Cultivate It: Should an HBCU Queen always be Black?

By A.J. Washington

As I was enjoying my Friday night with two of my friends, I got the news that my alma mater, Hampton University, crowned a new Miss HU 2009-2010. I was excited to know who it was, as former Miss HU contestant myself. I was shocked when I learned that she is Hawaiian. Why was I shocked? Because Hampton is a historically BLACK university.

The issue is indeed a tricky one. How do I (because I’m sure I’m the only who feels this way), express how I feel about this without being called ‘prejudice’ or  having the term ‘reverse racism’  be used?  If a black woman won a queen title at a majority institution and students were outraged and blogged about it—I would probably be upset, so what does that say about me? It’s ok for blacks to advance and break barriers, but not other races?  

I don’t want to take anything from the new queen, I’m told she did an awesome job and is a beautiful girl of Hawaiian decent. But the question still is, should she have been black?

For the four short years attended my beloved ‘Home by the Sea,’ Hampton University, there were a number of conspiracy theories about nearly anything you can think of. Some were completely ridiculous and others, harder to refute. For instance, Miss Hampton University had to be ‘light skinned’ – now remember, this is what I heard. In my opinion, from 2005-2009, the only one that truly fit this theory was Miss HU 2008-2009, Shannon Cooper- but she was also a great contestant. Fast forward a year later, Hampton has gone from light skin to white skin.

Now that I think about it, a white girl (or a girl who looked the part) would probably have a better chance at winning the Miss Virginia title; something the school has been coveting for quite some time. By definition, Miss Hampton University- or any pageant queen represents whatever organization or country gave her the title. Does this new queen represent the majority of Hampton women? You tell me…


  1. hawaiians arent white…

    • I went Howard U. I think, many would feel the same if a non-black queen was awarded the title. But the larger question is when IF EVER are WE going to get past the race issue in America. Underneath the skin we are all the same right? Yes, I agree that we have our unique cultural and ethnicity differences. Taste in food, music, art, leisure, all define us racially. However, I would argue that it would be cruel to not accept this woman as the winner strictly because of her skin tone. She is a Hampton University student, intelligent, and beautiful. At a time when we still need organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League to continue to fight for equality for blacks, we should remember what Dr King taught us. Racial equality means just that. That a non-black woman, could, and should have a chance to win that contest. As a black man, I know first hand the harsh reality of racism in this world. I would hate for that woman to be my daughter of perhaps a bi-racial marriage, and because she isn’t dark enough for some, or black enough for others, she should be denied a title. To me, to deny her title because of the color of her skin, is against everything that Dr. King and the entire civil rights struggle was about.

    • As a matter of clarification, Miss HU’s Father is from Guam, her mother is Itallian. Looks like the old double standard is alive and well at HU.

  2. That’s the last Miss Hampton’s fault if her ass wouldn’t have been STEALING OUT OF TARGET it wouldn’t have no problems!!

  3. Miss Hampton University represents Hampton University. If she is an enrolled student, in the appropriate academic standing to run for and ultimately win such an honor, what is the problem? Let’s not become as shallow as others who have held us back. This is very disconcerting… We are Hamptonians with class, education, and compassion… Please let us reflect that as alumni/nae.

  4. Good Sunday morning all,

    This is Ashli, the author of this post- when writing this, I was simply stating an opinion of many I had spoken to- I and others have they authority to express that opinion ( this is indeed a blog- not the Daily Press or Virginian Pilot). I was as honest as possible without being to harsh- honesty is something we pride ourselves on at Status Media Global. This post was written to make you think…Thank you for your comments- we greatly appriate your opinions, it’s what makes us better!

    A.J. Washington

    • Interesting post. Your title caught my eye and wanted to read through. What I did not expect was that the winner is my fellow-race woman, a polynesian. Further interesting is that you asked if ‘this new Queen represent the marjority of the Hampton women’…Well I sure hope so..She may not be a ‘black woman’ but she is still a Hampton woman. So she is from Hawaii, one of the state of America..Would it have been less controversial if she were from Alaska or Atlanta?..There are black people in Hawaii….I believe her winning of the titile proves that there are wiser and intelligent people in Hampton Univeristy…GO HU!!

