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Race has been in the news lately, thanks in part to the recent 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Progress has been made in the fight for racial equality during the last 50 years. For example, it would have been impossible in 1963 for an African-American male to run for president, let alone get elected.
But even though an African-American family now calls the White House home, we are frequently reminded that King’s “dream” for America has yet to come true.
One such reminder was the recent selection of Nina Davuluri, a young New Yorker of Indian descent, as Miss America 2014.
For me, the selection of this beautiful, 24-year-old woman from Syracuse, who hopes to be a doctor one day, was itself a huge sign of progress and something all Americans should celebrate.
But the aftermath of her victory showed me that as a nation we’ve still got much climbing to do before we reach King’s mountaintop.
No sooner had Davuluri been crowned than Twitter lit up with racist comments such as “This is Miss America, not Miss Foreign Country,” “How the ... does a foreigner win Miss America? She is a Arab!” and “Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11.” She was also called a terrorist and a member of al-Qaida.
Obviously, such hateful comments are not only false, but ignorant. I refuse to believe they represent the opinions of the vast majority of Americans.
And I don’t believe they will overshadow the positive impact this outstanding young woman will have as Miss America. She’s already shown tremendous strength and grace in how she has responded to the hateful comments.
However, just the fact that such ignorance and hatred still exist in this country is, in my opinion, sad.
Why is Nina Davuluri less than American just because her family is from India? Following that logic, than I, too, am less than American, since my ancestors came from Europe.
What these hateful people always seem to conveniently forget is that unless they are 100 percent Native American, they too are a Mr. or Miss Foreign Country. Even if they were born in the United States, somewhere back in time their ancestors came here from another country, just as the Davuluri family did.
I don’t know, maybe it’s just built into our DNA to fear, distrust and dislike anyone different from us, to see our truth as the only truth.
While King’s “I have a dream” speech focused on race, I believe his dream encompasses much more. I believe that when we finally reach the top of King’s mountain all people will be treated with equal love and respect, regardless of their race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation.
But it’s a long and difficult climb. Every time I think we’re nearing the top, something happens that shows me we’re not there yet.
Perhaps it’s yet another man demanding that we all live exactly as he would have us live and believe exactly what he would have us believe.
Every man is entitled to his beliefs, but I don’t believe he’s entitled to force them on others.
I’m leery of anyone who claims to know all the answers. I certainly don’t. About the only thing I’m certain of is this: No matter what you or I believe to be the absolute truth, there are hundreds of millions of people on this planet who think we’re both wrong.
And you know what? They could be right.
Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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