I didn’t watch the Miss America pageant Sunday, but boy oh boy did I hear about it.
New York’s Nina Davuluri became the first Indian American (and Asian American) to win the Miss America title, and news of the racist tweets marking her as “a dot head,” an “Arab,” and a “terrorist” began flooding my newsfeeds almost immediately.
I won’t recount a long list of some of the most heinous tweets aimed at Davuluri, but here are a few that have received a LOT of attention:
Wow. Miss America is a damn dot head.
— Dan•Yell (@DNEzell) September 16, 2013
Only reason she won is bc her people said they would lower gas prices
— Dallas Robinson (@DallasRobinson8) September 16, 2013
(And if these weren’t enough, feel free to check out more seriously alarming tweets at the “Public Shaming” Tumblr.)
Like many, I was pissed, and as someone who identifies as Asian American (my mother is Filipina and my father is Italian), my anger and disgust were amplified. Here was yet another example of how racism in America is far from extinct—and it was exasperating. I mean, come on. Don’t these people know that this country was built on the backs of immigrants? That even the white people that came over on the Mayflower weren’t “American” at all? And, oh yeah, she isn’t Arab!
I began voraciously reading and documenting all of these hate tweets, feeding my anger, brainstorming rhetorical attacks on these racist ignoramouses, and allowing my blood pressure to rise by the millisecond. I’d have something to say about this—yes, I would.
But then, I caught myself. I was being consumed by hate for these people, and I was pouring all of my energy into ripping them apart. But to combat my rage and the ugliness on my screen, why wasn’t I spending my energy searching for tweets of support and congratulations for Davuluri? Why wasn’t I fighting the hateful backlash and my own fury with messages of love? There are good people out there, right? Right. After a few minutes of scouring Twitter, here’s what I found.
Today I heard someone talk about 9/11 and the injustice of having an ‘arabic’ Miss America. Allow me to buy you a map and some common sense.
— Emily Brewer (@eebee23) September 17, 2013
Congrats to the new Miss America. Every ignorant person calling her a terrorist, take several seats with your insecure self.
— Lilly Singh (@IISuperwomanII) September 16, 2013
Nina Davuluri is the first Indian-American woman to be crowned @MissAmerica <3. Congrats for making history. xxRR
— Rachel Roy (@Rachel_Roy) September 16, 2013
So yes, good people exist! But why isn’t the media throwing up pages of positive tweets the way they’ve been spitting out pages (and Tumblrs) of the negative ones?
News organizations and journalists have covered the crap out of the racialized panic that ensued after Davuluri was crowned because that’s our job. We expose injustices and wrongdoings, and then we use our words, photos, videocameras and taperecorders to defend against them or fend them off.
For example, CNN, Buzzfeed and Salon.com have shamed the haters with their coverage of the episode, so much so that many of the Twitter hatemongers have apologized or shut down their accounts altogether. And social analysts such as The Philly Post contributor Maya K. Francis are using their powers of keen and unapologetic social analysis to rhetorically rip the haters a new one. (Be sure to check out Francis’ recent post on how Davuluri might just be the most American Miss America yet.)
But even though journalists are taking on the cause and rallying to defend Davuluri’s Americanness, hardly anyone is talking about the tweeters who used the social platform to fight the hate–because they’re too busy talking about the tweeters who used it to perpetuate the hate. Why?
I have two theories:
- Because (as sickening as it is) hatred, and pretty much all things evil, are sexy. We pick up the newspapers and magazines with scandal and backstabbing splattered across the front pages. And when something tragic happens, we want the dirty details and we want to know who to point fingers at. Only after the dust settles do we take a minute to highlight the good that arises from each tragedy, whether it’s the story of a heroic first-responder, or the tale of a community that comes together in support or grief. In short, hate (like sex) sells.
- Journalists and news conglomerates are soft-core obsessed with trying to be the heroes of society. They want to be the Robin Hoods and the Batmen; they want to be the one to tear you down. So, they don’t post the tweets of support for Davuluri even though they exist. Instead, they publish their own pointed commentary to obliterate the haters themselves.
Who knows if either of my theories are correct, because I certainly don’t. But what we do know (and what this year’s Miss America pageant confirmed) is that the media hyperfocuses on the hate in these kinds of instances. And all displays and acts of love or support receive only a slight nod of recognition … eventually.