Missing the Real Story about Miss America

I have a commentary piece in tomorrow’s San Jose Mercury News (on-line version up now) that argues:

Much of the focus since Nina Davuluri’s crowning as this year’s Miss America has been on the racist attacks on social media directed at this impressive woman who is the pageant’s first winner of Indian heritage.  But the real story here is the increasing stature of Indians in U.S. society and how that has changed the way all Americans think about India.

The piece is based on a more detailed post from earlier this year about how large-scale Indian migration has altered American perceptions about the country.  According to a recent Gallup survey, more than two-thirds of the U.S. public has a positive impression of India, a score that even edges out Israel’s traditionally high favorability rating.  Compare that to a 1983 opinion poll in which Americans ranked India at the bottom of a list of 22 countries on the basis of perceived importance to U.S. vital interests.

Two updates are worth noting since my post first appeared.  The first is a new publication by the Migration Policy Institute that finds:

As a group, immigrants from India are better educated, more likely to have strong English language skills and arrive on employment-based visas, and are less likely to live below the federal poverty line than the overall foreign-born population. They are also more concentrated in the working ages than immigrants overall….

The second update is the just-released data from the Census Bureau showing that much of the nation’s population growth is fueled by newcomers from Asia rather than Hispanic immigrants.  Indian immigrants (over 110,000 in 2012) account for a full third of last year’s increase in the nation’s foreign-born Asia population.

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4 thoughts on “Missing the Real Story about Miss America

  1. I have written on the success story of the Indian diaspora abroad, particularly in N America, Aus, NZ and UK and so on earlier on too in a connected site.

    In my opinion,the admirable success is because immigrants from India and S Asia in general use the strengths ingrained in that Oriental culture to perform in largely an ‘Occidental’ environment which recognises hard work, merit and discipline.
    The Chinese, Koreans etc even surpass S Asians in any field that they enter.
    While the Chinese and Koreans do excel in their own countries too and everywhere overseas for almost a century, Indians and India seems unable replicate that within India.

    I think we in our own self praise do not give much credit that the Occidental culture that rewards performance and hard work irrespective of race or creed or religion.
    I think this is crux-creating a completely different culture of performance, work, citizenship etc in India.
    A few months back I saw a report that among the immigrant communities in USA, Indians tend to gravitate towards white collar crimes and quick fix solutions working in a twilight zone between legality and illegality more than any other immigrant community.This was a sequel to the Rajat Gupta case-a millionaire Goldman Sachs top Exec who was caught in insider trading.Greed is an over powering trait among Indians, I presume.

    Finally the answer lies in creating an entirely different ethos and culture of citizenship within India.
    News from back home of rampant corruption, khap panchayats executing married couples, crime on women, gender inequalities, completely filthy streets and cities and host of other ills that seems to plague India always gives a poor view of India.

    While we take very justifiable pride in our diaspora( I have two siblings settled in N America and a host of cousins too),the work is here in India.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with the original post here. I have many Indian American colleagues and friends, and in general, they are an impressive group of folks in many ways. In response to the comment above, I don’t agree with that report on how Indian Americans tend to work in a twilight zone between legal and illegal operations more than other immigrant groups. My experience has been the opposite; that most are eager to move away from the rampant corruption of their original homeland and that is a big part of the attraction to living in America.

    • Well Brian that is very nice to know.
      May be sitting in India, we tend to look at reports on overseas Indians through the prism of what happens in India.
      If I recall it was a general report on Immigration and crime which included all immigrant communities in it.
      Anyway it is a matter of pride to know that Indians immigrant communities are as upright and honest as any other community.
      When I was abroad in Europe in an assignment, I found Americans who I met there much more positive in their reactions to Indians than Europeans(minus the UK).
      I think it has got to do with many of them had/have an Indian gynecologist or a pediatrician or a surgeon or see an Indian investment banker, or the neighbourhood store is run by an Indian.
      I suppose one would normally expect such professionals to be lot more upright, ethical and rigidly above board.

      • Excellent insights and comments, Vijay. Couldn’t agree with you more. From my following of the news, it looks like there is a powerful, growing movement against corruption in India. I know it has a long way to go, but sure hope it succeeds. Good luck! Brian

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