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Nina: The Unexpected Hero of Race Relations

180669710Nina Davuluri, if you had said her name to me a few days ago, I would’ve asked you who you were talking about. Now, the world knows that she is the newest Miss America to be crowned and further, a champion of the minority cause. I had never been one to watch the Miss America pageant. While beautiful, scantily-clad girls are always an awesome sight to behold, I never viewed it as a vehicle of social change, especially in light of some of the scholars that have participated in the past…

All that being said, imagine how surprised I was when I was reading the news and seeing Miss America being mentioned all over the place. Unfortunately, this media firestorm wasn’t the result of an exceptionally hot woman getting the honor of the crown, but the reaction to her selection. I won’t go into all that here, but I will say the comments outlined on BuzzFeed were callous, hateful, and ignorant to say the least. Don’t worry if you find yourself cringing, I know I did. Which got me thinking…

How can people be this hateful? Is it solely the actions of a select group? Or is there some sort of shortfall not being addressed in our nation? How can a country that boasts one of the most diverse populations in the world be, in this day and age, so ignorant? I don’t have the answers to these questions. I do believe that education has much to do with the lack of sensitivity, but who can say that with 100% certainty?

What I do know is that Nina now has become a vehicle that embodies the anti-racist segment of America. A person who, as pioneers before her, is giving hope to young women everywhere in her own special way. In a recent interview with AP, she reflects on the reaction of bigots in the country she loves with class and a je ne sais quoi that rivals most politicians, “I have to rise above that. I always viewed myself as first and foremost, American.”

Tuesday the 16th saw a flurry of social media activity bloated with commentary on both sides. People calling the pageant uniquely un-American because of the selection of a minority candidate. Laughable since the country was built on the shoulders of minorities (e.g. the colonial economy, the railroads, etc.). Held in sharp contrast to all the comments that the selection only made the pageant more relatable and more “American”.

So hats off to Nina, and thank you for opening America’s eyes to how far we’ve come and how much further we have left to go. It will be a long and difficult journey, but like all epic journeys, it will be one well worth taking. If I had anything else to say to about the pageant, it would be that they really need to stop throwing softballs at all the white girls. Really? Miley, sexting, then the war in Syria for the Asian girl from California? COME ON!

Alex S. Pak
A young professional with a passion for rhetoric. He was born and raised in Southern California where he attended high school and college. Alex focused his studies on the humanities and is a keen observer of the human condition. In is spare time, enjoys reading, watching movies, and partying like a rock star.

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