Beauty Queen Is ‘Not American Enough’

She Matters: Note to Twitter racists: Miss America, Nina Davuluri, is just as American as you.

Nina Davuluri, 2014 Miss America Winner (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Nina Davuluri, 2014 Miss America Winner (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Uh … Davuluri is American. She’s from New York. Calling Davuluri un-American when she was born on American soil 24 years ago is to ignore the 14th Amendment. But accuracy is just a minor technicality, right? What people really were upset over had nothing to do with where Davuluri was actually born or the laws outlined in the Constitution, and everything to do with the incredibly narrow way that being “American” is defined: baseball, apple pie, capitalism and, above anything else, white.

So it’s no surprise that Davuluri’s brown skin, her message of “celebrating diversity through cultural competency” and her pageant performance of a Bollywood fusion dance — a nod to her Indian ethnicity — didn’t go over so well with some. Maybe she should have twerked? That’s the current American dance craze, right?

Judging by the barrage of anti-Davuluri tweets and the logic of them, diversity is only a buzzword worth trotting out to keep corporations from being sued for discrimination. And diversity is worth celebrating when folks want to try authentic spicy food on Friday nights or Disney needs some “umph” to get people to the theaters for its latest princess story. Diversity isn’t intended to actually be practiced or anything, and certainly not by awarding a brown woman of American nationality a pageant title that’s supposed to be reserved for white women.

Who was American enough? Miss Kansas. Not surprisingly, she’s blond (and white). And, quite surprisingly, an Army sergeant with the entire Serenity Prayer tattooed on her side in black ink. She won the “America’s Vote” segment of the pageant. Fox News commentator Todd Starnes tweeted of her, “The liberal Miss America judges won’t say this — but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values.”

Is white a value, or just more valued? There’s a difference. And I ask because I haven’t read anything at all about Davuluri that indicates she doesn’t represent “American values.” Oh, except by not being white.

When asked about the controversy she unwittingly caused by winning while brown, Davuluri took the high road in true beauty queen form: “I have to rise above that,” she told the Associated Press. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

I’m counting down the days until Trump or someone from Fox News asks to see her birth certificate.

Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life.