Racist Backlash to Miss America Is Ridiculous -- But Sadly Not New

With the crowning of Indian-American Nina Davuluri on Sunday, Twitter users embraced the history-making moment as an opportunity... to be racist jerks.

There she is, Miss Brings-Out-The-Worst-In-America! On Sunday night, New York native Nina Davuluri took home the Miss America crown, becoming the first-ever woman of Indian descent to do so. It was a history-making moment for the pageant, so naturally, Twitter users embraced the opportunity... to be racist jerks.

A collection of the most offensive tweets about Davuluri appeared on Buzzfeed today, and they are breathtaking in their idiocy. In a nutshell, the Miss America protestors can be divided into two camps: those who believe Davuluri has associations with terrorists, and those who believe she is not a "real American woman."

If you're wondering why anyone thinks Miss America is a terrorist, there's a simple (more like simplistic) explanation: people think she kinda sorta looks Middle Eastern. "9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?" tweeted one user. "Congratulations Al-Qaeda, Miss America is one of you," said another. "More like Miss Terrorist," joked a third user, whom we assume is nine years old.

For those who still believe that Davuluri is connected to terrorists, or who were offended by her fancy "Egypt dancing" (actually an impressive blend of three Indian dance styles), The Atlantic Wire has posted this handy geography guide. You will note that India is 3,000 miles away from Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Osama Bin Laden. Furthermore, India is over 7,000 miles from Syracuse, N.Y., where Davuluri was actually born.

The other Twitter contingent believes that Davuluri is not "American enough" to be crowned Miss America. "How the f**k does a foreigner win miss America?" asked one user, adding the ironic hashtag #idiots. "I swear I'm not racist but this America," added a blatant racist. "Miss New York is an Indian.. with all do respect, this is America," said another.

Since Davuluri is, without question, an American citizen, we assume that "not American" is being used as a euphemism for "not white." Adding fuel to that particular fire is the fact that one of the semifinalists, Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, was a "classic" Midwestern beauty with blonde hair and tons of fans. Here's a popular meme reproduced by Buzzfeed, describing why Vail is the "real Miss America." (The text: "loves her country, Loves hunting, loves tattoos.") Ironically, Buzzfeed published that same meme just a few days earlier, in support of Vail. Prior to the moment that an Indian-American woman took the crown, "real miss America" was a much less loaded phrase.

Admittedly, Theresa Vail pretty much rules. She was a combat medic in Afghanistan and was the first contestant to show off her tatttos. But does any of that make her more American than the winner? Vail is an expert marksman who speaks Chinese and is majoring in chemistry; Davuluri is an aspiring doctor and accomplished dancer with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science. Vail's platform was "Empowering Women;" Davuluri's was "Celebrating Diversity." Side by side, minus the photographs, Theresa and Nina look very much alike.

Actually, there is one more reason that people are claiming Davuluri doesn't deserve the crown, and it goes back to a rumor that she called the reigning Miss America winner "fat as f**k." Allegedly, there's a recording of the conversation, which took place in a hotel room after the Miss New York competition. However, pageant officials have ruled that Davuluri didn't do anything wrong, and the winner herself issued a statement of apology for any hurt feelings. If Davuluri is indeed a mean girl, that's a more valid reason to dislike her than "Egypt dancing." But we don't know what really happened, so let's reserve judgment on that one.

In the midst of all this racist nonsense, it's important to note that the pageant itself has a long and complicated history with race. Non-white women were originally banned from the pageant entirely. Until 1940, contestants were literally required to fill out a biological questionnaire to confirm their ancestry. Then in 1945, the first Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, was crowned, inspiring a similar backlash to the one we're seeing now. (Minus the Twitter part.) Forty years later, Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America, was inundated with hate mail. So this kind of thing is not new.

What is new is that Miss America celebrated three "firsts" this year: the first Indian-American winner, the first contestant with tattoos, and the first autistic contestant (Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana). The pageant is hardly a paragon of diversity -- it still requires a certain kind of "look" -- but it's making some important strides in celebrating the true complexity of women in America. Someday, Twitter users may even catch up.

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