This morning I woke up to an e-mail from my father which noted how an Indian American had just won Miss America 2013.
In addition, on my Facebook feed I clicked on a story that read “Miss American crowns 1st winner of Indian descent; racist tweets follow.” Clearly many Americans were disturbed and even angry over the idea of a non-white and potentially non-Christian winning a Miss America pageant.
However, Nina Davuluri is indeed an American. She was born and raised in New York and is an American through-and-through.
Ironically, those Americans who bash the Miss American 2013 winner for her Indian descent are fundamentally opposed to Thomas Jefferson’s vision of America as a pluralist society built on liberty and religious freedom.
In a document on religious freedom that was written for the Virginian colonial legislature in 1777, Thomas Jefferson stated that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination” are welcome. Today, a statue of Jefferson stands at the University of Virginia. He is holding a tablet that reads, “Religious Freedom, 1786,” below which is inscribed Allah, alongside God, Jehovah and Brahma.
As I noted in an article for Voice of America in 2012, “some Americans have lost sight of fundamental components of American identity such as tolerance, compassion and openness.”
I have a question for those who oppose Nina Davuluri on the grounds of her ethnic and cultural background: Are you really an American?