Friday, October 16, 2009

A White Homecoming Queen At An HBCU!?!?

Being that we're in post-racial America and whatnot, it's hardly a shocker that longstanding racial walls are tumbling all over the place. A sista heads a Fortune 500. A wise Latina is on the highest court. A white dude was Morehouse's valedictorian. Another sista runs an Ivy league school. Most folks would generally see this as progress, and proof that some aspects of American culture are moving forward.

And then, there's this story, from "the other HU", that shows how much further we've got to go.
Hampton University crowned its first non-black Miss HU Friday, leading to a division on campus that prompted her to write President Barack Obama.

Nikole Churchill, 22, competed against nine black students in the 15th annual Miss HU scholarship pageant. The senior nursing major attends the Virginia Beach campus and is the competition's first non-black winner, according to executive pageant director Shelia J. Maye.

Churchill, who is from Hawaii, wrote Obama on Sunday to tell him that her crowning was met with negative comments because of her skin color. She invited him to visit HU and speak about racial tolerance.

"I am hoping that perhaps you would be able to make an appearance to my campus, Hampton University, so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin and doubting my abilities to represent," she wrote, "but rather be proud of the changes our nation is making toward accepting diversity."

In a local television report, she said her father is from Guam and her mother is Italian.

Her letter was posted Sunday on Churchill did not have HU's permission to comment Monday, said pageant co-director Mavis Baah.

This year's pageant included evening gown, swimsuit and talent competitions. Churchill won a $1,500 scholarship, will serve as homecoming queen Oct. 24 and continues on to the 2010 Miss Virginia pageant.

Maye said the Miss HU pageant grew out of the former homecoming queen competition, in which students voted for the winner. Now, the pageant winner is selected by judges and automatically serves as the university's homecoming queen.

This year's pageant was judged by five people, including two certified by the Miss Virginia competition, which leads to the Miss America pageant. The other judges were Joan Gentry, an HU counselor for freshman studies; Lorraine Bell, an HU music professor; and Henry Mills, a senior vice president at Old Point National Bank.

Journalism sophomore Juan Diasgranados said the Hampton campus is split on Churchill's crowning, with everyone from students to faculty and professors weighing in. Some are saying her win is great and embodies HU's spirit of diversity, he said, while others complain that she's not black and doesn't attend the main campus.

"They're saying that people don't know who she is, people don't even see her, so how can she represent us if she's not even from the main campus?"

The main campus has about 5,700 students while the university's Virginia Beach campus has about 90 students.

News of Churchill's win and her letter to Obama jammed the Internet, attracting notice of HU alumni after the story aired on WVEC-TV 13 and circulated on social networking sites.

Churchill told the news station at Saturday's Hampton versus Howard University football game that her mother is 100 percent Italian and her father is from Guam. In her letter to the president, she called herself Hawaiian.
No need to lie here, when I first got the gist of this story, I thought the Negroes down at Hampton had lost their minds. Seriously, if the white girl won Homecoming queen by virtue of the old system (student votes), why exactly would anyone have an issue with this? We know homecoming queen/Miss HBCU is little more than a popularity contest, and in the grand scheme of things, it's no biggie. As a guy who married an ex-HBCU campus queen, I consider myself an authority on such matters. Go dig up your grandma's old (but not that old) copies of Ebony. AverageSis is somewhere in there.

But as usual, the devil is in the details. The students didn't vote on this, the pageant judges did, so the result is indeed pretty subjective. Then there's the small matter that Ms. Churchill doesn't go to the main campus, but rather some bogus satellite HU 30 miles away. She's about as visible on campus as a Howard sweatshirt. Which is to say, not so visible. On that basis alone, I could see why some of the students are a little salty.

The obvious complication here is the whole race issue. Complaining about having a white campus queen is just real tacky on too many levels. Then again, when Churchill had the gall to go off and write a letter to freakin' President Obama about the whole ordeal, she probably didn't make any friends. Did some of the student probably dislike her for being non-black? Sure. But I'm willing to bet many others just disliked her because they'd never seen her. Small-townish as your typical HBCU is, it's certainly fair to assume the later. Pulling the reverse race card and handing Fox News a ready-made faux controversy to further paint Negroes as backwards is a no-no. Clearly this chick knows nothing about the vindictive nature of some black women.[1] She might wanna watch her back next time she's at The Alley, is all I'm sayin'.

Question: Do the students at Hampton have a legit point about Churchill not going to the main campus, or are they merely using that as an excuse for being reverse racists? Should Churchill have written the letter to Obama?

Crowning of first non-black Miss HU divides campus [DailyPress]

[1] Seriously, look at the expression on the faces of them sistas standing beside her. If looks were daggers...

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