I’ve never paid attention to the Miss America pageant. It’s typically nothing more than a swimsuit competition between 53 Barbie dolls. Most Americans don’t seem to pay attention either, unless a contestant says something offensive, embarrassing or just plain stupid – or, in this year’s case, until a woman of Indian descent wins the title.
As an Indian-American, I am thrilled that 24-year-old Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America 2013. She is the first person of Indian descent to win the pageant, and now the face of Miss America has become much more relatable to many girls like me.
For that reason, it astounds me that there’s been such an adverse reaction surrounding Davuluri. After her win, tweets like “Miss America or Miss Al-Qaeda?” or “How can an Arab win Miss America?” and “Have we learned nothing from 9/11?” flooded the Internet.
For the sake of getting our facts straight, it should be known that Davuluri is of Indian descent (not Arab), was born and raised in America (making her American), and practices Hinduism (not Islam).
Even if Davuluri were a Muslim, that would not automatically make her a member of Al Qaeda. Many Americans still feel the sting of Sept. 11, but there is absolutely no excuse for accusing a person of terrorism based on the color of her skin or her assumed religious beliefs.
Thus, a simple mixup of the facts is not the root of the issue. It’s the ignorance of equating skin color to religion and terrorist acts that is.
Social media serves to connect our world in ways that were previously unimaginable, but in doing so, it has also unsheathed racism and ignorance that was previously kept quiet. Americans have always had a voice, but now they also have an outlet to express themselves on a wider public scale.
This woman was selected to represent America. And the entire Miss America uproar comes down to the idea of what it really means to be an American. It is ironic that those tweeters who consider themselves the most American have the least knowledge of the true American values on which this country was established.
Support of ideals like “freedom of religion,” “pursuit of happiness” and “all men are created equal” are all what make an American, American. But it seems hardest in times like these to find pride in calling myself one.
Nayna Shah is a freshman majoring in music composition.