, the Barons grew accustomed to having a King who was never there (Richard is believed to have spent less than 6 months in England. Most of his time was someplace else – on a failed Crusade, prisoner in an Austrian castle, at war in France for his French possessions). During the power vacuum, the Barons were able to do as they wished. These struggles did not end until John’s son inherited the Crown.

        Fast forward to the 1760s. After two consecutive Kings who did not speak English, George III comes to the Throne having been taught from birth to “be the King”. The resultant chaos caused by his struggles with Parliament is what led to the American Revolution.
        In both cases, the Conservative core refused to recognize a new order coming in, and their own power waning.

        • @HawaiianTater says:

          The history I’m worried about repeating is the Great Depression. Republicans seem determined to take us there.

      • charleo1 says:

        What you say is indisputably true. And I fervently believe that the vast majority of Americans not only remember Bush, and his policies. But they want no part in bringing another trickle down corporate hugging Republican shill of a Chief Executive back into the WH anytime in the foreseeable future. It’s why Burnie Sanders is drawing thousands, talking about a rigged economy. The fact is, the GOP brand became exposed for what it is under Bush. And as a result, it may never recover. The near economic collapse of the World economy, where so many working people were absolutely clobbered and lost everything, due directly to the GOP’s religious like aversion to any diligent regulations on the fat cats running the financial sector, that just happen to be financing their campaigns. is not forgotten. And was just the cherry on top of what was one hell of an epic fail of a presidency. The likes of which this nation has never seen. And the American public is not likely to take the risk of a repeat by electing another Right Wing buffoon extraordinaire such as Trump, or Cruz.
        I can believe Americans see President Obama as the President that saved the American economy. And I also believe Americans see it as good policy to dance with the one who brought you. Or at least they always have. It’s why the GOP tried so hard to keep Obama, and the Dems. from rescuing the economy, responsibly ending the wars, and gaining an agreement that avoided a war with Iran. Because that’s what the voters wanted, and if Obama and the Democratic Party delivered, they would of course get the credit. And I can’t see how Americans could have missed all that. Or them going out, and rewarding that kind of politics this fall.

        • @HawaiianTater says:

          Let’s hope the American electorate is as smart as you give them credit for. My confidence in keeping the WH comes from knowledge of demographics and how the electoral college works but overall, people are freakin’ DUMB. I don’t have very much faith in the intelligence of the public at large.

  2. @HawaiianTater says:

    A republican is living in fantasy land? What are you going to tell me next, that water is wet?

    • FireBaron says:

      Wait! Water is wet? How come people don’t tell us these things! Now we’re going to need an investigative committee to see whether Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama or Bill Clinton is to blame for this travesty! I’m sure we can get at least 20M in funding for this, and run until the day after Election day. We’ll teach them “science believers” not to muck with the Republican Congress!!

      • charleo1 says:

        Let me tell you something my friend. The, “theory,” that water of all things, is wet, is nothing but a propaganda lie right out of Saul Alinsky’s Communist Manifesto! And I can prove it! Read the e-mails my friend! Read the e-mails! They expose the whole Liberal plot. See, if water is declared wet by the Federal Government, then it can be regulated. And whenever that happens, it doesn’t take long before the Constitution is suspended, and the black helicopters start appearing in your neighborhood. Then down come the government shock troops to you door for your guns, on the ruse of checking if or not, you posses some of this, “wet,” water the government is now so suddenly so concerned about. See how all this works? By the way, have you renovated your bunker this year? Well, why not?

  3. Insinnergy says:

    Just look at the relentless Zombie Lie that is “Trickle Down Economics”. Disproven over and over again, shunned by academics… Brownback has implemented it and is in the process of completely destroying his whole state…. and yet “reducing taxes on the corporations and wealthy” is STILL meant to save us all according to all the Republican presidential candidates and Paul “I have no compassion” Ryan.

    Fantasyland is exactly where they live.

    Facts or truth have no place in today’s GOP.

    • FireBaron says:

      Go back to the Republican debates in 1979 and you will hear George H. W. Bush repeatedly refer to “Trickle Down” or, as it’s properly called “Supply Side” Economics as “VooDoo Economics”. Yes, he coined that term, not a Democrat!

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