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Screw the Racists, the Crowning of Nina Davuluri as Miss America Is Great

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It would be a real shame if the legacy of Nina Davuluri was the collection of racist tweets that followed shortly after she was crowned Miss America.

Davuluri is the first woman of Indian heritage to win the crown, and despite being an American (the 24-year-old grew up in Syracuse, New York) and not a Muslim, bore the brunt of such delightful tweets as: "You're #Miss America you should have to be American,' and "I am literally soo mad right now a ARAB won. #MissAmerica."

The reason I say shame, is that America has come a long way in the last few years when it comes to a better, more positive depiction of ethnic minorities.

nina davuluri

You probably aren't even aware of it, but Davuluri's achievement (and it's no token win by the way - she is stunning) marks a more permanent change in attitude towards Indians or more broadly speaking, ethnic minorities.

When I worked on Asian magazines around a decade ago, we had to pay very close attention to how Asians were depicted in the media, or rather how they were not depicted. Slowly, in the UK, we went from only being portrayed as Mr Patel in the corner shop or the runaway bride from a forced marriage, to more well-rounded characters. Good people, bad people, people who didn't give a stuff about religion, people who did, gay, straight, and so on.

The first proper Asian family on Eastenders was a Big Deal. This wasn't some "I love curry" stereotype but people who messed their lives up just the same as Phil Mitchell.

But while all this progression was being made in the UK, in the US you still had bud bud ding ding stereotypes - characters who looked like myopic computer geeks, spoke with a thick, Indian accent, probably had some goat herder wife 'back home' and originated from some made-up nonsense place that sounded funny like Bigbangwillyistan. For evidence, I give you Kal Penn's character Taj in Van Wilder: Party Liason, whose goal is the 'white taco'.

And while the UK was moving leaps and bounds in terms of integrating societies, cultures, sharing food traditions and putting a brown person on TV because they happened to be a person rather than brown, the US still seemed to be stuck in the dark ages.

Until, I would say, two or three years ago when you began to see characters on US TV who weren't a total stereotypical joke.

As for the ideal of American beauty, I don't think I'm alone in thinking that the stereotype here is tall, long legs, blue eyes and blonde. Standardised beauty in America is no secret - just take a look at the actresses being cast in films and TV roles.

So for an Indian woman to overcome all of that and be crowned 'the most beautiful' actually isn't about feminism or whether you think pageants are demeaning.

It isn't about whether some idiots who don't know what or who an Arab, a Hindu or an American is (and the fact that they don't tells you all you need to know about the level of intellect).

It's about America joining the rest of the world in placing the spotlight over more than one type of beauty, more than one type of cultural background and a way of living. And that's worth celebrating.

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