Forum

Miss America backlash is surprising

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During the 2014 Miss America Pageant on Sept. 15, Nina Davuluri of Fayetteville, N.Y., became the first woman of Indian descent to be crowned Miss America. Following the announcement, riled pageant viewers unleashed a toxic deluge of racist and xenophobic tweets targeted at Davuluri’s win.

These tweets, some of which were complied on the popular website Buzzfeed, ranged from objections such as “I swear I’m not racist but this is America” to extremely offensive personal attacks calling Davuluri “Miss 7-11,” “Miss Terrorist,” and “Miss Al-Qaeda.” One person laughably claimed, “we all know Obama bought that pageant!”

As goes without saying, such comments are indefensibly bigoted and hopelessly illogical. President Obama is about as likely to have done a deal with Miss America pageant owner Donald Trump as Muslim extremists are likely to enter bikini-clad catwalk competitions. In addition to these people’s obvious errors is their utter misunderstanding of American values. America is a nation of immigrants.

Isn’t the idea of a great American melting pot among the first of the values that patriots and pageant contestants should represent? Comprised of many races and unique ethnic groups, the American population ought to prize diversity as much as any other national value — and certainly shouldn’t be protesting it.

Yet despite the outrageous nature of these tweets, and despite reactions to them ranging from righteous anger to mockery, one reaction has been almost nonexistent: surprise. Almost nobody, it seems, is in any way surprised by this gross display of racism; the incident has been described as a “tired theme” by CNN.

This lack of shock is among the most troubling aspects of this story. Racism of this kind is apparently commonplace enough that it is unsurprising even when it is written publicly with no concealment of identity.

According to a World Values Survey published this year, the population of America is among the least racist in the world, and yet Americans are quite used to racism. The national struggle against bigotry is clearly too far from won.

Certainly, enormous progress has been made in American culture’s overall standing with diversity. From the civil rights movement of the 1960s to modern-day immigration reform, Americans as a whole increasingly accept diversity and condemn prejudice. This positive trend will hopefully and probably continue. However, the nation has a long way to go until racist vitriol of the sort exhibited following the Miss America pageant is rare enough to be anomalous — preferably shocking and wholly impermissible.