by Dina Akylbekova
One month ago tabloids headlines were dedicated to the Miss America 2014 winner Nina Davuluri. Davuluri became the first Indian-American, who won Miss America. The next few hours there were thousands of racist and xenophobic comments like “If you’re #Miss America you should have to be American”” or “Even Miss America has been outsourced to India. #NinaDavuluri!” (Syracuse, 2013). People posting comments like this do think that winner of Miss America 2014 represents American culture and values. The important point here is that the girl was born and has lived all her life in the USA. Is she still not American enough? Despite this, Nina said “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.” Why spending her whole life in the US, with American citizenship, American education and self-perception as American are not enough for her to be considered a “real” American? Or is the problem that Davuluri does not look “American”. Do Asian and African descents have a right to view himself/herself as a “true” American, even if they do not look “American”?
The described situation confirms the fail of multiculturalism in America. Today Asian Americans comprise almost 6% of the US population (Pew Research Center, 2010). Almost quarter of all Asian American children were born in the US (Pew Research Center, 2010). Unfortunately, the racist backlash shows that even integrated Asian Americans are not considered “Americans”.
If the reader thinks that this happens only in America, there is a proof that this happens on the other side of the world as well. The next destination is Russia. Elmira Abdrazakova became Miss Russia 2013, the fact that the girl is half-Russian and half-Tatar (ethnic minority in Russia) was a starting point for the racist and nationalist backlash against the winner (The Atlantic, 2013). An additional fact against Abdrazakova was that the she was born in Kazakhstan. Elmira thinks that she fully represents a multiethnic and multicultural Russia (There are 180 ethnicities in Russian federation). However, nationalists probably do not know that Russia is a multiethnic country and continue to resist by saying that Abdrazakova is not Slavic enough.
Both Miss America 2014 and Miss Russia received a huge amount of racist comments concerning their ethnicities. Both the USA and Russia are officially claiming to be multicultural and multiethnic countries, where every ethnicity is respected. The reality shows the fail of tolerance, multiculturalism and multiethnicity in these societies. One can argue that racism in beauty contests is a routine part of these events. But in the reality, beauty contests show whether society is ready to accept other ethnicities beauty on the equal level as the native one. Will the situation change or ethnical minority titleholders would be blamed for being not American or Slavic enough?
America has more than 300,000,000 citizens. A small percentage of bigots and extremists are inevitable flaws in that many humans. Ms. Duluvari is an admirable and wholly appropriate Ms. America. More power to her.
Dear Marvin, Thank you for your comment,
You are right that there is a small amount of extremists and racists in the American Society, However, I think that the society should be aware of racist and nationalist ideas, since these ideas tend to spread very fast among young people. There were many cases of young people’ aggression against immigrant population. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/09/nyregion/09patchogue.html?pagewanted=all)
A large share of the US population are immigrant population, and there are a lot of tensions between locals and immigrant population, We can see that there is something wrong with integration process in the US, while even born in the US people are not considered real “Americans”. I just want people to start think about integration process now, before the tensions did not become even more serious..
I wasn’t aware of the Miss Russia issue–thank you for writing about it here!
Dear Leah, thank you for your feedback.
Last years Russian society have many tensions with immigrants from Central Asia as well as with non-Slavic ethnicities of Russia (for instance, Caucasian people). ( http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/13/anti-migrant-riots-moscow)
The “Miss Russia” contest showed that the society needs some social changes to accept and respect other ethnicities.
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