JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

This is America

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 2.01.07 PMYesterday afternoon my street was closed off, and we had our annual block party.

It’s one of my two or three favorite events of the year. The food is always good, the games are always fun, the joy splashed across my kids’ faces brings me wonderful happiness.

The best part, though, may well be the diversity.

It is possible that, here in New York, I live on the most diverse street in America. We are white. We are African-American. We are Indian. We are Irish. We are Sri Lankan. We are Jewish. We are Christian. We are Hindu. We have different backgrounds, different cultural identities—and yet, day after day, we’re simply friends and neighbors. We share a street, we share a town, we share a country.

It’s an unspoken—yet beautiful—thing.

In case you missed it, this past weekend a 24-year-old New Yorker named Nina Davuluri was crowned the new Miss America. A proud product of Syracuse, N.Y., she is the first Indian-American woman to ever gain the honor. While I’m not a huge fan (or, to be honest, a fan at all) of beauty pageants, I am happy to see the diversity; to have it acknowledged that there’s more to beauty in this country than blonde hair and blue eyes. It’s a big deal for Davuluri and, I’m assuming, a big deal for many Indian-Americans.

Many, however, didn’t feel the joy …

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 1.45.51 PMScreen Shot 2013-09-16 at 1.45.40 PMScreen Shot 2013-09-16 at 1.45.40 PM Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 1.45.24 PMThe Tweets went on and on and on and on and on. They spoke of anger. They spoke of intolerance. They spoke of stupidity.

Mostly, they simply made me sad.

Having grown up in a 96-percent all-white town, I know what it is to live in a place lacking diversity and culture. And here’s my full report: It sucks. It’s boring, it’s lame, it’s predictable, it’s mind-numbing and soul-sucking. America’s greatness is in its rainbow; is in its wide-open thinking and speaking and tasting. I like hearing different languages. I like eating unfamiliar foods. I like seeing brown and yellow and beige and red skin. I like figuring out who people are, and how we connect.

I like America, dammit.

The America with an Indian-American woman representing us.