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Friday, October 28, 2016

A couple months ago, I got an email from Supreet.

Supreet is in the 11th grade. He shops at Walmart and plays basketball. His father came to this country from India and both are Sikhs, followers of a centuries-old faith founded in the Punjab region. Supreet wanted to tell me what it is like being a Sikh in America.

He wrote about how, after 9/11, his father became “perhaps the most hated man in our small town.” He wrote about how his dad had to stop wearing the turban Sikh men use to cover their “kesh,” the hair their faith forbids them to cut. He wrote about bullying and depression suffered by young Sikhs. He wrote about black boys who taunted him as “Osama’s son.” He wrote about Wade Michael Page, who in 2012, shot 10 people, killing six, at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, likely thinking it was a mosque. He wrote about how President Obama canceled a visit to a Sikh holy site in 2010, which some people thought was because male visitors are required to cover their heads and Obama didn’t want anyone calling him a Muslim.

“But Sikhs are NOT Muslims,” wrote Supreet. “Why do we keep getting labeled as Muslims?”

It is a plaintive question with which the new Miss America would doubtless sympathize. Nina Davuluri of New York state won the crown last week, becoming the first Indian-American to do so. Her triumph was marred by an eruption of — pardon the tautology — ignorant bigotry on social media.

“Audrey Graham” tweeted, “Miss America is a terrorist. Whatever. It’s fine.”

“Luke Brasili” tweeted, “9/11 was four days ago and she gets miss America?”

“De La Rutherford” tweeted, “Congratulations, Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you.”

And you are almost — almost — less appalled by the bigotry than by the slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, dull-eyed ignorance of people so stupefyingly uninformed that they can’t even hate straight. Miss America’s parents are Hindus. Hindus are not Muslims, either. Not that hating them would be acceptable even if they were. And not that the distinction will matter to the folks quoted above. All dark-skinned people with exotic names or unfamiliar customs are Muslim terrorists to that bunch of nuclear physicists.

There was more. “Jessica Ayres” offered this self-negating bon mot when Davuluri won: “I swear I’m not racist but this is America.” Then there was “Jonah Carlin,” who tweeted images of blond, blue-eyed Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, dubbing her “a real Miss America.”

And so it goes.

  • Lynda Groom

    Oh my.

    • Independent1

      Lynda, I’d only add: “How sad that America has come to this!!”

  • michaelross

    The town I live in right now has a lot of old money in it, and the people here tend to view things as belonging to them for life, even long after they’ve squandered and lost it. And God forbid anyone should ever try to pick up the pieces and rebuild. If you do that, the town committee will literally devote its every waking hour to trying to ruin you.

    That’s kind of what’s playing out here with Miss America. Nina Davuluri is just one more sign that the American dream is not reserved exclusively for Jonah Carlin and invited guests anymore.

    During America’s “Leave it to Beaver” days, these idiots would have rest assured that there was a place waiting for them in America’s future that nobody (or at least nobody black or foreign) could ever take from them. Now those days are over, and the only way they know how to respond to losing their easy ride is to throw a tantrum.

    It’s not much different than the way they responded to Barack Obama’s election. That was the last office they ever thought would be occupied by a non-white non-male. If “they” could take that way from Old White America, then absolutely nothing is guaranteed anymore.

  • Dominick Vila

    This unfortunate episode epitomizes the fears that are behind the overt attempts to “take America back” to an era that no longer exists. For many fellow Americans, having a black man sitting in the Oval Office, seeing a young woman of Indian ancestry crowned as Miss America, and seeing successful minorities among them is offensive and something that must be destroyed in order to retain the old Norman Rockwell society they still long for. For them, the benefits of an integrated society where everyone benefits is a threat to the world they conceived for themselves long ago, and nothing that is said or done will dissuade them from doing whatever it takes to stop it.
    Let’s not forget the attack against the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. The catalyst that influenced that horrible tragedy was ignorance. The perpetrator did not understand the difference and the antagonism that exists between Muslims and Hindus and took upon himself to kill people who, had he known the truth, he would have supported in spite of their dark complexion. In the end, the real reason for the behavior and overt hatred that so many Americans demonstrate against minority groups is influenced by ignorance, and that is not going to change any time soon. The difference between their behavior and what happened in South Africa in the Apartheid days is so thin, it is almost invisible.

    • Daniel Jones

      That’s because there *is* no difference. I need only point you toward the North Carolina Disenfranchisement effort to prove this.

      It won’t work for very long, much less forever.

      “Two million whites, Twenty million blacks–they can’t hang ’em.”–Richard Pryor on why apartheid was doomed to fail.

