Miss America: Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency

Via Michael Loccisano / Getty Images, taken from BuzzFeed

Via Michael Loccisano / Getty Images, taken from BuzzFeed

To be honest, I don’t even watch the Miss America pageant. On Sunday night I was snuggled up on the couch watching the season finale of The Newsroom. But as I soon found out, I was missing history in the making as the first Indian American woman, Nina Davuluri was crowned.

This is an incredible milestone, and one that cannot go unrecognized.

Being the social media enthusiast that I am, I checked my Twitter feed after The Newsroom finale to see if anyone was tweeting meaningful quotes or scene clips from the episode. As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I noticed a Tweet that read: “My dad is literally cussing every other word because Miss America is not even American #MissAmerica.” At first I didn’t know what to think. I thought maybe it was a joke or something. I soon realized that this was one of many racist views being bombarded across Twitter.

It was not long before BuzzFeed concocted one of their notorious articles (what would we do without BuzzFeed?) highlighting the racist comments and exposing these Tweets for what they were: extremely ignorant.

I want to take this time to bring the conversation back to Nina Davuluri and why it is so awesome that she won Miss America.

Did you know that because of her participation in Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Program she won $25,000 in scholarship money to put towards her education and was able to graduate debt free from the University of Michigan?

But Davuluri’s educational ambitions don’t stop there. She is also now in the process of applying to medical school. The backwardness of the current education system is a large part to why she got back into the pageant business: a means to fund her education (…or at least a fraction of it).

Davuluri is 24 and has just been nominated to serve as “a role model to young and old alike, and a spokesperson, using her title to educate millions [yes millions] of Americans on an issue of importance to herself and society at large.” And what is Davuluri’s message? Celebrating diversity through cultural competency. No big deal.

Now, if all of THAT is not an excellent demonstration of taking the lead, then I’m not sure what is.

When asked to comment on the racist backlash, Davuluri said that “for every one negative tweet or comment that I have seen or received, I have received dozens of positive words of encouragement, support, and love.”

Davuluri: 1. Racism: 0.

I think that for a single person to rise above the ignorance and hate of others requires a level of leadership and self-confidence that takes an immense amount of strength, compassion, and a vision for something greater. And in the case of the unspeakable public displays of racism against Davuluri, I think it is safe to say that she is just a rock star for rising above and continuing with her message of “I wouldn’t want to change someone’s looks. Be confident in who you are.”

Davuluri is changing the narrative of Miss America. And while you, like me, may not even really follow the pageant, I think we can agree that it’s changing. And that Davuluri’s win sparked a much needed conversation about discrimination, cultural awareness, dangerously narrow constrictions of what it means to be beautiful, and embracing a new narrative of the Miss America pageant.

And to those of you who are sick and tired of people tweeting racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. comments, remember that you can report it. Or, just be comforted in knowing that BuzzFeed will call out the ridiculousness in an article. And that 61,000 people on Facebook and another 15,000 people on Twitter will then share that article. Be consoled by hope in knowing that social media users are highlighting ignorant comments and are not allowing the racist thoughts of a few, to be the representative beliefs of the whole. Not on our watch.

Kaitlin writes about current events, pop culture, and innovative ways to promote gender equality through online advocacy. Read more of Kaitlin’s posts here.

About the Author

Kaitlin Rattiganis a recent graduate with an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Gender and Peacebuilding. She is a firm believer in social media as an effective and meaningful tool to promote positive societal change. Never underestimate the power of 140 characters. Kaitlin is a voice for the Millennials, a constructive disruptionist, an advocate for women’s leadership, and is a believer in challenging and expanding the definitions of what it means to be a feminist. For gender-analytical fem-tastic commentary on current events, follow Kaitlin@KaitlinRattigan. Do you have an issue you want highlighted on The Movement Blog? Is there an area within women’s leadership that you feel passionate about and want to share with a wide audience? Feel free to send Kaitlin a DM or Tweet to@KaitlinRattiganwith the hashtag #Women2025 and let’s keep the conversation going and work together to propel women into their equal share of leadership positions by 2025.