“How the fuck does a foreigner win Miss America?” they said. “Miss New York is an Indian … With all do respect, this is America.” In the shadow of Nina Davuluri’s historic win at the Miss America pageant, her fellow Americans flocked to Twitter to voice their patriotism. “So Miss America is a terrorist,” they cried.
Davuluri’s crowning on Sunday marks the first time an Indian-American has won the prestigious scholarship pageant — a day to be celebrated as America trends toward a collective tolerance, and yet the moment is marred by prejudice and ignorance. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Davuluri legally deserves the second half of her descriptor — Indian-American. She attended the University of Michigan, earning a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science, and plans to pay back her debt to U.S. society by applying to medical school. For some Americans, however, this isn’t enough.
“WHEN WILL A WHITE WOMAN WIN #MISSAMERICA? Ever??!!” they protest.
While the racist remarks directed towards Davuluri are certainly not a sentiment shared by the majority, I know it’s a dialogue that all minorities in America have heard before. I, like our new Miss America, don’t look like the prototypical American — but you already knew that. Wang might be equivalent to Smith in China, but here it’s a dead giveaway. Despite being born in Michigan, I look like I was born in Hong Kong. And because of these differences, I am occasionally invited by other Americans to go back to my own country. Usually, they address me as a “chink” — rude. But, it’s not just me. Minorities all across the country have experienced something similar to varying degrees. I want to be American, yet sometimes I can’t help but feel that America doesn’t want minorities like me. Davuluri was born in New York, but she looks like she was born in Mumbai, leading some to say, “If you’re #MissAmerica you should have to be American.”
I know that most Americans are not so bigoted, and that the general consensus is that diversity is something to be celebrated. I know the United States is one of the only nations on earth that has to balance so many different people. And I know that, for the most part, we are doing a good job of coexisting together. But it’s insulting to suggest that we are a post-racial America. And it is insulting to hear other Americans bemoan the efforts of expanding diversity and compassion as excessive and unnecessary. When the first American of Indian descent is crowned Miss America and a group of Americans respond with, “Asian or indian are you kiddin this is america omg,” I know we’ve still got work to do.
Dan Wang is an LSA senior and senior editorial page editor.