    • yeehaw

      @Dominick…I agree with most of your comment, once again you add a depth to the dialog that’s both refreshing and revelatory, but I disagree with you on one point …that these people are Ignorant! I grew up in the Deep South in the mid-fifties, early sixties and I can tell you it has nothing to do with Ignorance. To be Ignorant means a lack of knowledge, these people know exactly what they’re doing. Most of them go to school with minorities, learn from the same books, play on the same teams, and eat in the same cafeteria. They experience the same challenges other races experience, how to embrace people of other races, ethnicities, religions, etc. They talk about Asimilation but when comes time to act on what the say, they become AWOL! No, they’re not Ignorant, and by calling them that we just give them an excuse to justify their actions. I believe the best word to describe these people is not Ignorant but STUPID!!!!!

    • Jim Myers

      There is one thing these idiots cannot perceive.

      When you exclude someone because of race, gender,
      religious background, or any other reason, you exclude the talent that person or group of people can offer.

      As a whole, we all loose that talent because of prejudice.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Unfortunately, Leonard, these small minded idiots were around when my Great Grandparents came from Italy in the 1870s, and cast disparaging remarks against them. They were around when your grandparents (?) moved up to the northern industrial cities during World War 1. They were around when Puerto Ricans came to New York. They were around when your parents fought for and mine fought against integration in the schools (yes I am willing to admit that). They were around when Nixon counted on them to support the war he inherited.
    The sad news is these small minded idiots are still around. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, they now have the internet to spew their hatred. This allows other small minded idiots to follow their lead blindly, and shows the rest of us that we still have to deal with prejudice.

    • nirodha

      I guess that if we look at our history we can hold out some hope for a more compassionate and temperate spirit to eventually prevail. In the 1850s the Know-Nothing Party gained some traction in response to protests to the immigration of Irish-Catholics into the northeast and midwest, and to Chinese into California. Their rationale was similar to that of today’s TPotty adherents, with about the same levels of intelligence fueling their hatred. It would seem that both the Irish and Chinese have been pretty successfully assimilated into the fabric of American society, and we know that the Know-Nothing Party disappeared from the national scene after about 10 years of spewing their prejudiced hatred. Given some additional time, one would hope that the general acceptance and good will possessed by most Americans will prevail, and that the ignorant and hateful TPotty will go the way of the Know-Nothings, their spiritual ancestors.

    • idamag

      Unfortunately, these idiots banding together scares me. They also make me feel as though I am a genius.

      • nirodha

        I think that your IQ alone is considerably higher than the sum of the entire TPotty membership!

  • gmccpa

    Unfortunately, so many can no longer even recognize racism…let alone admit it exists. Read one of those quotes…”I swear I’m not racist, but this is America”. This woman is living in total denial.

    But now..if you point out something is racist…you are accused of playing the race card.

    • S.J. Jolly

      Love the card players! I.e,: “You played the race card!” card. “You hate America!” card. And more that I can’t recall at this moment. Easier for card players than having to think of a real response.

    • plc97477

      I think the worse racists are the “I’m not racist but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one” racists.

    • JD Mulvey

      Then in the next breath they’ll say that YOU’RE the real racist because they simply don’t see skin color.

    • Sand_Cat

      The “race card” is hated so much by the “conservatives” because – somewhere deep, deep down in their twisted brains – they know it’s true, and whining about playing it only shows it’s hit home.

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    This country always uses the latest immigrant or whatever group of people, some people want to use as Scapegoats.

    The US has done it to every single person from a foreign country, including our own own native born ever since this country was founded. It was the Poles, Jews, Hunkies, Spicks, Wet Backs, Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Gays, Lesbians, American Indians, East Indians, the list is virtually endless.

    I would like to believe the US has become an enlightened society over the past few centuries. But, it doesn’t seem that it has, and it might never be.

    This country LOVES to HATE, putting it very bluntly. If we don’t find a foreign country to invade and dominate afterwards, we’ll look for internal enemies which is the second best thing to do. It keeps our nation divided. It keeps all of us at each others throats fighting between ourselves.

    Externally, it keeps our military very nicely funded. Internally, it supports all of our police forces, court systems – namely all the lawyers, prison systems and their industrial complexes.

    This all does one thing very well – keeps us spending our tax dollars on something else that could have been used to truly improve our society such as good social programs, good educational goals and more importantly, improve our international reputation which has been trashed for the past 50 years.

    Everyone else in the world is laughing their asses off. We’re just too dam stupid to realize it.

    • nirodha

      You are correct. I’m fortunate to visit Italy fairly regularly, and when I converse with folks there, they invariably ask “What’s wrong with America? Why is there so much bad blood in the politics?” It’s difficult to explain the basis of the far right wing’s hatred, especially for Obama, who is very popular in Italy.

      • Michael Kollmorgen

        Well, the bad blood in politics is a direct reflection of our society in general. IF we didn’t elect them, they wouldn’t be there to cause all these problems.

        But, still, the root cause of most of our problems is our own people’s hatred for one another. Some of it is due to ignorance, some of it due to religious training and some of it is due to politics.

        Next time you go to Italy, just tell them our politics is a direct reflection of american society as a whole – mostly rotten to the core.

