To paraphrase Shakespeare, uneasy lies the bouffant that wears the tiara.
Who would have thought, in the joyful anticipation of the pageants return to Atlantic City, that the coronation of the new Miss America would be fraught with controversy.
Yes, one contestant had tattoos and combat boots, but she was also hot, blond and the favorite among real, 100 percent Americans.
Which, come to think of it, was part of the controversy.
As we all now know, Nina Davuluri was crowned queen Sunday evening, prompting jubilation among some and revulsion among others.
The first Indian-American to be elevated to the symbolic throne presented herself as the diversity contestant, which is a little strange since her first runner-up was of Chinese descent, one of the other ladies had Native American blood running through her veins and the runway was filled with a rainbow of skin colors, from dark chocolate to freckle-speckled.
But you understood where the former Miss New York was coming from when she said that she was thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to the new Miss America. She was channeling the philosophy that makes this country great, the recognition that we are all immigrants and that the most beautiful American Miss is the one in New York Harbor.
Still, Im always a bit uncomfortable when someone talks about how great it is that little kids can finally relate to someone primarily based on cultural complicity. It dilutes, for me, the potency of that wonderful masala stew in our national melting pot. Children should be able to identify with accomplishment regardless of color, religion, physical ability or political affiliation.
It is Miss America, after all, not Miss Special Interest Group. When Nina made reference to those non-Caucasian kids who would likely be delighted at her win (because lets be honest, she wasnt exactly thinking about Marcia Brady), I had a brief flashback to Michelle Obama, who made an offhand but ill-advised statement about finally being proud of her country after husband Barack won the Democratic nomination for president.
Outrageous attacks on Twitter
And then, all of that went out the window when I saw what happened moments after the tiara was affixed to her head. Social media went crazy, with people making very specific comments about why this lovely Indian-American didnt represent them. The pageants Facebook page started filling up with comments like Disgusted that a true 100 percent American did not win, and Twitter fielded outrageous attacks on her patriotism.
My first thought was that people who make a big deal about national purity arent that far removed from the guys who manned Auschwitz in the 1930s. Anyone who questions the legitimacy of a person based on the fact that they diverge from the mythic blond (even dark-rooted) ideal should take a remedial civics class.
And as someone who spends most of the day dealing with people who want to become Americans and make huge sacrifices to that end, the thought that my native-born brothers and sisters could be racist enough to attack another native-born sibling because she looks more Bollywood than Hollywood is enough to make me join the ACLU (well, not really, but I wanted to show the desperate lengths to which Id be driven).
Playing diversity card
The story doesnt end there, however. There is some blame to be laid at the sea-dipping toes of the newest beauty queen. Nina Davuluri didnt deserve any of the invective thrown at her by cowardly racists typing away in their parents basements. She showed a great deal of dignity in reacting to the attacks by saying, I have to rise above that. I always viewed myself as first and foremost an American.
Which is, indeed, admirable. But if thats the case, perhaps she shouldnt have started talking about the little children out there who, finally, would feel as if they had a piece of the Indian-American samosa simply because the lady in the sash looked like them. Diversity is always valuable, except when you start considering it an end in and of itself.
Im thrilled to be Italian, and love the fact that the smartest guy on the Supreme Court is also a rowdy paisano, but its the rare day that I actually think about my ethnicity as something to sing about. Maybe it would be different if the new Miss America were an Italian-American named Anna Maria Scalia, but I doubt it.
There is no excuse for bigotry. The knuckle-dragging idiots who wanted Miss Kansas to win because she was the real American since she was in the military (and, one suspects, because she looked the part) are making it a lot easier for the Nina Davuluris of the world to continue advancing the kind of diversity agenda that, whether we like it or not, tends to divide instead of unite.
As our versatile dramaturge once said: A plague on both their houses.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less