With your recent win last month; I am quite confident that you are being bombarded with well wishes, while you set your agenda for the current years reign. However, true to form, it seems that the paint was not even dried on your fake silver tiara before people began to come out en masse and question your right to represent the country from which you hail. Their want to paint you as anything less than American is comedic, for all of its obvious foibles and apparent memory loss. Or could it be the medium…
My main problem however is the recent articles that purport to tell us how unhappy Americans are with you being Arab, this of course being besides the point that you are actually of Indian decent. While this might seem a minor mishap to some, I am quite certain that I understand the significant difference, as I myself get quite upset when people suggest that I am from the wrong side of California, to say nothing of mistaking me for Canadian—but at the end of the day, at least I can see, due to all our similarities, why they might make such a mistake. Further, as an unofficial member of the growing swath of the American public most often referred to as ‘Ethnically Ambiguous’, I can only say that I can identify with issues of racial identity, as well as the ever-changing dynamic of public opinion on the subject.
My primary want here is to say that this argument isn’t “real,” and thus you should pay it no mind. Admittedly, this feels quite wrong, dismissive, and reductive to say the least. Let me clarify: I believe race issues in contemporary American society to be a very real thing indeed, not just because of unresolved and on-going disparities in incomes, prison sentencing guidelines and populations, and other societal undercurrents that continue to plague us, all of which of course is to say nothing of the Arab and/or Muslim’s plight in a post 9/11 world. Still, what I mean by it isn’t real- is that it isn’t really real. The subject is valid, but framed in a faux manner—as in, it’s not the real part of it. It is not legitimately how the bulk of people feel. It is not the tenor in the streets, it is not even my “increasingly closed-minded and often prejudiced in his old age” grandfather’s perspective (which is saying something); it is a rouse, it is a misnomer, it is a business plan. How this became a headline so close to your crowning, is, to me, representative of the problem, and quite frankly a distraction from the very real conversations that should be taking place about race in American society.
The old adage about statisticians comes to mind here: figures lie and liars figure. That is to say that, yes—some people clearly tweeted these things shortly after your win. But to report them as if to suggest that they are representative of a widespread American mind set overall, is so woefully inept that it could be considered naïve, if it were not so calculated a decision. You see, quite simply, this is how you get site visits, which equate to dollars, which means the site keeps plugging away—one misleading story at a time. Do you know how many genuine nut-job tweets there are out in the world on the daily? Quite simply, some individual people think some pretty crazy individual things, and we happen to be part of a nation that lets them, and—believe it or not—that’s the good news. Thus, as long as people keep tweeting crazy things, websites that generate ad sells by virtue of traffic garnered through regurgitating this crazy-talk as fact, will continue to do so. The reality of the vast majority of American people is that they would be hard pressed to not find a point in their familial stories where they were not themselves immigrants. I really feel like this goes without saying, except that, given these tweets, perhaps it doesn’t.
The problem for you is obvious I suspect. Here you have worked quite hard at your craft (whatever that is) and are now stuck dealing with all this real-world negativity, when you would rather be discussing something heady, like diet tips. What will be of your reign? The problem for me is a different one entirely. As someone who currently resides in the Middle East, I am quite often one of the ones left with hat in hand trying to explain to our Middle Eastern brethren the subtle difference between: trollers, keyboard cowards, faux popular opinion, and honest and legitimate concerns that any evolving society might have.
A lot of the negative rhetoric that I hear online and in the streets is not so much based on our current foreign policy decisions, though sometimes it is, but often comes rather as a direct response to what is increasingly being reported as “American Public Opinion,” as if that were just one huge paintbrush you could apply to your mental canvas. So in short, tell the tweeters et al––it’s tough out here, cut out the crazy talk in public please, you’re making it harder for us to walk down a street safely! I can only imagine how much harder it makes the work of your average soldier or diplomatic envoy. There are some of us who still know that America, for all her faults, exhibits her wonder best through inclusion and not through divisive rhetoric.
The truth is, as the first Indian American Miss, who self-identifies more, American than Indian, who is at the crux of a ‘does not quite fit in the country of her birth, nor from where her parents came’ mind set, that is also likely too dark for the Bollywood films she portrays in homage (as continued exemplar of the cultural disconnect), you may just be the most American Miss America yet!
Miss America can be found at Rodeos and Car Dealer openings throughout the U.S. Midwest all this Spring. You can argue with her via Twitter or help her fight in support of Whirled Peas!