Pageant problems: Racism is still a factor

My parents were mightily confused one Saturday when they came home from a night out and my babysitter tried to explain why I was: 1) still awake and 2) sobbing uncontrollably.

Finally, she was able to explain. She: 1) had let me stay up to watch the Miss America pageant and 2) Miss Hawaii had not be crowned Miss America, sending me into hysterical crying.

My guess is I was 5 or 6, but I really don’t remember that detail. What I do remember is how important the Miss America pageant was to me as a child who loved fairy tales and princesses and sparkly everything.

And as a tween, I watched the broadcast each year as some beautiful young woman won the crown, serenaded in the early years by pageant host Bert Parks with the familiar “There she is… Miss America…”

It was during high school I stopped watching the pageant and since that time, I’ve only vaguely paid attention to who won the crown.

This past Sunday, I tuned in to the pageant for the first time in years, frankly only because I was flipping channels during the rain delay in the Sunday Night Football game. The pageant captured my attention because the TV hostess was actually joking around with the contestants who did not make the top tier.

This was not the mostly somber, serious Miss America I remember from the days of my youth. The talent portion of the pageant was on the next time I flipped back and I caught a gorgeous young woman doing some sort of Indian dance, resplendent in a colorful costume.

The game came back on and in the morning when I looked online to find out who won the Miss America crown, it was the young lady who was doing the Indian dance. Good for her.

But reading the accompanying story made me nauseated: People had immediately gotten on Twitter to attack the winner, Nina Davuluri, strictly on the basis of her color.

This beautiful young lady, who is of Indian heritage, was called by some an Arab and by other a terrorist. One Twitter poster said her victory was President Obama’s doing.

Are you kidding me?

The first question Davuluri was asked at the press conference after the pageant was about those ignorant attacks. Bless her for her response.

“I have to rise above that,” said Davuluri, who competed as Miss New York. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

That on a night when she made a dream come true, Miss Davuluri should not have had to rise above anything. She’s planning to use the scholarship money she earned with the crown to attend medical school, further asserting how much more intelligent she is than those morons who went on the attack, but the entire incident makes me angry and sad.

Are we really so backward, still, in this country in 2013 that an Asian-American has to go on the defensive for winning a scholarship pageant?

Miss America hasn’t been on my radar in the last couple of decades, but Nina Davuluri will be someone I keep track of during the next year as she wears the crown.

She will no doubt bring acclaim to the title.

For the first time in years, the Miss America pageant made me cry, this time for much worse reasons than my favorite contestant not winning the title. Here’s hoping Miss America 2014 doesn’t encounter more of this irrational racism during what should be the greatest year of her life.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is