      • idamag

        I think that if I ever visit foreign countries again, I will have to have a T shirt made that said, “I am not one of the idiots.”

  • itsfun

    Village idiot is the perfect term for these people. Our diversity is one of the many things that help our country be great. Even though I don’t agree with Obama on most of his ideas, and believe he is a terrible President, he is the perfect example of the American dream coming true. Our country must keep encouraging everyone to strive for more and be proud of the accomplishments we have made and will continue to make.

  • Kurt CPI

    I agree with the author that the ignorance is nearly as stupefying as the bigotry. It demonstrates the idiocy of hate – people hate just to hate, without even knowing who they are hating. It’s amazing to me that, in spite of generations of social education, this kind of unsolicited, unwarranted, unacceptable rhetoric is still expressed in earnest by so many.

  • tdm3624

    Who could hate on someone so pretty?

    • JD Mulvey

      They hate her because she’s out of their league.

      • plc97477

        They hate her cus they know she would never give any of them the time of day. Never would they be able to date someone so classy.


    Talk about the true meaning of hypocrisy—there are VERY FEW Americans that do not have heritage from some other country. The only ones are the very few remaining pure blood Native Americans. Everyone else has blood of foreign origin–and I do mean every one. So tell me all you hate filled village idiots, what is your family heritage?

  • m8lsem

    Kwai, kwai nidôbak!
    Now that’s a greeting phrase from a ‘real American’ language, one that was widely spoken in the northeast long before the Vikings and Puritans arrived. Remember, illegal immigration into what is now called the United States, other than an occasional shipwreck survivor or diseased individual marooned, began in or shortly after 1492. All the rest of us, no matter when our part of the European Invasion began, are not ‘real American’ unless we all are, every last one of us, white, tan, black, yellow, all of us.

    Those bigots are immigrants, descended from or joining a white minority until diseases, wars, and other forms of genocide plus additional immigration made white the majority. It is most ungraceful of them not to accept immigrants with the same courtesy and openness that led to our being swamped by ‘furriners’ in the NE.

    • BillP

      Thanks for pointing out that any Europeans who settled in this country were not invited by the existing native population but they “immigrated” here anyway. I couldn’t agree more with your statement that we are all real Americans but try telling that to the village idiots.

  • Lynda Groom

    The level of stupidity among some of our fellow citizens is truly astounding. Not to mention embarassing.

  • Mikey7a

    I have loved my country most of my life. These days, I can truly say that if I could afford to, I’d move my Mrs. and me elsewhere. OK, I lived through the 60’s, as a young man in the 70’s, I saw hope that we were headed in the right direction. Since 1980, I have lost more and more love of my America. What happened to love your brother and sister? How have we regressed so much, so fast? I understand 9/11. I know how sick we all felt that day, and how we should never forget.

    Are we as a nation going to let that horrific day define us? Are we never going to be able to like/love someone for who they are, not how they look? I’m a tough old s.o.b, was a US Marine, but reading about this when it happened, actually brought me to tears. I hope beyond reason, that this beautiful young lady will realize that most of us do NOT feel like Jonah Carlin, and are thrilled she will represent us this year!

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      As our economy does not markedly improve, as living conditions and standard of living deteriorates into third world classification you’re going to see more of this hatred.

      This is the classic battle between the haves and have nots. This breeds hatred, greed, discrimination because after all, the ones that have it aren’t going to surrender what they have very easily. And, the Have Nots are going to fight tooth and nail to get what they think they deserve.

      Why keep putting up with all this BS! I don’t think it’s worth it………..

      I’ve said ever since the first Gas Crisis in the 70s, if you have a chance, have at least some money saved up and have some sort of degree to use somewhere else and have a career you can use somewhere else, I’ve advocated moving completely out of the US. The younger, the better. The younger you are, the better you’re going to adapt to new living conditions.

      Life is better in other countries, depending on what you are willing to compromise on and expect out of it. People in this country expect their cake and eat it too. Sorry, but we never really had that avenue. At least not the vast majority of us.

      And, you won’t have that advantage either in another country. But, I think you can find peace of mind, less stressful living conditions a lot faster over there than you will here.

      And, this isn’t about Patriotism either. This is about survival.

  • JD Mulvey

    The age of the internet seems to make it easier for these people to share their deranged views. I’m glad Leonard Pitts prints their names –their friends and family must be so proud.

  • commserver

    I remember from the time when I was enrolling in 1st grade in Galveston Texas.

    My father was doctor at University of Texas Galveston Medical Center. It was time for me to enroll in school. I was taken to the local public school and tried to enroll. Little did my parents realize the uproar that resulted. How could a child of Chinese descent be allowed to enroll in the neighborhood school?

    It was finally decided that since my father was a doctor I could be “white”. I was allowed to enroll.

    In the end I was so advanced compared to my classmates I was given “social promotion” from 2nd grade to 3rd grade. My parents were glad when my father transferred to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.