I don’t watch the Miss America pageant. There are two good reasons for this. First, I don’t watch much television, and second, I think it’s the weirdest thing. I know folks complain that the pageant tends to objectify women more than empower them, but I could easily be convinced that this isn’t the case. Instead, the pageant reminds me of my old high school prom. All of these beautiful women are there in their beautiful gowns, but no one has a date. (I’ve always thought it’d be awesome to show all those girls standing on the stage in all their finery, and then pan to the punchbowl where all the dudes are standing in their tuxedos looking sheepish and trying to pretend that they are not dying on the inside because they can’t dance with any of those girls.)
So I was completely unaware that Miss America happened until I saw it on social media. Unfortunately, the first bit I saw about the pageant was this BuzzFeed article about people being “very upset” that Miss America is of Indian descent. Buzzfeed helpfully collected for us the dumbest tweets on the Internet for us to groan at in all of their ignorant glory. And I do mean ignorant. One of of my favorites is “And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.” An Arab? And then there’s this gem: “How the f*** does a foreigner win miss America? She is a Arab! #idiots”
To be sure, these tweets are double-facepalm bad. They’re bad because people don’t know the difference between someone being of ethnic Arab descent and of ethnic Indian descent, or the fact that someone born in Syracuse, New York is actually 100% American. But really, I don’t think these tweets are something that we ought to get worked up about. Yes, they’re awful, and I pity the ignorance that inspired them. But we have to remember that this is a very, very small slice of the Twitter pie.
Twitter currently has around half a billion people signed up to use its service. Despite the fact that at least 500 million(!) people could have tweeted about Miss America the other night, only an apparent handful said mean, horrible things. If you look at the lists that BuzzFeed and AL.com compiled, you’ll find that they quoted many of the same tweets. That means this is basically what their search came up with, a few idiots among a vast, vast majority who either didn’t care about the pageant enough to tweet about it, or said things that weren’t awful. Even a cursory examination of Twitter will reveal that the positive reinforcement for Miss Davuluri greatly outweighed whatever negativity might have popped up. Just check out the encouragement at @MissAmerica on Twitter!
Let’s be careful how we judge the “racism level” of the United States based on a small slice of Twitter. Yes, racism is real and it is ugly. By and large, though, the Twitter response has been encouraging toward the new Miss America. But hey, titles like “People Say Really Nice Things About Miss America on Twitter!” doesn’t garner the hits that a compilation of racist tweets will, right BuzzFeed?