Last weekend Nina Davuluri, an Indian American woman and also Miss New York, was selected as the next Miss America. No matter that she was born in the United States, and that her parents immigrated legally to this country more than 30 years ago. No matter that she is pre-med, and plans to use all of her $50,000 in prize money towards medical school. No matter that this family’s story is, in essence, the very definition of the American Dream to many generations of our own ancestors. No, no. That’s not what’s important here. As soon as the young woman was crowned, a massive wave of racist and derogatory tweets began.
What made these racist tweets particularly disheartening is that most of the tweeters mistook her for being of Arab descent. You know, there are some differences between Arab and Indian populations, but apparently all these individuals saw was her brown, obviously-not-Caucasian, skin. And, of course, to make our nation appear even more foolish, many of the racist tweeters went on to label her a terrorist. We know that all individuals of Arab decent are terrorists, right?
Enter the collective sigh of everyone who has ever been embarrassed by that one relative who had a little too much to drink during the holidays and then started spewing thinly veiled racial epithets.
Instead of going the route many other media organizations have gone while reporting on this, I will not be including any of the racist tweets. First, several of them have been taken down, and I don’t make a habit of going around on Twitter taking screenshots of racist tweets. Second, I don’t want to drive traffic to any of the individuals who may have participated in this behavior. What I will say instead is how proud I am to see this young woman taking it all in stride. I won’t admit to being a big fan of beauty pageants, but this young woman has shown grace and strength in the face of vitriol, and I applaud anyone who can do that. In fact, when asked to respond to the news of the tweets, she gave a simple, effective statement:
“I have to rise above that. I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”
Well said, Ms. Davuluri. And as you have already demonstrated, less is more, when it comes to these types of things. I wish you the best in med school, and throughout life.