By: CAITLIN HART
Racism is dead. North America is progressive. These are all rationalizations we like to tell ourselves. But with the recent crowning of Miss America, it has become all too clear that North America is still steeped in racism.
Nina Davuluri is of Indian decent, and as of Sept. 15 she is also Miss America. To anyone who thought Americans were progressive, the firestorm that arose on Twitter this week proved them wrong. Tweets ranging from, “Miss America right now or Miss Al Qaeda” to “I can’t pronounce “Miss America’s” full name, I don’t consider her Miss America,” prove that many Americans still are not accepting of those from different cultures.
There are many problems with this of course, first and foremost being that these comments are frankly racist. However, the second problem is how misinformed the comments are. Davuluri is of Indian decent, not Middle Eastern. In fact, she is from Syracuse, N.Y. and is in fact American. But according to most of the negative tweeters, Davuluri is not American enough. Many touted that Miss Kansas, with her blonde locks and army-supporting ways, should have won the competition because she is a “true” American.
A large number of tweets also alluded to Davuluri being a “terrorist” or “foreigner,” implying that being from another country is something undesirable. Comments about Al Qaeda brush aside the fact that not everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist.
Think this behaviour excludes Canadians? Think again.
Quebec is currently in a fierce debate over its proposed charter of values , the most recent backlash against multiculturalism in Quebec. If passed, the charter would ban public sector employees such as doctors, civil servants, and teachers from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols such as hijabs or large crucifixes while at work. The aim is to create a neutral state. However, the charter would not ban people from saying prayer at the beginning of city council meetings, or public religious symbols that are “emblematic of Quebec’s cultural heritage.”
The fact still remains that within Quebec those who are francophone are at a greater advantage over those who are not. According to the CBC, 7.1 per cent of government employees in Quebec are considered a visible minority.
This is not unique to North America. In 2004, France banned people from wearing headscarfs in state schools. Currently, there is debate on extending these laws to include universities.
While many first world countries have experienced an influx of immigrants, there is still a negative perception of immigrant culture. While it is important to recognize the identity of those countries, it should not come at the expense of limiting cultural expression. We fear what we do not know, but the solution to this is not to ban it. Rather, we should take the time to understand it.
Miss America represents a new American, one that has a different background but is no less American. She is different, and instead of stamping a stereotype on her, let’s celebrate her difference.