I know that not all conservatives are racist. And not all racists are conservative. But it’s fair to say that most racists are conservative. What’s more, if it weren’t for white racial resentment, Republicans would not be an important force in national politics. And I understand: we all have our demons—irrational attitudes that we do our best to fight. But too often in this country, one side of the political establishment fosters our worst impulses and makes what should be shameful, acceptable and even thrilling.
Yesterday, Nina Davuluri became Miss America 2014. Normally, Miss Whatever pageants come and go without my ever noticing. But this year was different because Ms. Davuluri is different: she is the daughter of two people originally from India. Now when I think of India, I think of this great line from Roger Hodge describing Obama’s tendency to look at things on the one hand and then the other, which he described as being “like some hyper-discursive blue-skinned Hindu deity.” Other than that, India for me is Satyajit Ray, Gandhi, and my favorite food in all the world.
To most American, however, India is just a place filled with those people who attacked us. This is despite the fact that India is more Hindu (80%) than America is Christian (75%). So after Davuluri won the pageant, the ignorance and hate came out in abundance. On Twitter, of course! POOKIE tweeted, “And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.” De La Rutherford offered, “Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you.” And Wendy Fraser got right to the point, “nice slap in the face to the people of 9-11 how pathetic.” Of course: Davuluri is not Arab; she is not Al-Qaeda; and neither she nor her “people” had anything to do with 9/11.
There were other tweets that were only racist—they appeared to know that not all darker skinned people are from the same country. There were a number of 7-11 “jokes.” For example, CHEEZ-IT tweeted, “Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11.” I would only note that a lot of convenience stores that seem to be owned by Indians are actually owned by Pakistanis, who are in general Muslims. If these people would just educate themselves a bit more, they could get their hate out into public much more effectively!
Much of the anger seems to have come from people who wanted Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, to win. She was in the Kansas Army National Guard. She enjoys hunting, supposedly. She has tattoos. She’s blond. Basically, she’s a redneck’s wet dream. I hate to ruin the fantasy, but Vail is actually a French name, although it probably came through England, so that may take some of the sting off. Regardless, she’s a pretty girl. Personally, I think Davuluri is prettier and looks more like the kind of young lady I would want representing my nation at mall openings all across this great land of ours. But whatever; I don’t claim to be a good barometer of the country.
But what was most offensive in the tweets was the idea that someone whose parents immigrated to the United States is not a real American. Savannah Dale tweeted, “Miss New York is an Indian.. With all do respect, this is America.” (I think we should all “do respect,” but I don’t think that’s what she meant.) To me, there is nothing more real than people who choose America over the land that they were born in. So while the rest of the ignorance and intolerance bugs me, this idea really makes me angry. This is really at the base of my disappointment with America. All the ideals that I grew up believing in are thrown to the side by vast swaths of people who call themselves “real Americans.”
The truth is that there will always be people with marginal opinions. But elites set the terms of the debate. And all of this evil nonsense makes me think of Sarah Palin. She more than any other figure in America has pushed the idea that there is a “real” America. We liberals on the costs are inauthentic. I don’t think that Palin necessarily knows that such claims are racist dog whistles, but I know she doesn’t care. The people who tweeted out these vile thoughts are to be pitied. Their small worlds are all the punishment they deserve. But Palin and really most of the rest of the conservative establishment deserve to be run out of the country. They are the ones who do not understand and appreciate the ideals of this country.
H/T: Richard Barry
Update (16 September 2013 10:49 pm)
I blew it! I just found this perfect picture of Vail with a young deer she tortured to death. Don’t she look happy?! Maybe all the bigots are right: she is the perfect representative of our country.