Last night, Nina Davuluri became the first Indian-American woman to win the Miss America pageant. Following the announcement, it seems that most Americans only had racist things to say in response to the historical moment. At least, that was the impression I got from my social media circles, which spread around a Buzzfeed article titled "A Lot Of People Are Very Upset That An Indian-American Woman Won The Miss America Pageant." In the piece, the author states that the Twittersphere "exploded with hateful tweets" in response to Davuluri winning, some of which connected Davuluri to al Qaeda and 9/11.
Since the post went up past midnight, its garnered more than 1 million views (and even sprouted a similar story by CNN.com, among other outlets). But ultimately reading this article, my source of outrage didn't go towards the actual perpetrators of the tweets -- you see, they're dumb (and based on their profile photos, quite young). No, I'm disappointed that the main narrative surrounding the event is now about ignorant people being ignorant rather than the actual story, which, obviously, was about a beautiful woman becoming the first Indian-American to win Miss America.
Many of the users who posted racist tweets that were put on blast by various outlets ultimately deleted their comments and Twitter accounts, but among those who didn't was at least one girl in middle school and several high schoolers.
I'm probably not alone in being extremely thankful that Twitter didn't exist before my brain was fully-developed, and its probably not a stretch to posit that these children didn't intend their thoughts to be widely circulated.
We are living in a society where live events are accompanied by a running commentary conducted by millions via Twitter. And yes, some of those tweets will likely, at any given time, spout hate and ignorance. But oddly, when I decided to search Twitter for tweets about the Miss America pageant, my results exploded too, except I used slightly different terms, such as "Miss America" and "Gorgeous":
The new Miss America is freaking gorgeous. ❤👑
— Kenya (@kenyakaylaa) September 16, 2013
Miss America 2014 is gorgeous
— Nancy H. (@JustNancyy) September 16, 2013
The new Miss America is gorgeous #congrats !
— Camille (@lovecamilleann) September 16, 2013
Let's get more specific and try, "Miss America stunningly beautiful":
the newly crowned #MissAmerica is stunningly beautiful.
— weaselweaver (@mikeytheweasel) September 16, 2013
Congratulations to the new #MissAmerica!!! She is poised, well spoken and stunningly beautiful!! So proud!! 👸🌟👑👠💄
— Kelly Gaudet Edwards (@MrsKellyEdwards) September 16, 2013
Let's go even more specific: "Most Beautiful Miss America Ever":
@MissAmerica You are the most beautiful woman ever to win the crown. Congratulations!
— Jane Doe (@janedoeRBHS) September 16, 2013
Well deserved Miss America!!! Miss New York is by far one of the most beautiful Miss America I've ever seen.
— Krissy Ann™ (@KrissiiAnn) September 16, 2013
Regardless of what complimentary terms I searched, there were many more people who weren't tweeting racist things about our new Miss America. But I'm guessing that Nina Davuluri won't be hounded to address these positive tweets in coming weeks.
There's little debating that racism is still prevalent in America, but last night wasn't about racism. It was about a long overdue event that overcame it. I'm hardly a pageant aficionado, but I'm proud to live in a multicultural country that is able to recognize beauty regardless of race.
Many of us, and this is a trap I often fall into, are desperate to put ignorant comments on blast in order to feel a sort of moral superiority. Doing so never actually makes us feel better, but rather just fills us with an anger that we secretly probably love because it reaffirms our own beliefs. As a result, we make Snooki a best-selling author, give Honey Boo Boo record-breaking ratings and even have Congressional hearings addressing the use of steroids in baseball -- all in order to feed our craving for outrage. But there's no winning, because secretly, it's likely that we don't want these things that we often label as the bane of society to go away. Just imagine how bored we'd be.
Ultimately, I'm not helping anything by dignifying Ted Nugent's insane comments or pointing out that the Westboro Baptist Church spouts ignorance. History and common sense are much better at fighting objective stupidity than I am.
So regardless of how tempting it is to be sucked into the outrage, I hope that I, and others, can remember that last night was about Nina Davuluri and not a bunch of ignorant kids.