So the news of the week apparently is the fact that the winner of Miss America (I know, we won't discuss the nature of beauty pageantry right now because that could be an entirely separate post) is an Indian American woman (Miss New York, Nina Davuluri). Cue the racist tweets and lamenting of the fall of
white "American" culture. I think, surprisingly, the best take I've read about this whole ordeal was on Forbes, in a piece entitled "Why We Need an Indian Miss America."
The author lists several reasons she thinks this was an important moment, all of which I agree with. In bold below are the 5 points she makes in her article with my commentary.
1. The meaning of "American." For altogether too many people, "American" is synonymous with "white." So much for the great melting pot, right? So even if I'm leery about the message that pageants send, there's no doubt that pageants DO result in a lot of attention and having a non-white person representing America, even in this fashion, goes against that false perception.
2. Challenging stereotypes of being "Indian American." Also important! When we see Indian actors on TV or in movies, they're usually in some typecast role that plays upon stereotypes for laughs. Or they're not even playing an Indian character. Sigh.
3. She's a great role model. Do I wish that our society didn't have a strange obsession with "beauty"? Oh yeah. But is it nice for people of color to see people that look like them in the mainstream? Also yeah.
4. She challenges international standards of beauty. This was an interesting one for me. I didn't think Davuluri was particularly "dark-skinned" but I am familiar with the light-skin phenomenon (that abroad, fairer skin is considered more beautiful than darker skin) and the author brings up an excellent point in her piece about this.
5. Prominent women in STEM fields? Heck yeah! Always a win.