What Miss America Taught Us Indians

“You can be called an Arab nation without needing to brandish a map in anger, being insulted by that is greater racism than the insult itself”

Prem Mogambo September 19, 2013

Nina Davuluri

Sequence of events

  • Nina Davuluri crowned Miss America.
  • There are a bunch of angry, racist comments on Twitter by a lot of Americans
  • There’s a backlash to those comments out here in India.

I quietly ignored all of it for a while till it just wasn’t possible. The Times of India carried it as a Headline. Facebook and Twitter made it the hot topic to discuss with every friend you meet. Slowly, it started to hurt. Not what the Americans said on said social network sites, but what my countrymen chose to do with it.

Firstly, it’s an American beauty contest, it’s an American citizen, an American public posting comments on an American website. It thus is solely America’s tryst on the tightrope between racism and equality. To their credit, they take it quite seriously, far more seriously than we do. We’re a country still learning not to harass and rape tourists, we’re a long way off from letting someone come from a foreign land and win our popularity contests (And please spare me the Mrs Gandhi rebuttals).

What one also needs to realize is that in America, Twitter penetrates far deeper than it does in our country. I cannot say more on this without insulting someone but think, truly think, if every Indian were to use Twitter and broadcast their opinions and beliefs on politically sensitive issues. Would you be suitably represented by a sampling of the tastiest bits? Would they know the difference between the former Soviet nations? Would they be able to point out Palestine on a map? Would they know how to cover their inherent bias diplomatically?

The Americans I’ve met are comfortable berating their country for its faults, they recognize they’ve made they’re follies and they’re almost apologetic for the misused might. I think this comes from a sense of security in belonging to a nation that assumes it’s greatness.

I hate what our reaction to this incident says about us. We’re a country where we applaud Akshay Kumar rattling of statistics to Englishmen to show our country isn’t far behind theirs. We need that balm, we need the reminder, we need to have a chip on our shoulder that is ready to wage online wars whenever someone calls us an Arab nation. Or do we? We’re Indians. That’s enough. It really is.

I wouldn’t go into why this country is great but, it is. Believe that. And here, in the billion-and-then-some of us, we have idiots and geniuses, ignorance and wisdom, problems and solutions. Just like the Americans. What we definitely have are our own share of battles to fight. Which brings us squarely to racism. Sooner or later, this country’s growth is going to make it a melting pot as well. Our biggest hindrance might be our greatest help.

If we can learn to stop calling each other madrasisbhaiyyas and chinkis maybe when a Korean woman becomes Miss India, the number of idiots saying stuff like this here will be far lesser. But we need to earn that fight by winning a 100 others. Lets not mock ourselves with this indignant outrage. You can be called an Arab nation without needing to brandish a map in anger, being insulted by that is greater racism than the insult itself. Meanwhile, I have to worry about the internet reminding me that in our own country, someone with that ‘Indian’ a skin tone would never have won.

Stop. Please.



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