Miss America 2013: What it Means to be American

“Miss America? More like Miss 7-11!”

“Miss America right now, or Miss Al Qaeda?”

The above quotes were taken
directly from Twitter users reacting to the outcome of the 2014 Miss America pageant.

 

Pranav Mandavia is a junior communication major.
Pranav Mandavia is a junior communication major.

Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, was crowned Miss America 2014 on September 15. Throughout her various performances, Miss New York graced the stage with poise, integrity, beauty, and respect for the two cultures with which she was raised. Davuluri took one of the biggest pageant platforms by storm during her talent exhibition, as she payed homage to her heritage through a traditional Bollywood-style dance.

As with every recent pop culture event, an uproar of debate followed. However, something more sinister occurred. There was backlash over Davuluri’s status as an American citizen. Some viewers accused her of having ties to Al-Qaeda and the September 11th terrorist attacks. Davuluri was stereotyped, profiled, and judged due to the color of her skin and ethnicity. This controversy has legitimized the long-standing ideal that one must be Caucasian in order to represent the United States and be deemed a true American.

The commentators of Davuluri’s “un-American” qualities need to brush up on their history, as they clearly have forgotten that our country was founded by immigrants. If these antagonistic people want to impose such harsh standards, they need to examine their own background first.

Ultimately, it does not surprise me that there was some form of negative opinion. There will always be those individuals, even groups, that hide behind Twitter or other social media outlets, and twist the meaning of any significant event. However, the prevalence and outright absurdity of these racist comments is disturbing. Ethnicities were lumped and outrageous accusations were made.

As an Indian-American myself, it completely bewilders me that this issue is still present in this day and age, when racism is supposedly a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of negativity in response to the pageant has illuminated the obvious racial tensions that continue to plague the United States today.

Why was Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan, embraced as the winner when she was a self-identified Irish-American? She had the same qualifications as Nina Davuluri. The only difference: Mallory is white, and Nina is brown. Our society can accept an Irish-American as Miss America, but when it comes to an Indian-American winner, the reaction is so explosive that people can not stop talking about the dark-skinned girl who is evidently not “American” enough to represent this nation.

Are there people so seemingly afraid of other cultures that any person with a different complexion is considered alien, foreign, and an immediate threat to freedom? It is almost as if they fear Davuluri was sent to the United States to enroll in a beauty pageant and overthrow our democracy. It is disparaging to witness such blind hatred. The fact that this ideology continues to be perpetuated and mainstreamed through social media leaves much to be accomplished. We all need to accept our country as a cultural melting pot, and strive to educate those poor souls trapped in their little boxes of ignorance.

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