The newly crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, has been called a foreigner, a terrorist, and worst of all... Un-American.
Tweet names include: Miss 7-11. Miss Terrorist. Miss Al Qaeda.
Why? Because she's not white-skinned and doesn't have a "normal" name.
Apparently being American means being white and having a name everyone's familiar with.
It means being comfortable with what you know and who you know.
It means being fearful of the unknown. And it means not having dark skin.
Celebrating diversity "through cultural competency" was her platform. Quite ironic.
First we need to find some competency and then maybe we can start celebrating.
Even though reports state she was born in Syracuse, New York, went to the University of Michigan, is quite articulate and wants to be a physician, there's been a terrible backlash of hate, fear and jealousy over her being "Un-American" and winning the crown.
The psychology of hate and prejudice or even the phobic version defined by the fear of foreigners (xenophobia) is both interesting and disturbing. It's rooted in fear of the unknown. Stereotypes are created as a form of categorization and organizing information. It's a fear of losing one's own identity and externalizing internal insecurities through hating of "the other." And it's way more present and active than most people want to believe. Case in point, the Miss America pageant.
I'm Indian and American. And part of my personal global street cred consists of being called every bad ethnic slur name in the book while growing up in the Midwest. In my life, there's always been a "bad brown guy" somewhere in the world that we as a country love to hate. From Ayatollah Khomeini to Gaddafi to Saddam Hussein to Osama Bin Laden, there are very bad individuals out there who are suddenly empowered to represent ANYONE with brown skin and a foreign name.
When many Americans start calling a 24-year-old talented beauty pageant winner a terrorist because she comes from somewhere eastern and has "tan" skin, we have a problem. It's an information problem. It's a fear of the unknown problem. And it's the reason I was compelled to write this article. As a doctor and a media personality, it sickens me to hear these negative comments that are rooted in fear. It's because many Americans choose to live a life of fear instead of expanding their experiences and learning about others different than themselves.
We need a quick injection of cultural competency STAT!
America is a relatively new country and we are just a small percentage of the world's population (4.45 percent). The world population is estimated at 7.112 billion people and the U.S. population is estimated at 316 million. But, more importantly, we are an immigrant nation. Most of us came from another country. At one time we were all foreigners. And the shading of skin in this country is growing. According to the census bureau, 49.9 percent of all American children under the age of 5 are currently not white.
It's time to wake up and get a reality check. America is a diversified nation and we live in a global community. Like it or not. "Americans" are no longer defined by their skin color. And that's a good thing. Just ask our President.
Congratulations Miss America. You have a lot of work to do.
Dr. Reef Karim
Psychiatrist, Behavioral Expert
Follow Reef Karim, D.O. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drreef