In the run up to Miss America, a confident Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, declared in a video message on ndtv.com, “Miss America is evolving. And she’s not going to look the same anymore.” A few days later, in a glittering ceremony in Atlantic City, Davuluri was crowned Miss America 2013, eliciting a strong and immediate racial backlash. But despite what malicious tweeters have typed, Davaluri serves as a role model for young Americans of different backgrounds who are all working their hardest to ‘make it’ in this nation.
Davaluri is a first generation American whose parents immigrated to the United States in early 1980’s from India. She completed all her education in the United States and was even inducted into the National Honor Society in high school. With the goal of becoming a cardiologist, she earned an undergraduate degree in in cognitive science and brain behavior at the University of Michigan. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American,” she said according to USA Today.
> Why do white people never win american things anymore [#garbage](https://twitter.com/search?q=%23garbage&src=hash)
— Travis Vander Hyden (@Buckiller14) [September 16, 2013](https://twitter.com/Buckiller14/statuses/379439072382844929)
When Davaluri chose to perform a Bollywood dance at the Pageant, she was told that she would never win, as a Bollywood dance was too foreign, according to Vanity Fair. Regardless, Davuluri wanted to celebrate “diversity through cultural competency,” according to the L.A. Times, and performed a flawless dance that showcased traditional Indian heritage. Espousing such great character with a desire to set a precedent for America, Davaluri became a great American role model.
When Davaluri was crowned, Miss America changed forever, just as she said before the pageant. “I’m so happy this organization embraced diversity,” she added. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America,” according to USA Today. But Davluri’s victory is in fact representative of the very cultural diversity that has made the U.S. so unique.
> A Muslim Arab won miss America. They blow your shot up and you crown them. You bitches backwards
— BlkPhilosophersStone (@HarmonyEliana) [September 16, 2013](https://twitter.com/HarmonyEliana/statuses/379576306457133056)
Even so, while the accolades poured in from every quarter for her victory, some Americans who were spiteful of the reality of the ethnic mix of America spit venom through social media. “This is Miss America.. Not Miss Foreign Country,” (@meredithRoanell) said someone on Twitter. “She’s like not even American and she won miss America,” (@KathrynRyan50) said another. The hatred continued: “Well they just picked a Muslim for Miss America. That must’ve made Obama happy. Maybe he had a vote.” (@EJRBuckeye). Another read, “I swear I’m not racist but this is America” (@JAyres15). Many of these tweets were deleted after their writers received negative backlash for their malicious words.
What happened to the country that used to welcome immigrants and help them integrate into the melting pot? Nina Davuluri may have been graceful under an unwarranted barrage, but she should not have had to prove her American credentials to anyone.
It is imperative to recognize that hate speech is something that we cannot brush aside as “ignorant stupid talk” because it is morally harmful, ethically repulsive and illegal. But it is also critical that we realize such comments are totally inaccurate. To call someone unamerican simply because they have a different ethnic background fails to take into account the fact that America prides itself on having a diverse population. No matter where Davaluri’s family may have come from, she is a symbol of various ‘American’ values such as diversity, equality, courage, independence and hard work.