South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to the United Nations, was relatively unknown on the national stage until a mass shooting in her state vaulted her to prominence. The June 2015 massacre at a historic black church in Charleston laid bare some of the racial tensions that persist in South Carolina, which in 1860 became the first state to secede from the United States ahead of the Civil War. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, spoke out forcefully against the shooting by a young white man and led efforts for the divisive Confederate flag to be pulled from the South Carolina state capitol. The removal of the flag was seen by some as a watershed moment for race relations in the state. Raised as a Sikh, Haley is also the first minority figure in Trump’s list of otherwise white-only top administration officials. Haley now identifies as Christian. Born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in 1972 in Bamberg, South Carolina, Haley served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005-2011. She is currently the youngest governor in America and the second of Indian descent, after Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. Haley’s prestigious posting at the United Nations is sure to draw ire from opponents, given that she has virtually zero foreign policy experience. But she received congratulations from the UN ambassadors of close US allies Britain and Israel.
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