  5. Who cares?? Just because it’s an HBCU why should Miss HU be Black?? This is 2009. It’s an HBCU because it was attended by a majority Black students and was created for them to learn. Well America has a majority of White people. Should we not have a Black, Latino, Asian, or Indian Miss America just because this is a HWC (Historically White Country)? I personally could care less what color her skin is if she is the best candidate. It’s like what everyone was shouting when Obama was running, “It’s time for a change.”

    • I lived in Hampton from 1977 to 1982 and worked part time for the H.U. Upward Bound program. I took my kids to as many events at H.U. as possible so that they could have an understanding and deeper appreciation of our culture as presented through this historic institution. I think that the time has come for Hampton and other HBCU’s to accept that our world is getting smaller and more diverse. And with that, we will see a less homgenized and more diverse representation of people and talents at our schools. This is a good thing! I am happy for the young lady and for Hampton for being a forward thinking institution of higher learning and the emphasis in this case is “higher learning.” We are learning to live together and accept each other for our unique gifts and contributions. How can anyone object to this, when we would be the first to challenge a HWCU (White) for passing over a Black woman for such an honor? Peace and Love,

  6. Diveristy is not an issue. Its is the way in which Administrtion delivered it to the students and to the parents. It had been decided Before the pageant that she was to win. The pageant was a farce!!!! I am a parent of one of the final contestants. Everyone knew who was goung to win the Week before . The winner got USED by Administration to serve THEIR PURPOSE. tHEY COULD CARE THE LEAST AS TO WHO WON BUT THAT , THIS TIME, A PERSON OF COLOR COULD NOT.

    • Can yo support this claim? If, so then you should take the appropriate measures to do so. If not, then you should not make statements that are untrue.

    • Its a shame that you are so jealous and petty that you would take anything away from this girl. She is beautiful and smart, obviously she deserved to win. Historically, the US President had been a white man, I bet you were cheering and jumping up and down when Obama won. It was okay in this situation but not in reverse with Ms Hampton? You sounds so prejudice!

    • You are hilarious… Nikole clearly won period. I was at the pageant and she was the best. I don’t know which one was your daughter, but everyone else bored me. If administration did pick her before hand, they clearly have a good eye. I loved her personality and she’s nice in person. Don’t hate cause your daughter did not win.
      Nikole was the best regardless of her race. It’s a pageant be prepared to get your feelings hurt lol.
      As a freshman HU student I support Nikole-she also better start some hula classes on the main campus lol

  7. what black man wouldnt want a white woman to win

  8. I think it is ridiculous everyone is making a huge deal about her race. I am a student at HU and yes, I am white. I found it extremely offending that I couldn’t enjoy the HU vs HU game on Saturday night because I had people from Howard and even Hampton pointing fingers at me making racial comments just because I’m white. HU is an HBCU. The H stands for historically… This is 2009; times have changed. The University has come along way from the past and I earned my place at this University just like everyone else did. It is an UNIVERSITY. Anyone can attend an university. I should not have problems because this is the time for change. You didn’t hear people complaining when Obama was elected but because a white person comes to represent something that is historically known as a black thing its a huge deal. Get over it. White people voted for Obama too, not just black people. Remember, Obama lived with his grandmother from Hawaii. He isn’t completely black either.

  9. I am Hampton grad as well. c/o 2001. I don’t think Miss HU is supposed to represent Hampton women. The pageant is a part of the Miss Virginia organization, and contestants are judged accordingly. If anyone wanted Miss Hampton to truly represent the student body, then she would be elected. Students have no say in who is chosen. HBCUs will not continue to thrive if we hold on to the idea that they are for African-Americans only. I think there is a fear that “they” are going to take over “our” institutions. At the 2 or 3 HBCUs (who are all public, unlike Hampton) where this is sort of happened, other factors were at work. The girl entered the pageant and won, end of story. Now if someone thinks the judging was rigged, that’s another argument. I don’t think it was. When I was at Hampton, I felt the young ladies chosen to be Miss Hampton were talented and deserving of the title and I feel no different about this young lady. Back then, the pageant was competitive, maybe some feel it isn’t anymore. She she be black??? To anyone who appreciates diversity, it really shouldn’t matter.

  10. This is the most racist question I have ever heard!! If HU admits people other than blacks then they should be eligible to run. Give me a freakin break!

