I got two e-mails marked “Breaking News” from two Arab American organizations today. I’ve never gotten breaking news from Arab American organizations, not about terrorism and counter terrorism, not about racial profiling, not about civil rights, not about a great new film, book, or art exhibition. But today I got breaking news: An Arab American had become the first Miss USA.
Hey, I’m not knocking a good pageant. Many a times as a child I got swept along in the Miss USA melodrama and I cried right along with the winner as she got crowned, much to my mother’s distress, as I think she feared I might be setting myself up for false hope. But if I had ever had any ambitions to be Miss USA, which I’m sure I didn’t as I didn’t like cameras or glitter, they would have been decimated when we moved to Beirut, where I learned that no one can be truly worthy unless she really commits to improving or combating any cruelty God may have let her be born with, such as curly hair. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t told to be a good person, study hard, and work hard. But relatives didn’t ask me how I was doing in school, still don’t. They asked me, and still do, if I’d gained weight, which could only be a portent of Armageddon, or lost weight, which made me get high praise, kisses and the promises that if I did something with my hair, too, there was no end to what the world could bring me. The one thing Arab females here and there have always understood perfectly well was that they would be valued for their looks no matter what. Just gaze at all the cosmetic surgery on the Arabic TV channels, in case you think things have changed much.
So really, breaking news? Certainly it’s refreshing to be recognized as bombshells rather than bomb makers. But that an Arab woman was valued for her good looks isn’t really breaking news, so much as old news.