by Lulu Maginde
“Bronze signified race but not a specific color”
This particular statement seems to support the idea of the Miss Bronze beauty contest, however whether this is actually true or not is debatable.
First of all, the question has to be addressed, would someone find it offensive if they were to be labeled as bronze in terms of their race? Why one thought that it made sense to associate bronze with race or a beauty contest for that matter, is beyond me, especially during a time where one was persecuted because of their race, however in some aspects it did help in dissolving color boundaries so to speak.
The beauty contest that was created during the height of segregation in the 60s, for the purpose of bringing together African American women of all different skin colors as well as making a political statement. Originally most of the winners of the contest accounted for were light-skinned and most commonly came from stable backgrounds. Due to the contests, ‘black beauty queens became important symbols of black worth’, yet if winners were being chosen for the lightness of their skin tone, how do people differentiate between what they are supposed to stand for and what they are being led to believe by these contests? And also what is the standard of measurement for black women, if according to beauty institutions, black worth amounted to the accomplishments of lighter skinned contestants?
It seems that after the first dark-skinned contestant was crowned, people suddenly started taking notice. In an institution that has been dictated by this sense of “white is right”, having a dark skinned beauty queen symbolized that this idea of the lighter skin girl was not as significant or dying down.
For the longest time the many people, from the judges to audiences and even contestants had applied a form of “double consciousness” in regards to their appearance. This sense of double consciousness, where African Americans see themselves and judge themselves as white people see them, as W.E.B. Du Bois described it, only seemed to become less important throughout the end of the 1960s, being replaced by black empowerment. The Miss Bronze beauty contest was the first of its kind created for black women and so it meant a lot this division of color did not persist.
The role these black beauty contests in shaping the way black girls and women in turn see beauty had a great impact as in turn the color regime whereby light skin was the dominant was disappearing, all due to that one lady.
Craig, L., M. (2009). The color of an ideal Negro Beauty Queen: Miss Bronze 1961-1968. In Glenn, E. Shades of Difference: Why skin color matters. (pp. 81 – 94).Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Gee, R. (April 21st, 2011). Sharon Bailey, Sacramento producer of the Miss Bronze Pageant, Local winner Carolyn Blakey and Belva Davis.