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Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Alma Mater Is Disappointing Me! Hampton U Student Body Upset Over Crowning Of Non-Black Campus Queen

I may be having an inverted epiphany, a la Michelle Obama's jingoistic remark from last year's presidential campaign. For the first time in my life, I'm ashamed of my alma mater, Hampton University. More specifically, I'm ashamed at some of the student body. There appears to be a bit of a controversy brewing over the choice of this year's Miss Hampton U based on her ethnicity. Some reports are describing the young collegian as White, which I think makes for good copy but it is inaccurate. Other reports are describing Nikole Churchill (the student in question) as multi-racial, Guamanian and Italian. I am a very proud HBCU graduate and part of the reason I initially decided to obtain my undergraduate education at a predominantly African-American institution was for cultural reasons.

But the reality is these institutions are also gaining popularity with non-Black attendees as well. The reticence that some the students may be having toward Ms. Churchill can (and has..) conversely be used to object to our sitting president. Our nation previously had forty-three White presidents and yet we couldn't make room for one Commander-in-Chief of color? Just as it has not been explicitly stated that a U.S. President has to be Caucasian, there are no bylaws that affirm Miss Hampton needing to be Black. Now don't get me wrong, just as a yeshiva is entitled to promulgate Judaic principles, an overarching Black cultural standard should also be upheld for African-American colleges and universities. In the case of Churchill, matters became even more complicated when she drafted a letter to President Obama imploring him to intercede in this controversy. Here's more on this issue courtesy of today's NY Daily News:

Nikole Churchill, first non-black Hampton University pageant winner, apologizes for letter to Obama

The first nonblack winner of the annual Miss Hampton’s University scholarship pageant apologized for a letter she wrote to President Obama, criticizing her peers for not accepting her win.

Senior student Nikole Churchill, 22, beat out nine black students when she won the Miss Hampton University pageant Friday.

Hampton University is a traditionally a black school.

Touting her victory, she wrote a letter to President Obama calling her win, “the best night of my life.”

She added that her crowning “was not widely accepted” on campus “because the color of my skin.” She wrote, “I am not African-American”

In the letter she asked Obama to come speak at Hampton University “so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin and doubting my abilities to represent, but rather be proud of the changes our nation is making towards accepting diversity.”

Her win and subsequent letter ignited a fire of debate around campus.

Executive pageant director Shelia Maye said Churchill’s win is a milestone and is shocked at the polarized debate around the issue, according to the Daily Press.

"We have all kinds of people on our campus, we are not in a cocoon," she said. "As far as I'm concerned we need to get her ready to serve HU and to move on and represent us at Miss Virginia."

Other students complained that she doesn’t attend the main campus and isn’t black.

"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?" said journalism sophomore Juan Diasgranados.

On Tuesday, Churchill issued a statement apologizing to the university for the wording of the letter.

What do our faithful readers/supporters think about this latest controversy? If other ethnicities are attending HBCUs, shouldn't they expect parity? And is this a form of discrimination not too dissimilar to what White colleges (and pageants, for that matter) imposed on African-Americans in past years? Again, a quarter (adjusted for inflation) for your thoughts....

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