Nina Davuluri: Ignore the Haters, Miss America

The phrase "give me a break" comes to mind regarding the backlash against recently crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri. Davuluri, the first Indian-American Miss New York and now the first Indian-American Miss America, has been "accused" of being a number of things: Arab, Muslim, a terrorist and, perhaps worst of all, a misrepresentation of "American values."

Once crowned, within which spectrum (political or otherwise) is Miss America expected to represent for the country as a whole? Beyond beauty pageants and fielding questions about topics that ranged from Miley Cyrus to Syria, what national, much less global, relevance does Miss America really have? In other words, why do people care?

It was Fox News and Commentary host Todd Starnes that questioned Davuluri's "American values." According to Starnes, Davuluri was not "American" enough for him.

Kansas-contestant Theresa Vail better represented "American values," Starnes said. Vail served in the Kansas Army National Guard for five years, during which she received a number of prestigious and high honors. Pictures of Vail cocking back and aiming a bow-and-arrow are embedded in her website. Her banner reads, "Anything Boys Can Do, Girls Can Do Better." It is no doubt Vail deserved her place in the final round of the competition.

Yet that was not enough for Starnes. According to the Fox host's Facebook page, the entirety of those who actually qualify as "Americans" were rooting for Vail and if it were not for the "liberal judges," she would have been Miss America.

It seems this is to say, in Starnes' mind, those liberal judges and anyone who rooted for Davuluri, much like Davuluri herself, are not red-blooded Americans. But at which point did the Miss America pageant begin incorporating Starnes' definition of "American-ness" as a qualifier? If it were up to Starnes, qualifying as a so-called real American would be a competition in and of itself.

Is the onslaught of racism and backlash against the 24-year-old University of Michigan graduate with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science an indication of rampant anti-Indian sentiment in the United States? Not quite. It simply is a verification of a fact we all know and hate: ignorance will always exist. In the context of a pageant with a relevance that is limited to the night it is broadcasted and is further limited by the audience it reaches, our anti-racism and pro-diversity energies and efforts are perhaps best saved for a more educated conversation. After all, this kind of irrationality can't be combated with logic.

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Johana Bhuiyan

Johana Bhuiyan is the digital media reporter at Capital New York and former editorial assistant at World Policy Journal. She graduated from Lehigh University in the Spring of 2013 with a B.A. in journalism. With minors in religion and global studies, she is particularly interested in exploring the influence of culture and geography on the molding of religion. She hopes to one day produce a documentary series on this very topic as it relates to Islam. Her other interests include running, pilates, and a deep-seated passion for writing and reporting. As a former news editor of Lehigh University’s student-run newspaper, The Brown and White, she is pursuing a career in editing and reporting. Follow her journey at: www.itspronouncedbooyah.weebly.com

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