Racial Ugliness After the Miss America Beauty Pageant

4 years ago

Just when I had hoped the Miss America pageant would continue its slip into cultural irrelevance, Nina Davuluri was crowned as the new Miss America. Before the tiara was even firmly pinned to her hair, Miss America was setting social media abuzz with conversations about race. 

Tweets and Facebook posts trended. Marring the enthusiastic posts celebrating the crowning of the first Indian-American Miss America (and the second consecutive Miss New York to win the pageant) were racist slams and ill-informed comments about Davuluri's heritage.  

Davuluri pageant focus was "Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency." Her talent entry was a dance combining classic Indian dance with Bollywood choreography. She plans to become a physician like her father, who immigrated to the US from India 30 years ago. 


Image: Prensa Internacional/ZUMAPRESS.com


She plans to use her platform to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education this year. She is not, as some Tweets suggested, a muslim, a terrorist, an insult to 9/11 or "un-American."

Makes me wish for the good old days when we only snarked at Miss America's big hair or small-minded answers to interview questions.

Blog posts are commenting on the win and on the cultural racism revealed in last night's social media reactions. 

Public Shaming rounded up some of the Tweets in Americans Call First Indian American Miss America a Terrorist

Mary McCarthy at Slice Today wrote Fox News Must Fire Todd Starnes

Putting aside the fact that these racist idiots don’t even know India is not an Arab country, it makes you ashamed to be an American to know there is so much hate out there.

But the worst came from an allegedly “seasoned journalist” and Fox News reporter Todd Starnes. Although it is his personal account, the Twitter account identifies him as the host of Fox News & Commentary. He tweeted “Miss Politically Correct America,” and complained that blonde-haired, blue-eyed Miss Kansas didn’t win:

@toddstarnes Apparently the liberal Miss America Pageant judges weren't ready for a patriotic, gun-toting, deer-hunting Miss America.#missamerica

@toddstarnes The liberal Miss America judges won't say this- but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values.

Only-Mama posted on BlogHer Why Do I Care About Miss America? (and I Do) 

How often do I exhibit that level of tolerance? Why do I care about a contest that goes against so many of my core values?  The fact that our new Miss America is of Indian descent makes it seem like it is OK to follow the pageant news so stupid-close. I can pretend that I am pleased that diversity is winning, that I am in interested in the cultural ramifications, but that is really a heap of crap. I would still be googling the winner even if she was white, blond and stereotypically midwestern, though I would not have read so many articles about her.

Beauty pageants have always sparked feminist discussions about objectification as well as recurring commentary (and snark) about bikini-heels-sized IQ levels. Same stuff every year. In some ways the racist blowback is related to the problem of defining a standard of American beauty. In other ways, catalyzing a flurry of xenophobic and racist reactions for some while others celebrate that true American diversity is being honored and celebrated makes this year's pageant right on the mark for the state of cultural discourse today, for better and for worse.  What do you think?

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