Chelsea Gardner | Staff Writer
On Sunday, Sept.15, 2013 the nation witnessed a historical moment when the first Indian-American was crowned Miss America. But within a matter of minutes, social networking was bombarded with hate-filled remarks specifically targeting NinaDavuluri’s race and ethnicity.
According to the New York Daily News, Davuluri expected the hate-filled backlash to ensue because she experienced a similar response to her pageant winning in New York.
As a proponent of cultural competence, multiculturalism and diversity, I find it crippling that some Americans still succumb to racial ignorance. Even though the outlet of ignorance has moved from face to face and is now via the computer screen, it still hurts.
I have to ask myself over and over again, will it ever end? Will I ever see the day when an ethnic contestant who is not of Caucasian descent becomes the winner without experiencing the brunt of bigotry? Likewise, will minorities have to constantly prepare themselves for racially charged reactions upon winning?
This incident vividly reminds me of racial ignorance posted in the Free Expression Tunnel about President Obama’s win in the 2008 election. As an African American student, was I supposed to prepare myself for what was in the Free Expression Tunnel, or for my peers’ reactions on social networking? Will life always be like this for me? And more importantly if so, why?
If, according to a few American Twitter users, Sept.15, 2013 was not the day, then when will it be an appropriate time for an Indian-American to be crowned Miss America? Some days the answers to these questions seem clear. But other days, when Twitter is filled with degrading remarks on race, I find myself unable to come up with the answers.
George Mathis, a writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, compiled a list of tweets regarding Davuluri’s win that ranged from comments regarding her citizenship to 9/11: “Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11,” tweeted @JPLman95. “9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets Miss America?” tweeted @LukeBrasili. “The liberal Miss America judges won’t say this – but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values,” said @toddstarnes.
People who did not even consider her accomplishments, future plans, or the limitless other reasons why she merited this crowning were diminishing her for her race.
According to New York Daily News, when Vanessa Williams was crowned the first African American Miss America in 1983, she faced an experience similar to Davuluri’s. Thirty years ago, that news would not have surprised me but today, it disgusts me. It would seem as though this progressive moment in history would be celebrated. Instead the real significance of Davuluri’s title is being suffocated by the news of the backlash she has faced.
People keep saying it gets better with time, but if we refuse to call people out for deliberately succumbing to racial ignorance, how will things get better? Whether critics of Davuluri like it or not, white Americans are increasingly becoming the minority-majority. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of white Americans has begun declining; in about three decades, white Americans will become a minority nationwide.
I suggest naysayers get with the program. Davuluri is just another one of many non-white Americans to represent the United States, and she will not be the last.