Society resists ethnic change in beauty pageants

El McCabe

Senior Writer

On Sept. 15 the 87th Miss America pageant occurred, in which beauty queens from all 50 states competed for the coveted crown. The judging was based on the run-of-the-mill categories: talent, poise, attractiveness in minimal clothing, ability to answer questions, and the infamous strut. This year there was one huge change. The winner was neither blonde nor white! The 2014 winner, Nina Davuluri, is a New York native of Indian descent. This small fact created a huge backlash on social media sites, where people called her names such as “terrorist” and accused her of being a member of Al-Qaeda.

I am not the biggest fan of beauty pageants in the first place. It is no secret that the entire pageant world is exclusively for attractive women, and puts women’s bodies on display for others to covet and compare themselves to. It’s not as if there are Mr. America pageants that stir up headlines in every gossip magazine. Pageants in general are a disgrace to women and a reflection of just how close-minded the American ideal of beauty can be. The attempt to pick a well-rounded Miss America is to simply cover up the fact that looks are the most valued commodity a person can have.

Despite how I feel about the pageant world, nothing makes me angrier than the response toward the Indian-American winner this year. Last time I checked, being born in America was the criteria for being an American, not the color of your skin nor the country where your parents came from. There was no objection to Davuluri when she was on stage wearing a bikini, but as soon as the judges crowned her the most beautiful woman in America, there was an uproar. It is disheartening the level at which racism still functions in America. People believe that just because all races have “equality” under law, racist beliefs have disappeared. This pageant provided a wakeup call: racism is just as prevalent as ever. Take this tweet for example: “Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you.” The assumption that having brown skin makes you part of a terrorist organization that has a vendetta against our country is so far beyond the realm of what is acceptable and true. Even if Davuluri was from outside of the United States, the color of her skin would not automatically make her a terrorist.

Many Americans have a long way to go to redeem themselves for this ignorant display. America is a country of so many different races, and it just so happens that past beauty pageants have showcased only one type of beauty valued in our country. Just because you do not have blonde hair and blue eyes does not make you a terrorist or force you to prove your citizenship. Crowning Davuluri the winner was a small step forward in the fight against ignorance, but the heavy backlash shows that there is a still a long battle ahead.

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