As I was skimming through my Facebook newsfeed on Monday morning, I came across multiple articles and status messages addressing Nina Davuluri’s Miss America win. I clicked on one of the articles and learned that for the first time in the pageant’s history an Indian American had won the big title. How awesome, right? Well, as I clicked on another article, I quickly learned that not everyone shared my excitement. In fact, that’s probably an understatement.
A very small portion of the US population thought Nina’s win was un-American, and those individuals went straight to Twitter with their views. And it wasn’t pretty. The tweets were demeaning, ignorant, and racist.
I’m not going to lie. I was pretty furious for about half the day. Like blood boiling furious.
And then I calmed down and felt two emotions come over me – sadness and pride.
I felt sad for those individuals that saw Nina’s win as un-American. Why sad? Well because their thoughts and comments were clearly uneducated and small minded among other things.
One of the very first US history lessons every child (or so we thought) learns is that this country was built by immigrants. And for the most part, no one is really from “here.” Whether you go back one generation or 10 generations, our roots are from elsewhere. And because of this, no one thing makes someone more or less American than someone else. And yes, I do realize that there were a lot of other uneducated comments. Some of them even made me laugh…and curse.
Now, let’s talk about small minded. Clearly, these people have not had the pleasure of interacting/sharing experiences with and benefiting from others that are different from them. And different can mean any number of things – skin color, culture, country, language, religion…the list goes on. Personally, I know that a large part of who I am has been influenced by all the family members, friends, coworkers, and random strangers I’ve had the honor of knowing that are different from me. Each and every one of them has expanded and/or challenged my view of the world in some way. And for that I am forever grateful.
Again, it’s just sad. I pity these kinds of people, the uneducated and small minded. Not a good combination.
Now for the pride part. Not only am I proud of Nina Davuluri for being the first Indian American to win the Miss American pageant, I am proud of all the people that embraced her win and saw it as a huge victory for our country. Just one more step in the right direction – a.k.a. – progress. I’m also proud of all the people who didn’t think twice about the new Miss America 2014 being of Indian descent…we need more folks like that!
And finally, I am proud to be a first generation Indian American. One whose family is from India. One that speaks English, Gujarati, and a little bit of Hindi. One that played baseball and took traditional Indian dance classes growing up. One that loves paneer and cheddar. One that can easily become engrossed in both Bollywood and Hollywood movies. One whose family and friends have studied and worked for years to be successful doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, businessmen and woman, etc. One who’s in awe of all the people from around the world that left/leave their homes to come to the United States of America for a better tomorrow.
You see, at the end of the day, an Indian American winning the Miss America pageant is the very definition of what it means to be American. It’s a beautiful thing.