• Stephanie Hinds

What's Wrong With Nina Davaluri, America?

On Sunday, September 15, Nina Davaluri graced the Miss America stage with a presentation of a cultural dance routine. Only problem? She did it in a saree.

The only other problem? She’s Indian.

Actually, not really. She is of Indian descent, but Nina Davaluri herself is American. As in, born in America, raised in America, educated in America, and she is in fact a native of one of the most American states in the country, New York.

But she’s not white. She’s brown. And her last name is a little long and a little hard to pronounce. And God only knows the implications of what that trifecta means in American society.

The friendly (and not nearly as ignorant) neighbors to the north of the border looked on with confusion and disgust as Twitter flooded with comments saying the 24-year-old aspiring physician was Arab, un-American, and, wait for it, a terrorist.

A few tweets that caught my eye read the following:

“Miss America is a terrorist. Whatever. It’s fine.”

Oh, and this one:

“Nice slap in the face to the people of 9/11 how pathetic.”

And there you have it folks. If you ask me, the woman is a class act. Responding only with, "I have to rise above that. I have always viewed myself first and foremost as an American," to the negative responses. As much as I wish she had used this opportunity to instead educate the brainiacs calling her an Arab that India and Saudi Arabia are really, really far apart, I wonder if she was in fact distancing herself from her Indian descent. Regardless, rise above she did indeed.

This begs the question of whether this would happen in Canada. Of course, the Miss Canada pageant is not nearly as large of a staple of national pride as the Miss America pageant is down south. But does that really justify the misidentification and defamation of a completely innocent young woman, non-Arab, and certainly non-terrorist, even by affiliation?

The answer is no. Not because we’re all equal. Not because there’s a black guy in the White House, even if he is from “God knows where, Africa” according to one genius tweeter.

The answer is because her skin color does not make her any less American than any other person.

Tell me what an American looks like. Is it a man or a woman? Are they slim or fat? Are they black, white, Asian, South Asian, or maybe Hispanic?

The face of America is changing.

For a country that prides itself on diversity, yet fails to recognize and celebrate individual minority or immigrant communities, talks about itself as if it is a beautifully constructed cultural mosaic, but is really a melting pot, bubbling over with discrimination, and invites people from all across the world to come and chase after the American dream, but stands in the way each time an unfamiliar face takes a step towards it, it's about time.

It’s about time that the American community is reflective of all the things it says it is.

Black man in the White House? Check.

Non-white, non-blond, dare I say, dark woman to hold the title of Miss America? Check.

Good for you Nina. Namaste!

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