Two Sundays ago when Nina Davuluri of New York won Miss America, the racist backlash on social media sites like Twitter was not surprising.
Miss Davuluri is the first Indian-American to win Miss America. Exactly 30 years ago Vanessa Willaims for the first black woman to win.
Crystal Lee, Miss California, was the runner up was also Asian-American.
However on September 15th Miss America was called anything, but her new title. People went to twitter to discuss their hate for the 24 year-old winner. Comments like, “And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.” or “9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?”
Or even the most grotesque by comparing her to the terrorist’s group Al Queda, “Miss America is a terrorist. Whatever. It’s fine.”
These tweets and more only show that many racist Americans don’t know the different between someone who is Arab and Indian and that they love linking terrorism and 9/11 to things that have nothing to do with one another.
People forget that the internet is written in ink. Once you put it out there, it’s kinda hard for it to be erased.
Another image that got circulated around a lot that night was this:
To be honest, I forget how big pageants are America. With shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo, beauty pageants are as American as apple pie.
However American is code for white by many people. Use I am technically American, but society pictures an young American girl as blonde, blue, just fresh out of college working where she is. Not me and not Nina Davuluri.
This got me to thinking about the concept of the girl next door.
According to Urban Dictionary, The Girl Next Door is someone who is “someone you could bring home to your parents”or a “sweet, virginal, pure girl who you always admired, but could never actually go up too.”
I most admit The Girl Next Door concept is problematic because it place the Madonna/Whore complex on women. That women can only be one way or another, either prude or a whore. However woman of color rarely have the opportunity to be placed on such a pedestal. They are usually overly criticized, objectified, and sexualized. So being seen as “pure” or “virginal” is usually out of the question.
Women like Nina Davuluri could never been seen as the girl next door in a mainstream concept, even though she has the qualities of one. Miss America is supposed to uphold this idea. A beautiful, smart, and sweet unattainable woman. However her “otherness” cancels this out.
Her racial and ethnic background shouldn’t exclude her from this term (in reality we shouldn’t put such general labels on anyone) or from her being America. Racists White Americans forget that America is melting pot and that there is no one way to be American.
Julie Chen revealed on the daily talk show “The Talk” that she had undergo surgery to enlarge her Asian eyes. Chen, an American news anchor and and producer for CBS. She has done everything from CBS Early News to Big Brother.
While working as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio, Chen’s boss allegedly told her that she would never sit at the anchor desk due to her Chinese heritage. ” ‘Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton?’ ” she recalled him saying. ” ‘On top of that, because of your Asian eyes, sometimes I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera and you’re interviewing someone, you look disinterested. You look bored.’ “
Here is another woman who was openly criticized for not looking American enough.
Even though she was born in Queens, New York, because she is of Chinese decent, this erases her Americaness.
When asked about her opinion on Julie Chen’s surgery, this is what Nina Davuluri had to say “Unfortunately, I don’t agree with plastic surgery, however, I can understand that from her standpoint,” she replied. “But more importantly, I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door, and the girl next door is evolving as diversity in America evolves. She’s not who she was ten years ago, and she’s not going to be the same person come ten years down the road.”
Regardless of how you feel about plastic surgery, to see someone change their looks to appease people’s racial insecurities is upsetting. As someone who hopes to work on TV one day, maybe even on screen, the idea that you may have to change your natural looks to fit into a more European Beauty Standard just be successful in this line of work is frustrating to say the least.
Women like Nina Davuluri and Julie Chen, are reasons why I want to work in media. To show that woman of color come in many different molds.
We can talk about how beautiful Nina Davuluri is, but we can also talk about how smart she is. Right now she is going to use the money she won with Miss America to apply to medical school, in hopes to become a cardiologist. Davuluri graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science, earning Dean’s List, Michigan Merit Award, and National Honor Society Award honors along the way.
Is she the girl next door? Maybe or maybe not. But she’s our new Miss America and she really can be whatever she wants.