This past Sunday I watched the Miss America Pageant on TV. I was glad to see it return to its roots in Atlantic City where it began in 1921. It was exciting to observe the various local points of interest featured during the pageant, including historic Boardwalk Hall. (Whether or not beauty contests send the proper message to young women is the subject of debate for another day.)
The winner this year, Nina Davuluri, is of Indian descent—not the Native-American variety, but from India in South Asia.
Many stories about her victory included the racial slurs and unfavorable comments generated because of her racial background. Some of the published tweets from Twitter are distasteful, to say the least.
It is sad to see that some Americans still can voice (or text, tweet, etc.) visceral comments against another person because of race. We, as a nation, have certainly come a long way with an African-American (bi-racial) president in the White House. Many people, fortunately, have the ability to be color–blind when it comes to a person’s skin and try to see who the person is on the inside.
Then, we have the followers of Archie Bunker still around spewing out racial slurs, derogatory comments and various insults. (I fall in the meathead category, being of Polish-American descent.)
I remember a song I learned back in Catholic elementary school as a child. The song asked: “What color is God’s skin?” The answer came back: “. . . It's black, brown, it's yellow, it is red, it is white. Everyone's the same in the good Lord's sight.” Yes, it was a little ditty from those Kumbaya days still ingrained in my mind. Please don’t tell my friends.
America is a nation of immigrants. The diversity of races and cultures has made us a tolerant people and a strong nation in so many ways. This is not to say that we haven’t faced many, many challenges over the years. Unfortunately, prejudice still rears its ugly head far too often.
Within our Catholic Church, we need to strive constantly to rise above all forms of prejudice, following the instruction of St. Paul:
For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3: 26-28)
Congratulations Nina on being the first Indian-American Miss America! My hope and prayers are with you to rise about the many obstacles that still exist when people judge others by their color of skin.
What’s in the heart is certainly much more important!
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Miss America 2014: Nina Davuluri