Indians Push Back on Racist Taunts to Miss America 2014


New York's Nina Davuluri, 24, has won the Miss America 2014 title. Photo from Miss New York Organization's Facebook Page

New York's 24-year old Nina Davuluri made history last night by becoming the first American of Indian descent to win the coveted Miss America title. But now she has found herself at the receiving end of a slew of racist comments online, proving that beauty, for many, remains merely skin-deep. Ironically, because many did not know her actual heritage, comments and tweets vented ire against Arabs, Africans and Muslims, in addition to Indians. There were also references to terrorism and 9/11.

Davuluri has brushed off the stream of online racism, saying she prefers to “rise above that” and that she has always considered herself “first and foremost American”. In this YouTube video by the Miss America Organization in the run up to the Miss America 2014 pageant, Davuluri speaks of her upbringing and the fact that New York, which she represented in the pageant, is essentially a multicultural hotpot.

While Davuluri may not have been provoked by the racist comments, others have pushed back. In India too, there is a lot of discussion about Davaluri's win, making it a trending topic of the day.

Curiously, netizens in India have been divided in their opinion of the new Miss America.

On the one hand, there was a lot of support for Nina Davuluri and anger at the racist comments that have been dogging her victory. On the other hand, a section of netizens debated whether Davuluri would have ever have won a beauty pageant in India, given the country's fetish with fair skin.

Mumbai-based author and journalist Deepanjana Pal (@dpanjana) tweeted:

Food blogger and nutritionist Nandita Iyer (@saffrontrail) pointed out how many of the people making racist comments were not even aware of the differences between Arabs and Indians. She tweeted:

Engineering student Siddhartha R Thota's anger at the onslaught of racist verbal attacks on the newly crowned Miss America was evident in this tweet:

His anger found resonance with Ankita Singh (@VaanarMukhi) who commented via tweet

Gyanonymous pointed out the hypocrisy embedded in the racist comments through this tweet:

Too dark-skinned for India?

Davuluri's dark skin was the focus of many. In one tweet, journalist and author Samar Halarnkar (@samar11) wondered:

Kushan Mitra echoed the sentiment in his tweet:

Writer and columnist Salil Tripathi (@saliltripathi) wondered along the same lines, reminded by this article in FirstPost that ‘dusky’ skinned models and actresses in India often underwent “colour adjustments” before they got accepted.

There were still others who used humour to underline the fact that Ms. Davuluri was indeed dark complexioned and not the quintessential (white-skinned) American. For example, stand-up comedian Atul Khatri (@one_by_two) tweeted:

Challenging notions of beauty

However, a section of netizens celebrated the winner and saw this as another milestone to champion “Dark is Beautiful”.

From Mysore, author and blogger Ratna Rajaiah (@alphabetiya) tweeted:

Kaveri Jain (@Mehitabel) from Delhi proclaimed via this tweet

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