  11. Mr. Washington – Just by your reaction you show that you are a racist and a bigot. When a women wins the Miss America everyone sees it as just another Miss America. Most people do not look at the color of the skin at these pageants. Most people have the impression that these women are beautiful and dumb (I don not share this view). Plus, let’s get something straight. Hawaiians are most;ly not white. What if the winner were Hispanic or Oriental. What is racial equality only for Blacks?????

  12. HU has a clearly defined Equal Opportunity statement:

    Hampton University adheres to the principle of equal education and employment opportunity and does not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race, color, creed or national origin. This policy extends to all students and employees and applicants for admission and/or employment. Further, it extends to all programs and activities supported by the University

    This controversy boils down to simple racism.

  13. Ashli, should the beauty queen of historically white colleges and universities, like Harvard, Yale, UVa, etc. always be white?

    Maybe HBCUs should drop the HB and concentrate on being the best college or university possible.

    Racist: one who sees everything through the prism of race first – regardless of that person’s own race.

  14. Isn’t it interesting when the shoe is on the other foot how people react. Everyone talks about integration usually in the context of ‘whites’ not wanting to offer the same advantages to ‘blacks”. Then something as simple as a historically black college integrating happens and that college happens to vote a non-black Miss Hampton and everyone is distressed. This is a school that clearly voted for this young lady because they thought she would be a great representative of the school, and I’m assuming that since Hampton is “historically black” most of the people who voted for her are black as well, so they clearly did not have an issue with her race.

    • Just for clarification, the school did not vote for her; there was a panel of judges (some administrators, some pageant officials) that voted for her based off of evening wear, question and answer, talent, swimwear, etc.

      Some say that administrators chose her for diversity purposes; basically to attract more non-black students to HU.

  15. Wake Up Hampton !!!

    Lena Horne was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. Both sides of her family are mixture of African American, Native American, and Caucasian descent.

    Jasmine Guy, Born to an African-American father and a white mother[2] of Portuguese descent.

    Halle Berry, was born Maria Halle Berry, though her name was legally changed to Halle Maria Berry in 1971.[7] Berry’s parents selected her middle name from Halle’s Department Store, which was then a local landmark in her birthplace of Cleveland, Ohio.[8] Her mother, Judith Ann (née Hawkins),[9][10] who is Caucasian

    Carey was born in Huntington, Long Island, New York. She is the third and youngest child of Patricia Carey (née Hickey), a former opera singer and vocal coach, and Alfred Roy Carey, an aeronautical engineer.[11][12] Her mother was Irish American and her father was of Afro-Venezuelan and African American descent;

    Rae Daw Chong was born in Edmonton, Alberta, the daughter of Maxine Sneed and Tommy Chong, a comedian, actor, writer and director.[1] Chong’s father is of Chinese and Scotch-Irish ancestry and her mother is of Black Canadian descent.[2] Her sister Robbi Chong is a model and actress.

    Lisa Bonet was born in San Francisco, California[4][6]. Her African American father Allen Bonet, was an opera singer; and her Jewish mother Arlene Litman, was a teacher

    I could on and on, but who’s counting.

  16. This is A.J. Washington (again) – for the record to everyone out there: MISS HAMPTON IS SELECTED SOLEY BY JUDGES- THE STUDENT BODY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT- therefore no, they did no vote for her. To CSR (who addressed me directly): HBCUs were created to tailor to the needs of African-Americans, so no they shouldn’t “drop” the HB!!! That tailoring is still needed today; an HBCU experience reinforces the pride that all African- Americans should have. Many individuals who attend Hampton and other HBCUs go because they have rarely or never had the opportunity to converse, enjoy ,and most importantly learn from their own people. Why should black students go to an HBCU and be bombarded with the same EUROPEAN standards of everyone else (i.e. a Hawaiian queen) and not speak up about it?

  17. Miss Hampton…. RIGGED!!!!! YEAR after YEAR!!!!
    The judges can never seem to go with whats right but with the status quo of what a pageant girl should be in most cases…. WHITE!!!! HBCU’s were a place where black people came to feel like they were somebody and learn and appreciate their culture. Looks like HU has forgotten about that.this girl dont even stay on the main campus who is she? I know many say its 2009… well whocaresss!!!!! Black people can never have anything…. its always the white mans or in this case Hawaiian’s treasure/… so let the girl voice her opinion!!!! The real winner is always kept behind the scenes… Just like last year.. wont say any names but i think if you were present at the Miss HU 08 pageant we all know who the winner was!!!!!! But don’t get mad! & heyy if im prejudice….. then so be it! But black people need something for themselves.

