I watched the Miss America pageant for about two minutes last Sunday night; I've never been big on "reality TV." But I did tune into the outcome after reading racist comments on social media outlets about the winner Nina Davuluri.
"The tiara had barely been placed on her head and the customary tears of joy had just emerged when racist taunts erupted on social media, marring the moment of triumph for the first ever Miss America of Indian origin," reported The Times of India.
Davuluri is an aspiring doctor who plans to use the $50,000 prize money to fund her studies. But the bigoted twits of Twitter and Facebook believe that the 24-year-old is "non-American" because of her origin.
The pageant pitted 53 contestants - one from each state, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands - in swimming wear, evening gown, talent and interview competitions. In the run-up to the pageant, much attention was given to Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, an army sergeant. A meme has been going around the Internet proclaiming that Vail should have been the "true" Miss America because she likes hunting and has tattoos, signs that she is representative of America.
Only 12.5 million people (the U.S. population is over 300 million) aged 16 and older hunt according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When it comes to adults with tattoos, Pew Research found that only 36 percent of adults aged 18-25 have a tattoo, and that the number increases to about 40 percent in adults aged 26-40. In short, there are still more people without tattoos than those who have them.
There's also an implicit message that Vail should be Miss America because she is white. America, however, is not a skin color. Right now, 49.9 percent of all American children under the age of 5 are not white, the Census Bureau reported in June.
And people's racist remarks reveal many Americans' troglodyte-like understanding of geography and religion. Davuluri was born in Syracuse, New York to parents of Indian ancestry. This means she is Indian-American. She is not an Arab, as some have claimed. The actual distance between Saudi Arabia and India is over 3,000 miles, about the distance from Georgia (the state) to Bolivia.
Davuluri played down the harsh comments, saying that she will rise above that. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American," the Hindustan Times quoted her. Davuluri burst into tears after getting crowned, and said, "I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity. I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America."
There are many reasons I wouldn't want my daughter relating to Miss America (the pressure to be thin, sexy, and caked with makeup are just a few). But I agree that diversity is a significant aspect to this issue. Racist Americans need to get a clue.
Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to
or view her Web site at www.SarahTSchwab.com