¿Qué es la belleza? The Infiltration of Systemic Racism into “Beauty”

Twentieth century poet and writer, Dorothy Parker said, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.” Well, last week during the 2013 Miss Chiquita Delaware beauty and talent show, enough ugly was heavily blooming from the refined soil of provincialism for all to gander. The crowd’s reaction to seven-year-old Jakiyah McKoy being named the winner caused the contest sponsor, Nuestras Raices Delaware, to strip the child of her newly acquired “bling.”

She was described, which is only obvious to a nitwit, as not being “the best representative of Latin beauty.” Simply put, Jakiyah, who has Dominican roots, was too Black for the competition. But do not worry, justice will prevail. All will be put to rest, and the crown will be returned to the rightful owner. That is . . . . once the parents provide proof that their daughter is 25 percent Hispanic.

Too bad that she will have some trouble with this task since her undocumented Dominican grandmother is deceased. Interestingly enough, participants are normally taken at their word relating to their heritage. But why was this same courtesy not afforded to Jakiyah?

Let’s start by being honest with one another.

Beauty has truly and overwhelmingly throughout the history of the world been defined by White. In fact, within disproportionate segments of the world, whiteness is the definition of beauty. This may be why more Latinos than in previous years, self-identified themselves as White within a 2011 Pew National Survey. With the help of commercials coaxing you to purchase over-processed foods, to the high falutin’ and over-priced designs placed upon the emaciated bodies of those walking the runways of New York to Malian, the image is crystallized. No matter the social class or ethnic lineage, we as a society sway back and forth due to the white snake charming effect.

For some, the effects are heartbreaking. The 2013 documentary, Dark Girls, highlights the prejudices experienced by dark-complected women throughout the world.

This is clearly another example that proves the existence of a white racial frame within the 21st century. I am confident the spirit of the Brown Bag test (used by a number of Black sororities and fraternities to stop darker skinned Blacks from admission), segregation within businesses, churches, Black colleges, preparatory schools, or the previous Charles Chestnutt’s Blue Veins Society are still alive today within our society.

In fact, the lyrics of the classic blues singer, Big Bill Broonzy, “They said, if you was white, you’d be alright, If you was brown, stick around, But as you is black, oh brother, Get back, get back, get back” are still prevalent and relevant to the discussion relating to little Jakiyah.

Latinos are not exempt from being poisoned by the prevalence of white racism. Patricia Hill Collins, discusses domains of oppression (e.g., gender, class, race, sexual orientation, religion), and how they are all interconnected.

Even though each domain differs regarding social categorization, they still remain connected through the same confrontation of oppressive challenges. At times, they may even overlap. Importantly, due to a particular social location, one who is oppressed may instead become the oppressor. In the case of the Miss Chiquita Delaware competition, it is clear who is oppressing and who is oppressed.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    More work on Black Latino/a is beginning to emerge ever so slowly, but so much work that needs to be done. We were focusing on this a little bit last year when working with the social construction of racial categories and how they vary in different cultures. It seemed the students in all groups had a very difficult time grasping the idea of people being culturally and ethnically mixed, as with Black Asians and Black Latina/o’s…likely because in this white racially framed dominated culture, we are trained to place people into mutually exclusive categories despite the incredible diversity many people may represent on many different levels. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT7_oQzDYMw

    Sadly, like the U.S., Spain practiced slavery and their many cultures that have spread throughout the Latin nations have been fundamentally influenced by African culture, as with music, dance, and so forth. Yet, Latins with African ancestry while incredibly large in number, are largely invisible and often not even seen as being Latina/o in both the U.S. and Latin nations. Their media, as with ours, tends to present the “beauty” ideals through the hard white racial frame–light skin, straight hair, blue eyes, and so forth. And like other cultures, tons of money have been spent on skin lightening creams, hair straitening products, and so forth damaging the psyche of many through holding dominant notions of beauty on a radicalized color hierarchy rather than something as a nominal qualitative spectrum of some sort–celebrating all beauty.

