This past week, Nina Davuluri won the coveted Miss America title. Being the first Indian American to win in a historically racist and exclusive pageant, Nina’s win sparked racist tweets and backlash because she was deemed “un-American.” In online conversations, the topic that has been brought up quite a bit is that this is a sign of progress for women of color. Many of my friends believe that this Miss America win for Davuluri is a win for all of us, but how and why would we look to a pageant to indicate progress for all of us? Yes, she is the first Asian Indian woman to win, and surely little girls around the US can say “Hey, I can be exactly like her when I grow up. I can do it too,” but does this exactly signify change for women of color or empower us?
No. Pageants in essence are not empowering. But this pageant was different because out of all the Kathryn Andersons and Elizabeth Smiths, Nina Davuluri won. A huge HOORAY for people of color, but are we promoting diversity and multiculturalism over the backs of women as well as the poor? At least a “colored” person” won the pageant, right? That’s not good enough.
How can we look down at white women who win pageants and say that they are anti-feminists, airheads, and backward, when a woman of color wins we praise that she is indeed smart, qualified (whatever that means), and that she is a sign of progress for all of us? It’s a mixture of delusion and pure happiness because for once someone who looks like me finally won something, anything. That’s not to put down anyone who feels that way, because I understand the feeling of knowing that someone similar to you or me represents all of us because we are people of color. And in this, Miss Nina Dulvari is glamorous, beautiful, a positive representation, but all that is wrong with the packaged standard of beauty and expectations of women in our society.
She is not a sign of progress or empowerment for women of color. This isn’t to say she is not intelligent or an achiever because she is, but who really cares about that in a pageant? All that ‘real stuff’ comes second, and so there it goes again, all the ‘real’ important things such as leadership, educational attainment, academic achievement, and personal stories take a backseat. Nina Davulri is known as the pageant queen, not as Nina Davuluri who is a top notch student at Michigan State. Her decision and choice to be in a pageant is empowering for herself, but her representation as a pageant contestant isn’t empowering any of us. A bit complex, isn’t it?
There are some real positives in this though. Really, seriously.
The ratings for televised Miss America show has been declining for quite sometime now because who really cares about a bunch of women cat walking on stage with beautiful gowns, while Donald Trump fixes his toupee?
But why did we tune in or read about this season’s Miss America, when we could care less like we usually do about such trivial things?
Because a person of color won, and to add to the momentum: racist comments were tweeted. This is what really tugs at the heart strings of the emotional reactions from people around the US declaring at the top of their lungs on Facebook and Tweets: “We are Americans too. Just because my skin is a shade of brown doesn’t mean I am not an authentic and proud American.” The pouring reaction from people, not just people of color, but also white, drowned out the noise and sound of closet racists hiding behind their computers.
The face of America is changing rapidly, and now the minorities will become the majority; there’s no way to stop this. This is Mother Nature. She is fierce, unbending, unchanging for any current that tries to stop her. It’s not about the pageant being an important win, but that we challenge the notion that people of color aren’t Americans. Through Nina Davuluri’s win, I saw that numerous Americans clearly see that the makeup of the US aren’t just white, but brown, red, and yellow…and anything in between.
Now that’s a sign of progress.