The Miss America contest became relevant again on Sunday with the selection of Nina Davuluri, a smart, outspoken 24 year-old and the pageant's first winner of Indian decent — until Internet thugs tried to blast it back to the Stone Age.
Within moments of Davuluri being crowned the pageant's winner, racist comments flooded Twitter and revealed an ugly, ignorant streak that apparently is still a part of our national psyche.
"If you're #Miss America you should have to be American," tweeted one user.
"WHEN WILL A WHITE WOMAN WIN #MISSAMERICA? Ever??!!" asked another.
Some associated Davuluri with the 9/11 terrorist bombings :
"9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?" asked one.
Another commented, "More like Miss Terrorist #MissAmerica."
What's ironic — and distressing — about the vile comments about our new Miss America, is that Davuluri actually epitomizes the American dream. She was born in Syracuse, New York, to immigrant parents and graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive sciences. She became a beauty pageant contestant in part to help pay for her own education and finished student loan-free. Her father is a physician and she says she'll put her $50,000 Miss America scholarship award toward pursuing her own degree in medicine.
Related: Miss America Contestant Reveals Tattoos, Breaks Taboo
She's also modern young American woman who is clearly proud of her heritage. She studied traditional Indian dance for 15 years and performed a jazzed-up Bollywood number in the talent competition. Her pageant platform was "celebrating diversity through cultural competency," and she told the Syracuse Post Standard that she's dispelled many misconceptions about her background — like whether her parents were planning to arrange her marriage (they're not) — during her year-long campaign leading up to Sunday's televised pageant.
When quizzed in the competition about television personality Julie Chen's recent revelation that she had cosmetic surgery to make her eyes appear less Asian, Davuluri was diplomatic but firm, "I don't agree with plastic surgery, however I can understand that from a standpoint," she said. "More importantly, I've always viewed Miss America as the girl next door. And Miss America is always evolving ... I wouldn't want to change someone's looks. Be confident in who you are."
In a press conference after the competition, Davuluri was asked to comment on the outpouring of racism. "I have to rise above that," she said. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American." She added that her America was one of diversity and inclusion. "I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America."
On Monday, not all, but some of those who had bashed Davuluri on Twitter had backed down, apologizing or even deleting their accounts.