Photo Credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Address Intolerance in the Miss America Pageant
By Becca Morrow, UNF Interfaith Center Intern
This year’s Miss America winner was a momentous event in American pop culture history. Miss New York, Nina Davuluri was crowned; the first of Indian descent to earn the much sought after title. However, with her dark complexion and Indian heritage, some on social media were not so accepting of her victory.
Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram—all of it hosted negative, ignorant backlash in response to Miss Davuluri’s crowning. There was repulsive shaming; calling her a terrorist and un-American when in fact Miss Davuluri is a New York native. The title of terrorist, I can only assume, was meant to be a derogatory term against her presumed Muslim faith again, based on skin color. Not only is this incredibly dehumanizing, but ignorant. Our Miss America is a Hindu. This is not only a racism issue, but a religious intolerance issue as well.
The negativity was met with even more hostility as some people responded with offensive comments against those of European/White descent and Christians. The term “cracker” was thrown around lightly stereotyping all racism to come from white Americans. Some also blamed the Christian faith’s history of conquest for continuing prejudice. Can I mention the age old nursery rhyme that two wrongs don’t make a right?
Of course no one deserves to automatically be given a label nor presumed to belong to one identity over the other based on the color of their skin. This can apply to both the original racism and counter-racism. “Terrorist”, “Cracker”; they both exist on the same plane. One is not any more justified than the other.
So what can we take away from these events?
Hate is a downward spiraling cycle while love can sometimes require tremendous amounts of patience, understanding, and I believe is best perpetuated through education. Indian mystic Osho asserts that the most powerful way to spread love and wisdom is through example. No matter how confused or deluded the moment appears to be, the underlying and essential nature of our being is clear and pure. Existing within the very core of humanity is an inexhaustible source of compassion. Delusions, erroneous desire, and fear can misdirect our energies. Some people have never been exposed to what it means to love blindly and are more likely to suffer from this confusion.
All anyone wants to feel is accepted. Humans are social creatures. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense for us to want to belong. Change can threaten the security that comes with being a part of a community; resistance is sometimes coupled with fear which can be mistaken for anger. The crowning of Miss America can feel like a change in American values since history shows our leaders were typically old, white males. But in fact the crowning couldn’t be more American. The dream existing within the land of opportunity is upheld in this historic occasion. Now is the perfect time to connect and join hands with our fellow countrymen and women to congratulate Miss Davuluri not just on her victory in the pageant, but by being the perfect role model for success and American diversity.
Responding to negativity with more negativity only hinders our progress. We can use this opportunity to educate and love our differences not just cross culturally, but across faiths, races, and genders. America is so close to gaining complete equality and unless we love our neighbors, even those confused by fear, that dream will never be realized.