Saturday, September 21, 2013

Nina Davuluri, Miss America

I didn't want to post anything about this. I like to laugh at racists and other idiots, but... sometimes, it's just too depressing.

You've heard about it, I'm sure - how our first Indian-American Miss America has been the subject of, not just racist comments, but the most unbelievably stupid comments you can imagine. (If that doesn't depress you enough, here's more.)

Nina is a 24-year-old American. She was born in New York (which might upset some of these loons in itself), but her family moved to Oklahoma when she was four. She went to college in Michigan.

What part of that makes her a 'terrorist'? Oh, yeah, her brown skin, huh?

What part of that makes her a foreigner, an 'Arab,' a 'Muslim'? Oh, yeah, her brown skin.

Heck, why would it matter if she were an Arab or a Muslim? (I'm not sure if the fact that her parents are Hindus makes this any stupider or not. It's about as stupid as you can get already, don't you think?)

And these are my fellow Americans making these comments - Americans who don't know the difference between Hindus and Muslims, Americans who don't know the difference between India and Egypt, Americans who think that a bikini-clad American woman must be a member of Al-Qaeda,... apparently because she has a brown skin.

But that's not the message I want to leave you with. There's another way to think of this.

Sure, there are racist idiots in America. There will always be racist idiots, and not just in America, either. With 350 million people in the United States - and 7 billion people worldwide - some will always be batshit crazy and too dumb to pour water out of a boot. That's just reality.

But look at it another way. This is Miss America. Like it or not (and I'm not a fan of beauty pageants), this is a symbol of our country. Furthermore, it's probably not something which appeals to a particularly sophisticated segment of our citizenry. If it's not as redneck as NASCAR or professional wrestling, it's close.

Yet it's this venue which has chosen a non-white American of Indian ancestry to represent America. Furthermore, although Nina is the first Indian-American to win the pageant, she's not the first non-white Miss America - far from it. Seven black women have won the pageant in recent decades, and one Asian - Filipino-American Angela Perez Baraquio

Think about that. For its first 35 years, Miss America pageant rules required that all contestants be white. The first African-American didn't compete at the national level until 1970 (Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa). But when Vanessa Williams won the crown in 1984 as the first black Miss America, runner-up Suzette Charles (who would take over when Williams resigned) was also black.

The racist - and unbelievably stupid - backlash against Nina Davuluri is disgusting and depressing, but let's take it in context. We're still a country where a non-white Indian-American can be a symbol of America - in a very redneck, low-class kind of way - and be accepted by the vast majority of beauty pageant fans.

I'm not a fan of beauty pageants myself, and I'd never consider this to be progress for women. But racial progress? You bet! Despite the loud-mouthed morons, the vast majority of Miss America enthusiasts do welcome her as a beautiful symbol of our country. That's progress. (And let's not forget it, lest we become discouraged and resigned to the status quo.)

Just as the election of our first black president shows how much progress we've made, despite bringing a whole lot of hysterical racists out of the closet, this, too, demonstrates our progress, despite the lunatic reactions from some incredibly moronic individuals.

And we've made this progress among beauty pageant enthusiasts, who really can't be among the most sophisticated people in our society, don't you think? At least, going by the comments at those "Public Shaming" tumblr pages, these are not very sophisticated people!

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