Racial stigmas still surround Miss America pageant

“And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic,” tweeted one of the many racist commentators as 24-year-old Nina Davuluri, former Miss New York, was crowned Miss America.

“this is America. not India.”

“Miss America right now or miss Al Qaeda?”

Many such Twitter posts followed, flooding not only Twitter feeds but also Facebook and other social networking sites.

My reaction: dumbfounded.

After 14 years of living in this country, I have experienced secondhand racism.

I was under the impression that America was past its racist history. I never would have expected outright comments against Miss America because of her race or skin color, especially in this day and age.

America was founded on the basis of providing equality for all, thus adapting to its name: “The Melting Pot.” My parents came to this country with that belief. By giving this title to a South Asian, America has holistically accepted its diversity.

But those comments show the outright denial of acceptance of Indian-Americans by many even now. 

I never expected this.

While growing up in Pittsburgh, Pa., I was one of two girls with black hair and brown skin. Never was I ashamed of the color of my skin or the food that I ate. During lunchtime, my American friends would ask me about that “weird food” I was eating. I would simply smirk and say, “It’s my culture.” After that, no questions would be asked and we would go back to eating. 

Racism was a concept that didn’t exist in my mind — the most racist thing that happened to me was an elderly lady pronouncing my name as “Cinnamon,” because she couldn’t say “Simran.” 

So, for me, it was shocking to see my peers and grown adults tweeting such nasty comments. They believed their arguments held validity. When, in actuality, they were angry. To them, beauty had always been advertised as a “white” American — probably with blonde hair and blue eyes.

They reacted with retaliations of why she could not win.

“An Arab won Miss America.”

Davuluri, firstly, is Indian, not Arab, Muslim or any of the other races she was accused to be. Thus, those who blame her for her being Arab or Egyptian are factually incorrect.

Reading this comment over and over again, despite being published by many different people, angered me every time. In my opinion, even if she was Arab or Muslim, she still has absolutely no connection to al-Qaeda or any such terrorist acts.

It’s inaccurate to blame one person or even a whole country for a small group of people — both with completely different intentions. 

“She isn’t even American.”

Blinded by anger, these tweeters failed to realize the fact that Nina is, in fact, American, as she was born in this country. And if that doesn’t mean she is American, then neither are they. 

Americans originated from all over the world. Thus, the logic that she “isn’t even American,” is invalid. Last time I checked, skin color did not equate to race either. A true American is one who fulfills their duties — from paying taxes, to pursuing education, to finally giving back to this country — and Davuluri’s goal is to become a doctor, to help treat the citizens of this country.

Just by wearing red, white and blue, one does not become American. 

“Miss America is brought to [you] by their sponsors PF Changs and 7-11.”

No comment. 

To me, this entire incident was extremely shocking. To see that people believe in beauty based on skin color — it appalled me. I felt incredibly sorry and appreciative toward Davuluri. She handled the negative backlash in such a beautiful manner without putting down any of those people.

If it were me, I would completely lose it. 

The stigma attached to the title of “Miss America” has changed, but people’s conservative mindset has allowed them to believe otherwise. It’s a psychological fact that it takes time for people to adapt to change, especially if it means going against what they’ve believed their whole lives.

Those people who reacted in negative manners were simply not used to the fact that a colored woman can represent their country. As shocking as racism was to me, this was to them. But in all honesty, they’ll get used to it, because they have no choice — the world is changing and it’s time their mindsets did too.

And to my fellow Americans who reacted positively, I salute you. 

Simran is a freshman in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]