‘Racism’ in scare quotes

Just in time for Halloween.

From the Times Online:  Hampton University’s first white Homecoming Queen suffers ‘racism’

She is the first non-black Homecoming Queen in her university’s history and not everyone is happy that she won the title. Her victory this month triggered a beauty pageant walkout and veiled accusations of black racism from the aggrieved new Miss Hampton University. She also wrote a long public letter to President Obama, saying: “I feel as though you could relate to my situation.”

Here’s her Obama letter, in case you’re curious.

10 thoughts on “‘Racism’ in scare quotes

  1. They seem to go back and forth on her whiteness within the article. If her father’s from Guam, it’s statistically likely that he’s Chamorro, Filipino, Pacific Islander or “other Asian.” (Only 6.9% of Guam’s native population is white.) It says her mom settled in Hawaii, which really means nothing except that she’s originally from the continental U.S. (I imagine if her mother was also from another country, they’d have mentioned it.)

    Reading between the lines, my guess is that she’s multiracial, probably white-Asian/Hispanic. (The Chamorro people are Malay-Polynesian and their lands were colonized by Spain for over three hundred years.)

    …sorry, the question kind of poked my history and anthropology buttons.

    In any case, she is being a little…I don’t know. While she is probably multiracial, it seems that she self-identifies as white (though I admit my only reason for thinking so is that she doesn’t seem to have challenged being labeled as white), and is obviously perceived as white by students and possibly faculty at her school. So while I automatically balk at racism being used in scare quotes, I’m skeptically wondering how much privilege she’s obliviously carried around and how much that might have to do with her cries of racism now. (You’ve mentioned this before, and I have to agree: reverse racism tends to be the cry of white people who expect to be welcomed everywhere.)

    What’s interesting to me, though, is to consider how race might’ve played a role in her victory. Was there a demographic panel on the racial and gender make-up of the judges who chose her? And was her Guamanian heritage known at the time? Considering that 93.1% of the time, Guamanian means “Asian or partly Asian” and the way U.S culture fetishizes women of Asian descent, that very well could’ve played a part. Not to mention that it says she won after performing a hula, essentially cashing in on cultural exoticization of native Hawaiians and on the fetish many men have for “island women.”

    So…I don’t know. When you look at all that and throw it on top of the fact that she attends a HBU, it seems to me like she’s whining about being unappreciated and less-than-perfectly-welcome in a sanctuary space.

    Sorry for the ramble. I just…had a lot of long thinky-thoughts, apparently? Gah. And this is my first comment here, too…

  2. I try not to lurk, but really what can I say? As a black woman attending a PWI (UF), I know precisely how rare the opposite is. We had a black homecoming queen here last year, but she is mixed-race with Italian ancestry, you know the kind of ‘exotic’ other they love to see. This is bull. We as POC shouldn’t give away our only safe spaces in an effort to be so damn progressive because white people are definitley not lining up to do the same. But in all the uproar about the election of this queen no one has discussed HOW and WHY this happened. Hampton does have a hueist reputation, so this could be an element, but also if a panel of judges choose her what were their motivations? Could it have been to elicit this type of response and bring notoriety to the school?

  3. I’ll be interested to see what my daughter thinks about this, as she’s a Howard student, and there was some dissension in the ranks at the game between and Hampton and Howard (which, as my daughter says, is “the real HU”) the next day.

    I know there will be a great hue and cry over this, but come on – you won, girl! It’s not enough to win at an HBCU, you want to be loved by all, to boot? You wrote the President, focused the nation’s attention on you and put your school in the spotlight, because your feelings were hurt that not everyone was thrilled with your win?

    If you feel so self-righteous and insulted that your win didn’t include automatic accolades from all corners, that you’d go crying to the President – with the assumption that he’ll relate to your “injustice” – then I suspect you probably have a lot to learn about the history of HBCUs, and why they came into being in the first place. Looks to me like you’re attending an HBCU without a basic understanding of institutional racism’s history, so no, I’m not surprised there was some resentment about your win.

    Sorry, but quit your crying girl – you’re still wearing the damn crown. Cookies are extra.

  4. The mark of a skilled blogger is when commenters come and write insightful (and possibly inciteful) posts. While the blogger eats cookies and drinks coffee.

  5. au napptural, I agree.
    I’ve seen poc do and say some sad things for the name of “being progressive” and “open minded,” but sadly it usually just amounts to reinforcing white privilege.
    Sorry, this is off topic.

  6. I was fascinated that the Times Online used scare quotes for “racism,” and wondered if the use suggested the writer recognized “racism” means power+prejudice. The use of scare quotes on the word “racism” and “racist” are common, but I’ve never seen it used in this context.

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