When American isn’t American enough: The recent crowning of an Indian American “Miss America” has sparked debate about what constitutes a true American
By Ileane Polis
Look outside. How many people do you see? One? Ten? More than fifty? Out of those, how many would you classify as “diverse”?
Do you find that diversity interesting, or do you wish all the people you currently see looked more alike?
Some may view these as stupid questions, yet many Americans formed them into conclusions of their own after viewing the 2014 Miss America pageant.
For the first time in the competition’s history, a woman of Indian descent was named the winner. Many rejoiced at the crowning of 24-year-old Nina Davuluri, yet many others felt disdain.
After the competition, Twitter was flooded with racist comments about Davuluri, most claiming she was not “American” enough to be a serious contender.
America? You mean the country that has no national language, consists of citizens from every other country in the world and boasts an African-American president deserves a more “American” Miss America?
The United States is valued worldwide for its cultural acceptance which makes it unclear why fellow Americans feel the need to not accept someone of a different culture on a national stage.
Many Tweets that have been posted in regards to this issue are extremely vulgar and derogatory, however, they are very public and visible.
Some actually name Duvuluri as unfit to reign as Miss America because she may be connected to terrorist groups.
Little do many of these people know, Al Qaeda is not an Indian organization.
Also, Duvuluri has not claimed to be related to or know of anyone in such terrorist organizations.
Is America really that dense? Or do ignorant Twitter users want an excuse to show their racism to the world?
Other than those who did not have anything positive to say about Duvuluri’s crowning, social media has been barraged with comments from people happy about the change in the choice for Miss America.
Not only did the pageant broadcast a woman with tattoos, but both the winner and first runner up are Asian-American.
ABC news commented that Duvuluri would be considered too dark-skinned to even be a contestant for Miss India, yet she was hailed as a beauty in America.
The Huffington Post compared the original rules for the pageant, which required women to be “of the white race.” This not only shows how far the pageant has come in recent years, but it also shows how far our country has come in terms of acceptance.
So why should we care? Why should USD take the lessons learned from this pageant and its reactions to heart?
First of all, it is obvious that USD lacks the level of diversity that appears on other college campuses.
Only 32 percent of the undergraduate population are considered minorities.
Secondly, we pride ourselves on being incredibly welcoming and tolerant of all ethnic, religious and social groups.
There are a multitude of clubs designed to permit a more inclusive and diverse atmosphere on campus.
But doesn’t this just prove that we’re not racist? So if we’re not racist, why should we be worried about what people on social media say?
Fortunately, the responses from many USD students were positive.
“I think this event was momentous for not only the history of Miss America but also the history of this country,” senior Siena Pugnale said. “It is part of a bigger picture and that is the fact that we are moving from having the people of our country identified by a particular stereotype to truly becoming the melting pot that most Americans aspire to be.”
As ambitious as the United States is to create a more inclusive country, chances are that sometime in our lives, we will experience a form of prejudice, whether it be toward someone else or ourselves.
“Although I would like to believe that the US has completely eliminated racism and cultrual prejudices, I still think they exist,” junior Jenna Palazzo said. “They may not be to the extent they used to be but there are certainly areas of the country that are still very against other ethnicities.”
In order to stop these prejudices from thriving, we have to look at ourselves first.
Could it be possible that we harbor just a small amount of judgement for others?
Have we ever refused to accept someone else because they looked or dressed differently, or because they weren’t part of the clubs and organizations we are a part of?
Did we ever refuse to really get to know someone because they were a transfer, commuter or resident of a different dorm and we thought they probably wouldn’t like to get to know us?
Yes, even these small hesitations at accepting people can make others feel as though they don’t belong.
You don’t have to be a blatant racist to be prejudiced; you don’t have to post comments or pictures online to promote hate.
In fact, even a simple word said in relative privacy has the potential to spread hatred.
We have to be aware of these things, just like we have to know that some people are unaware of their actions and words.
It’s up to us to spread love and acceptance. It’s up to us to act like true Americans and ensure that all people are not only created equally, but also treated equally.