An Indian Miss America? What the Miss America 2013 Backlash Says About Race in America

After our readings on the social construction of race in American, consider the recent backlash regarding this year’s winner of the Miss America pageant, Nina Davuluri, who was criticized for “not being American.” According to  Samhita Mukhopadhyay writing for The Nation, immediately after Davuluri’s crowning, Twitter overflowed with comments from viewers who were upset with the judge’s choice because she wasn’t “American enough.”

Controversy over the crowning of the country's first non-white Miss America this year made headlines.

Controversy over the crowning of the country’s first non-white Miss America this year made headlines.

Such comments were obviously fueled by post-9/11 racism, as some commenters criticized the contest for crowning an Arab (in fact, Davuluri is a native-born American of Indian descent); such comments point to Americans’ inability to recognize or read races outside of the Black-white binary, what Native American writer Sherman Alexie humorously refers to as “ambiguous brown” people. Other commenters assumed Davuluri was foreign, making statements like, “Miss New York is an Indian. With all due respect, this is America.”

What do such statements reveal about how we imagine “Americans” in regards to race? What connections can you make to Buck’s reading from Friday before break?

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