Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How the Media Missed Miss Amercia

When Miss New York, Nina Davuluri won the Miss America crown, most of America missed the point.

I'm not talking about all the racist trolls baiting the internet from the anonymity they found under a bridge. BuzzFeed has done a fine job calling them out by their Twitter names likely to bring them fifteen minutes of fame before their teachers and parents find out what they've been saying.

Sure, some will get support from the redder necked parts of the hate states, but for every nasty comment retweeted or recounted in an article, there are hundreds of comments calling them out as the disgusting bags of garbage that they are.

What I'm talking about is the media itself and the fact that most outlets have decided to highlight the hate in their comment feeds rather than discuss who Nina Davuluri actually is.

Let's face it, a lot of us didn't follow the pageant. Had Miss (some white girl) won, many of us would have awoken Monday morning unaware that the pageant had even taken place.

Instead we woke to Facebook comments and articles all decrying the seemingly endless anger over Davuluri's win. Many nameless commenters called her "Arab," as if that should matter. Some even called her a terrorist. According to CNN, it would seem that most of America was wondering why a "foreigner" won Miss America. The last thing any media outlet bothered to tell us anything about was Nina Davuluri, the woman who won. 

Our own Philadelphia Inquirer called her win a "controversial reign."

What's controversial? Did the audience at the pageant stand and boo? Was the election rigged? Is the fact that she looks like millions of other ethnically diverse Americans controversial?

Or is the fact that the media allows a platform for race baiting, encouraging comments as a means to sell advertising, controversial? Is the fact that media outlets are pretending to be dumfounded that these racists exist controversial?

The media is certainly fanning the flames to their own advantage.

One local columnist went as far as to criticize Davuluri for some of the comments she made following her win, paraphrasing the newly crowned beauty queen's remarks towards children who "finally, would feel as if they had a piece of the Indian-American samosa simply because the lady in the sash looked like them."

Christine Flowers of the Daily News actually said that, and the newspaper printed it.

Flowers went as far as to compare her own Italian-American identity - in Philadelphia -  to that of an ethnicity many people, if trollish comments are to be believed, equate with terrorism.

There's a reason Davuluri's victory is significant, and that reason is evident in the comments on Philly.com, CNN.com, and Twitter. Those children she's speaking to, those who face that kind of hatred and bigotry in the classroom, are what makes her victory significant.

To decry Davuluri's message to children who face hate every day, hate they don't even understand, as some kind of reverse racism is to embrace the fallacy that reverse racism exists. To claim that being Italian-American creates a common bond with those institutionally discriminated against displays a complete lack of empathy and understanding of the world we live in, particularly when placed against the backdrop of the hateful comments levied against Davuluri.

Of all professions, these are things a reporter should understand.

As a Greek-American raised in a hate state I merely struggled with a last name few people knew how to pronounce. For Flowers, a Sopranos joke here and there cannot possibly translate into the kind of prejudice Indian-Americans, Middle Eastern-Americans, and African-Americans face everywhere, every day.

Get real. The fallacy of a post-racial America has been exhausted, disproven by the comments below any online article in the world, any article a journalist like Christine Flowers has ever posted.

That's why Nina Davuluri's win is significant. That's why her message to the young girls she understands, sympathizes with, and relates to, is even more significant.

And that's why journalists like Flowers need a reality check, or need to pass the story to someone who gets it. Someone who can tell us something about Nina Davuluri instead of using her job as a place to explore her own insecurities.

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