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Miss Not-American?

By: Andrew Woodbury - @A_W10 - Sep 17, 2013, 1:49 pm

After 9/11, Major League Baseball returned to game action with a new ritual: the playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch of every game for the rest of that season. Today, many teams still carry-on with the tradition.

The 2014 Miss America CompetitionThe idea is to show US American pride, unity, and ability to overcome times of strife as a nation. With the reactions that have come in since Syracuse-native Nina Davuluri (pictured) was crowned Miss America over the weekend, that unity still appears to have widespread exclusivity.

Davuluri is the first winner in the pageant’s history to have Indian heritage. While there has been a sprinkling of Latin-American and African-American winners in the past, the majority of victors have been fair skinned. This leads us to what Davuluri winning should represent: that the United States is in fact evolving.

With US Americans of many diverse backgrounds already being in positions of prominence across the nation, including company CEOs, governors, scientists, and actors, in addition to President, a Miss America winner of Indian decent would seem to fall right in line with the overall trend towards racial equality.

However, a victory in many circles — and a positive reaction overall — is suffering from overwhelmingly negative reactions in other circles.

Twitter, as is customary since many of its users find courage in a keyboard, erupted with negativity after the hosts announced Davuluri as the winner. We’ve all seen the comments by now, but you can see some of them here. If Davuluri is Arab, a member of Al-Qaeda, or works at 7-11, it is surely news to her. While absurd tweets like these need to be taken with a grain of salt, the outburst shows that a lot of work is left in terms of racial identity in the United States.

While many promote the “melting pot” mentality, the analogy only seems to extend so far.

The racist reaction to the newest Miss America isn’t the only recent example. At Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in July, New York City-native Marc Anthony sang “God Bless America,” spurring similar remarks to those that Davuluri is now receiving. Anthony was called “Mexican” (he’s of Puerto Rican decent) and was questioned by some on Twitter as to why he was allowed to sing an “American’s song.”

The recent racial backlash also seemingly doesn’t have an age restriction. After singing the US National Anthem at game three of the NBA finals in June, 11-year-old and San Antonio-native Sebastian de la Cruz received a downpour of racist remarks for performing the anthem wearing a Mexican charro outfit. De la Cruz’s heritage is from Mexico.

While the Miss America pageant is what it is — a physical beauty contest, regardless of how many world peace questions contestants are required to answer — the negative reactions cannot be ignored, even if from a shrinking minority. With Davuluri deemed the winner, though, progression certainly beats out stagnation. Just ask this year’s runner-up Crystal Lee, a Chinese-American.

Andrew Woodbury Andrew Woodbury

From Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is a Young Voices advocate, editor, and educator at the International Language Academy of Canada. Follow him @A_W10, and read more of his featured PanAm Post column, “Connecting the Dots.”