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Nina Davuluri’s Episode Reflects The Racist Intolerance In The West #MissAmerica2013

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By Saumya Sahni:

The tiara had just been placed on the lady’s head. The thanksgiving had just started. It was a moment of rejoice for Nina Davuluri, the newly crowned Miss America 2013. Who would have thought that all the sense of an achievement not less than a feat will be marred down moments later after the ceremony? As heartbreaking as it can get, this lady, who became the first American woman of Indian origin to be crowned as Miss America was subjected to racist taunts soon after she was chosen as the winner. Americans took to social networking sites calling her names and labeling her as a terrorist by linking her to the 9/11 attacks because of her being an Arab.

Nina Davuluri

Surely, this is not a maiden instance of racism. A lot of US sitcoms offer an array of racist content. Any Indian who is a part of these sitcoms necessarily has to be portrayed in a stereotypical light. Sample this – We all are hooked to The Big Bang Theory series in India. Kunnal Nayyar’s character of Raj Khootrapalli from the series is constantly subjected to mild racism, be it the portrayal of his family as a conservative South Indian family or the food which he prefers to consume in the show, there is no denying of the fact that elements of racism do exist among Americans.

Similar is the case with How I Met Your Mother, where a certain Barney Stinson has attempted to provoke the sensibilities of Indian women through his lines about them in the show. The memory can still fetch the Jade Goody- Shilpa Shetty showdown inside the Big Brother house. Shilpa was ridiculed for using her hands while eating. Not only this, her skin colour also became the most talked about thing inside the house in a negative sense, of course!

Indians settled abroad aren’t safe either in this context. Racist attacks on Indian students by people abroad are as frequent as are rapes in India today. Sikhs are constantly targeted in US along with Indian taxi drivers there. Hostile emotions are to blame. We have been accustomed to hearing and witnessing so many horrifying stories of racism that the comments on Nina seem like a no big deal. The very fact that she is an Indian, so it has to happen to her/him has settled deep down inside us that we go on requesting our fellow Indians settled abroad not to pay heed to such episodes (Kunal Nayyar of The Big Bang Theory Fame tweeted asking Indians to not to give the matter too much importance).

We as Indians carry a history of being bullied by Britishers. Outside India, our status is that of snake charmers, or as hairy people, or those who consume spicy/unhealthy food, or people with weird accents. It is very easy or rather enjoyable to point fingers at others but highly bothersome if one asks you to look in the mirror and reflect at your own selves. Just because we have a sadistic history, looking down upon our people, it can never be justified and tolerated.

Nina’s grandmother has reiterated in her interviews that Miss Kansas was showered with a lot more attention that the winner. Quite predictable! I will still offer my grand salute to Nina for putting up a brave front all throughtout and standing true to the standards of an Indian to display constant valour. Such comments can break anybody’s morale but Nina has her head held high proving that she is the right choice for the title! Go for it Nina!

Nina also has paved way for many future Ninas who I am sure will never deter from what is coming on their way. The only way to make racism fall flat on its face is by winning more and more titles, achieving more feats at these very foreign lands. The comments will lose validity automatically when we will shine with our sachets or medals!

You must be to comment.
  1. Vaishali Jain

    “The only way to make racism fall flat on its face is by winning more and more titles, achieving more feats at these very foreign lands. The comments will lose validity automatically… ” I agree absolutely with this.

    1. Raj

      And thus give racists the feeling they are being invaded, thus uniting and strengthening their movement.
      Just like what the NDA did when white Sonia Gandhi was about to become the PM

  2. bhavya sahni

    Some valid points here, but, mentioning Koothrapalli as a victim of mild racial attack is taking it a tad too far.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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