New Miss America Target of Racist Backlash
The Miss America pageant may seem beneath comment to many of us, but tell that to those on social media who spewed bigotry when Indian-American Nina Davuluri won the competition on Sunday.
Beauty contests are not often on my radar. I agree with activist Sonny Singh when he asks on Twitter: “Is it really that exciting that such an inherently sexist, archaic institution has now embraced a Indian-American woman?”
The invective tossed at Davuluri on the same social platform is hard to ignore, however.
“If you're #Miss America you should have to be American,” one tweet said, The Guardian reports, while another asked, “WHEN WILL A WHITE WOMAN WIN #MISSAMERICA? Ever??!!”
It gets worse, much worse. And here, it makes it impossible for me to brush aside the whole episode, since my origins are in India and I’ve written extensively about Islamophobia.
“9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?” asked a certain Luke Brasili.
“Nice slap in the face to the people of 9-11 how pathetic #missamerica,” tweeted a woman named Wendy Fraser.
The world’s most infamous terrorist organization was invoked by others.
“Miss America right now or miss Al Qaeda?” asked Shannon McCann on Twitter.
“Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you,” tweeted De La Rutherford.
The racists can’t even get their racism right. Davuluri is a Hindu with roots in India and quite an impressive education and family background.
“Nina's father Davuluri Koteshwara Choudhary, who migrated to the U.S. in 1981, is a gynecologist in Fayetteville, New York; Nina herself has a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science from the University of Michigan, and aspires to be a cardiologist, a goal for which she pledged the $50,000 prize money she won with her crown,” reports the Times of India.
Of course, the bigots would hate Davuluri even if they knew this. And they must have been repulsed by the “unAmericanness” of her talent performance, in which she utilized her training in two Indian classical dance forms. (I almost wish my family and I had seen the show, since my daughters are learning Bharat Natyam, one of these dance styles.)
The distinctiveness of Davuluri’s background was highlighted by the fact that she was asked her feelings about the plastic surgery that some Asian-American celebrities undergo to look more “white.” (Davuluri responded that she disapproved of the practice.)
Some bigots who hurled racism at Davuluri at least had their geography more accurate.
“Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11,” tweeted someone with the Twitter handle of Cheez-It. (For the uninitiated, this racist joke comes from the notion that Indian Americans own pretty much all the convenience stores.)
And the Obama haters had to bring the President and his “foreignness” in.
“Man our president nor our new Miss America isn't even American I'm sorry but Miss Kansas I salute you your the real American #MissAmerica,” tweeted Kaleb Trahan about Theresa Vail, the favorite contestant of some because she’s a soldier and, er, white.
But the notion of a “real American” is constantly changing.
As Davuluri herself said on stage, “I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door. And Miss America is always evolving.”
We should be grateful for that.
Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of “ ‘Islam’ Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today” (Praeger).
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