  18. “HBCUs were created to tailor to the needs of African-Americans, so no they shouldn’t “drop” the HB!!! That tailoring is still needed today; an HBCU experience reinforces the pride that all African- Americans should have. Many individuals who attend Hampton and other HBCUs go because they have rarely or never had the opportunity to converse, enjoy ,and most importantly learn from their own people. Why should black students go to an HBCU and be bombarded with the same EUROPEAN standards of everyone else (i.e. a Hawaiian queen) and not speak up about it? ”

    Sounds like separate but equal to me; thought that had gone out a long time ago…

    It’s long past the time when we as blacks quit screaming out “treat us the same as everyone else” yet continue to show how “different” we are.

    It’s attitudes like yours that will ensure we never get ahead – but at least we’ll be able to point fingers and claim we’ve been shortchanged by life.

  19. As someone who is a Hampton alumnus, and thoroughly enjoyed attending the Miss HU pageant every year, I was quite shocked at first when i heard not only that the 2009 Miss HU was white, but that students had actually booed and walked out on her during her crowning. This type of behavior, while deplorable, is not uncommon at HU pageants (regardless of Miss HU’s skin color). Last year, when the infamous Target-stealing 2008 Miss HU was crowned, many students booed and walked out simply because she did not deserve to win – and she was a black woman. So there is an inherent problem with decorum and tact that HU students must learn, but that is another story.

    Now, on to this year’s winner: from what I have heard from students voicing their disbelief and shock over the decision of the panel, the issue is not so much the color of her skin, but the fact that she is not a part of the culture of Hampton University. Nothing comes to her mind when I, as a HU alum with stories that bind me to most past, present, and future HU students, say Holland jam. Student leaders. Fridays in the Student Center from 12-2. “Shake it, shake it, shake deez…” University 101. Freshman curfew. Induction ceremony. Horrible caf food (chicken and rice). VC. Kennedy. Freshman step show…

    and the list goes on and on.

    The issue that students are having would be a very simple one if it was purely racially motivated. But, come on… give these educated youngsters the benefit of the doubt. They are upset because she has no clue what it means to be a Hampton University student (not to mention she has no clue what it means to be black – but that is another story also.) – remember, Miss HU attends a satellite campus 45 minutes away in Virginia Beach, with an enrollment of about 90 students (mostly non-black), while HU’s main campus is home to about 5700 students (mostly black).

    Not to mention that the 2009 Miss HU is not involved in any on-campus activities and is a transfer student from VCU, further dividing her.

    Why is it so shocking that they cannot accept her? They have no clue who she is except what is easily observed: the color of her skin.

    There have been little black girls that have wanted to be Miss HU for the longest, and make conscious efforts on campus to realize this goal. It sucks to say, but it hurts them when a tall, pretty white girl can just walk on campus for the first time (literally) and win just because she’s white (From what I understand, there were more deserving women in the pageant.) And the whole purpose of the Miss HU pageant feeding into the Miss Virginia pageant is so that a minority culture of beauty could be represented in a mostly white pageant – did we forget that also? Perhaps Miss HU will finally be crowned as Miss Virginia now that she has a more European look…

    Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. It isn’t the first time there has been controversy over a winner, and it won’t be the last. But everyone, let’s all try to use rationale before we jump the gun on either end… let’s applaud her, while voicing our opinions civilly, and let’s not so quickly pull the race card because things are rarely ever black and white, but a murky gray, when emotions and opinions are involved.

  20. Okay people this ridiculous! Hawaii is a STATE!! i dont understand how people are saying that she is not white, when she clearly is! If my 2 black parents went to Australia and had me, i would come out, black just like them, not blonde hair, with blue eyes! If the issue shouldnt be the color of her skin, i dont see why you guys are trying to justify her race.

  21. Did Martin Luther King’s dream die with him? Are we more divided now than ever? I appreciate the honesty of author and can understand her angst, many whites still feel it too. Why? A man gave his life to bring us together and bridge a divide that never should have been there, but it was. This is but a small example of the problems still between our people. As far as Nikole goes, don’t forget a majority of student selected her. Or at least, that is how Homecoming Queens were selected back when I was in school. I urge you all who haven’t, read Dr. King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech and let’s begin shutting those who conitnue to divide us out, Black or White.

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