Opinions: Nayak knows: Identified


My parents try to keep Indian culture alive in ourhouse, and decor is a big part of that. Along with the usual family portraits and vacation souvenirs displayed in any home, we have representations of Hindu gods and dozens of elephant statues. On the mantle in my living room, two Indian wedding elephant statues march in front of a framed picture of Krishna and Radha, two prominent gods. The other statues along the mantle are of Ganesh, the God of wisdom; Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity; Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra.

Being, Indian-American myself, I was absolutely elated when I heard that Ms. Nina Davuluri was named the first Indian Miss America, Sept. 15. Because I didn’t watch the pageant myself, I took to the Internet to see the coverage of the brand new pageant queen.

After the quick Google search “Indian Miss America,”  I was shocked by the media’s coverage of the public’s backlash.

News outlets publicized the racist, offensive voice of Americans from social networks instead of the fact that she broke a color boundary by winning the title.

While many of the tweets were profane, I found that the most offensive accused Ms. Davuluri of being a terrorist or not an American at all. She does in fact have two Indian parents. However, her birthplace is Syracuse, New York and she has lived in the United States her whole life.

There weren’t any offensive tweets on my personal Twitter feed, but I found some in the reports from national news outlets. Here are just a few:

  • “If you’re #MissAmerica you should have to be American.”
  • “The liberal Miss America judges won’t say this – but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values. #missamerica”
  • “And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.”
  • “How can you be Miss AMERICA and look like you should be a gas station clerk or motel owner? This country though <<< #MissAmerica”

Ms. Davuluri has gone on record with many news organizations that she chooses to rise above the hate.

Ms. Davuluri’s response got me thinking: Do I consider myself first and foremost American?

I am all-too-often asked when on vacation in tourist locations where I am from. When I am in the States, I say “I’m Indian.” However, when I visited England during the summer, my automatic response was “American.”

The truth is that there are so many parts to a person’s identity. There are so many words to categorize people into groups.

I just want to take a minute and clarify because I feel completely comfortable declaring exactly who I “technically” am.

I am an American (nationality), Indian (heritage), Asian (race), Dravidian (ethnicity) seventeen-year-old girl. While I was born in the USA, I am a dual-citizen of The United States of America and India, as are my little brother and both of my parents.

Last year, the first baby was born that made minorities the majority in America. Just because my skin color isn’t white, does not mean I am not an American.

Being Indian (and not white) is only a racial slur when people assume being Indian means I am not American.

I invite people to ask me about my culture, especially when they ask about the holidays my family celebrates. I am representative of the melting pot of American. I am from just one of the dozens of cultures have been able to come together, coexist and share ideas that shape the American culture.

Unless one is Native American, everyone’s ancestors had to have immigrated to the USA.

As I watched clips of the Miss America 2014 pageant on YouTube, I couldn’t help but sense that Ms. Daluvuri embraced her Indian heritage while retaining an All-American pride.

Her talent was a Bollywood dance and during the question round she addressed the importance of feeling confident in an ever-evolving diverse society.

I too value my family’s heritage and my American identity. I stand proudly with Miss America.