Miss America Organization promotes cultural diversity

by Claire Hunter

Nina Davuluri of New York was crowned the 87th Miss America on Sept. 15, becoming the first American of Indian descent to hold the title. While her parents emigrated from India, Davuluri was born in Fayetteville, N.Y., said CNN.com’s AnneClaire Stapleton.

As the winner of Miss America, Davuluri will receive a scholarship of $50,000, which she plans to use for medical school. She will  spend the next year on a national speaking tour, presenting her platform of “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency,” according to the official Miss America website.

At Whitworth, we often sprinkle the word “diversity” into hot-topic conversations (and for good reason). Yes, there is an ongoing need for cultural diversity, but we also need influential organizations, such as Miss America, to follow through on their commitment to diversity. Too often organizations say, “We need diversity,” only to forget or become stagnant down the road.

Media feedback about the new Miss America selection ranges from displeasure to elation to downright hostility. Comments too hateful to print in this article appeared across the Internet’s social media websites.

I am not including examples because these comments detract from the main lesson to be learned from the public reaction: racism is still present in the land of the free, and anyone who says it is no longer an issue is either lying or completely oblivious.

In response to this relatively small but vocal displeasure, the Miss America Organization needs to go above and beyond to support Davuluri in her campaign. If the organization only supports Davuluri through her campaign, then returns to their regular agenda as soon as her yearlong reign is over, they will have missed a great opportunity to elicit change. The organization has the potential to  greatly influence the public perception of a “true American.”

America, as anyone who has cracked open a history book knows, is a strange stew consisting of the entire world’s input. We have a paradoxical culture, meaning that our identity is actually a mishmash of many differing cultures. Our enigmatic culture is what makes our country truly wonderful, but this confusion often leads Americans to experience identity crises. In order for us to remember to embrace the paradox that is “American” culture, we need to make readjustments every once in awhile.

The Miss America Organization, which was created to praise admirable qualities in our female citizens, acts as a representative within our own nation as well as to other nations. With our citizens now a captive audience through this unfortunate controversy, how will the organization use this prominence to remind the American people what the “true” face of America looks like?

Contact Claire Hunter at chunter15@my.whitworth.edu

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