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Twitter today’s hotbed of racism

Editorial | Social networks reveal deep ignorance on many levels

Where do you go when you want to witness the country’s most pervasive racists crawl out of the woodwork? Twitter, apparently.

The outcome of Sunday night’s Miss America Pageant sent shockwaves through the twittersphere after Nina Davuluri, a New York native, became the first Indian-American to win the title in the competition’s history. Her father immigrated to the United States from India 30 years ago, and Davuluri’s public retention of her Eastern culture was a momentous occasion both for the Indian community as well as other minorities across our country.

Unfortunately, to many people, her refusal to surrender her cultural identity didn’t seem very “American.”

Hotheads immediately took to Twitter to voice their outrage over the decision. They tweeted racist remarks about Davuluri, saying she looks like a “terrorist” and is a part of Al-Qaeda, dismissing her as “foreign” and inaccurately calling her an “Arab” — as if that’s an insult. The overwhelming Twitter response reflected not only the prevalent racist attitude that is still so apparent in America today, but also the common “othering” that has become a routine of our society. All brown people — Indians and Arabs included — are grouped together into one category and stripped of their unique identities and directly tied to faulty foreign policy abroad. Because Davuluri is brown, she is immediately linked to Al-Qaeda, a group commonly tied to Afghanistan — which is neither Indian nor Arab — and her win becomes offensive because, according to some Twitter users, it’s come a mere days after the anniversary of 9/11. How did we end up there?

The issue of what constitutes being American is clearly in focus here — highlighted in Davuluri’s contrast to one of her biggest competitors, Miss Kansas, who is a blonde, blue-eyed white Army member who loves hunting. And we know so because of Twitter’s ability to give such voices a platform of clear visibility.

Many tweets hid behind the #AmericaForAmericans hashtag, which has become a rallying point of racism on a variety of topics — and the name itself embodies a very narrow ideal of what “America” and “Americans” really are.

We found ourselves at a similar crossroads only a few months ago, when 11-year-old Mexican-American Sebastien de la Cruz sang the national anthem at the NBA Finals.

You guessed it: Twitter was not happy.

Tweets blasted Cruz’s gig as a disgrace to America, calling him “illegal” and bashing his matador suit. Cruz had to deal with an overwhelming wave of negative and ignorant remarks directed at him online. Like Davuluri, Twitter became a soapbox for racists to openly voice their personal and deeply flawed sentiments.

The rise of social networks like Twitter has not only created a new bullet for those in the spotlight to dodge, but has also become a forum to showcase national attitudes on a wider scale. Clearly, people aren’t afraid to be politically incorrect — in a very, very wrong way — when they’re sitting behind computer screens. It only shows us that the façade of greater national tolerance still requires a lot of progress before it can actually start to become reality.

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