    It’s an issue that exists here in the U.S. and Latin nations–very sad all the way around, but in the case of beauty pageants with children? Why beauty pageants with children are even legal to begin with is beyond me…but a very sad thing all the way around and very damaging…perhaps most so for children of African ancestry. And certainly damaging for everybody when children (or the winners) who represent the racist ideals of what beauty should look like win only to reinforce the white supremacist components of beauty, etc., both U.S. and Latin societies–both ultimately dominated by roots that tie back to very old European based white racial frames, etc. Anyway, just my two cents. Important stuff

  2. cordoba blue

    OK, so a Hispanic beauty pageant asks other Hispanics to provide documentation to prove their participants are indeed of Hispanic origin. What does this have to do with the evil “white racial frame”? Caucasians had nothing, I repeat nothing, to do with this pageant.
    How is it possible to assign ANY CULPABILITY whatsoever to white people for requiring a Hispanic administered contest to ask other Hispanics to provide documentation?
    Yes, Darwin was a racist. He manipulated facts to suit his agenda. So did the Klu Klux Klan. So did slave holders.So did Jim Crow legislators. But can you please ask yourself, are you doing the SAME THING? Are you pushing and prodding and squeezing those facts to come up with the exact same answer all the time? Is everything negative in America the sole act of a white population? Can you not see this is virtually and scientifically impossible?
    Are not acts of brutality committed in Africa by black clan leaders who commit genocide EVERY DAY against other blacks? Read up on African history. White people were not the only ones who exploited Africans. The Africans themselves did a pretty good job of one genocidal purge after another, for thousands of years. And are still doing it today.
    Are you being objective and truly social scientists? Because I don’t see that on this site sometimes. In your consistent efforts to assign blame for all the world’s evils to Caucasians, you are becoming obsessively unscientific and frantically exuding the same type of bewildering propaganda-like tactics that white nationalists propagate.
    They scream “blacks are responsible for all evils” and you scream “whites are responsible for all evils”. Both examples of racism. Yes, both judging millions and millions of human beings by some strange standard of what you WISH were true so your agenda holds water.

  3. Dr. Terence Fitzgerald Author

    Thank you for your comments. First, it is important that we start the discussion by examining the requirements of the pageant. The committee members did not require all of the participants to show proof of their heritage. They in fact only asked one winner. This was only after members of the crowd complained. It is noted in the rules that proof is to be shown before competing. But within the past, judges and sponsors simply took participants at their word. So, one has to ask why was this not afforded to the little girl in question.

    Next, I feel it is important to examine the main statement made referencing the winner’s looks. It was said, “She does not represent Latino beauty.” Being familiar with the subject matter and research related to controversy surrounding the idea of “color” amongst groups such as Blacks and Latinos, led me to applying the white racial frame. Remember, the white racial frame, developed by Dr. Feagin (within Systemic Racism), essentially states”whites have combined racial stereotypes (the cognitive aspect), metaphors and interpretive concepts (the deeper cognitive aspect), images (the visual aspect), emotions (feelings), and inclinations to discriminatory action. This frame buttresses, and grows out of the material reality of racial oppression.” Moreover, the power of racial framing has been shown to effect other non-Whites in such a way that they too fall prey to sharing the vantage point many Whites share regarding Blacks. In fact, Whites historically and currently control the master narrative which depicts Blackness as less than. Again, the power of the white racial frame influences others groups to adopt the master narrative that deems whiteness as good and blackness as bad. Examples of this can be seen within countries such a Columbia and Brazil. We have examples of people with African physical traits denying their Blackness. Look to the work of Henry Lewis Gates (Black in Latin America, pbs) to understand the depths of this issue. Or you can look at the booming rate of people in countries such a Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and India who use skin whitening products.From there, I feel you can make a substantial connection to the white racial frame and my arguments.

    Finally, when thinking of the outcome of the event in question, I think it is important to consider Albert Memmi’s work. He said those who practice oppression and social control toward people of color “make reference to biological differences from the purposes of subjugation and the establishment of certain privileges and advantage for itself…For them, the other races will be those that are impure and abominable, and their own, pure and admirable.” It is important to remember this attitude continues to carry true real value within the 21st century.

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