The Miss Bronze Contest and Double Consciousness

by Han Si Hun (Jake)

In the book Shades of difference, Maxine Leeds Craig shows the complexity of colorism in the Miss Bronze contests in the United States, and the importance of color within the black community. The Miss Bronze contest can be considered a part of the African American tradition of developing institutions to facilitate black class movement. Contrasting to many earlier contests, the organizers wanted to break old relations between skin color and class position in black communities. Though the contest attracted many light-skinned black women, and these women often won the Miss Bronze title, the organizers purposely recruited contestants with darker skin. Their intention was to make the African American working class eligible to complete the performance of middle-class and femininity

Beauty queens often represent a nation, a region, or a race. Miss Bronze was selected to be a symbol for two audiences: one white and the other black. For whites, Miss Bronze’s attractive face and body could disprove long suffering representations of black women. Miss Bronze was able to prove segregationists wrong. Within black communities, Miss Bronze encouraged new ways of seeing beauty when the winners were of a darker type and fortified African American colorist hierarchies when their skin were light.

We can link this situation with double consciousness. It is a term that describes a person’s identity as having multiple sides. W.E.B. Du Bois, a famous American sociologist, first coined this term. Examples of double consciousness occur in public society through racism. Many people are stereotyped because of racism. The example of double consciousness can be found in our contemporary life as well. As there are still many inequalities based upon race that makes it difficult for black Americans to settle their identities as blacks and as Americans. Mass media shows us images of black men as athletes, rappers or criminals, and as a result white America identifies black men as such and young black males see these limited paths as their only options for advancement. This can contribute to social problem what black experience. For example, the African American have greater difficulty getting a job compared to whites (DeSilver, 2013). This is just one image of how the media, which is largely dominated by white executives, continues to assume the role of shaping the perceptions that blacks have of them (Pierre, 1999).

In conclusion, I think blacks still face discrimination and stereotypes in our contemporary society. Some white people still feel superior and they are sometimes mistreating others because of their color and ethnicity. I think whites need to acknowledge the struggles of  black Americans and recognize them fully as human and give them  respect. Furthermore, they should also fully unite with them in all development activities and plans of their country.

References

DeSilver, D. (2013, August 21). Black unemployment rate is consistently twice that of whites. Pew Research Center: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/08/21/through-good-times-and-bad-black-unemployment-is-consistently-double-that-of-whites/

Pierre, C. L. (1999, June 4). Mass Media in the White Man’s World. Retrieved 11 11, 2013, from EDGE: http://www.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/mass.htm

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Opportunist Beauty in Japan

Miss Universe Japan 2007 wins Miss Universe 20...

Miss Universe Japan 2007 wins Miss Universe 2007 crown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mitsumi Yamamoto

Every year a number of Japanese students in my university decide to participate in a study abroad program (mainly to the US, Canada, and Australia). They usually start to prepare for the coming life in foreign countries by packing stuff or setting up their goals during spring semester in Japan. It was such a time when I often saw the female students dying their hair black again, although they used to have their hair dyed bright colors such as blonde and brown. I asked some of my friends how come they would do so and they answered, “Obviously that is because black hair represents Asian beauty.” Meanwhile within Japan, there is a huge boom about biracial people referred to as “hafu”, especially referring to people of half-Caucasian and half-Japanese (one parent being Japanese and one parent being of Caucasian heritage) (Okamura, 2009). Recently you can see hafu models and celebrities a lot on TV and in magazines, and many Japanese women try to achieve a western-looking face due to their adoration for hafu’s appearance.

Those two standards of beauty that Japanese women have, “Asian beauty” and “Western beauty,” seem to be the opposites of each other. However both standards exist simultaneously as the dominant viewpoints when thinking about what is beauty for Japanese women. Why?

This phenomenon can be explained with a case of African American women competing in the Miss Bronze or black beauty contests during the 1960s and 1970s, when the Civil Rights Movement flourished against discrimination towards black people. Maxine Leeds Craig, a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of California-Davis, pointed out that  at that time black women in the Miss Bronze pageant would realize views of themselves depending on how whites saw blacks, but at the same time this helped them to see the structure of racism (Glenn, 2009). Therefore in order to accept and reject this hierarchy, contestants who had dark skin tone were crowned as winners of Miss Bronze since the 1960s, rather than those with light skin tone, who were considered as the closest color to whiteness. The black beauty came to be used as a demonstration of the value of black people.

Related to this case, what about the pageant of Miss Universe Japan? In spite of the domestic hafu boom, almost all participants of this contest attempt to show their beauty as Asian with typical images of Asian women (e.g., long black hair, slit eyes) (Miss Universe Japan). The same thing can be said of women who stay in foreign countries outside of Japan. Even if the women used to prefer western-looking (e.g., bright colored hair and round eyes) inside of Japan, they somehow start to focus on “Asian beauty,” showing their Asian features to foreigners.

Hence this coexistence of the seemingly opposite standards of beauty and switch between them depending on the situation look similar to the case of African American women. It seems that Japanese women, as representatives of Asian women, would think of themselves as inferior to whites in racial hierarchy and this consciousness would help accepting and rejecting this hierarchy. Therefore Japanese women who have chances to live in an environment filled with Westerners try to behave as one a representative of Asian beauty, although once they are in Japan, they still tend to have the feeling of inferiority toward white people with an ideal to Western-beauty.

References

Okamura, H. (2009). ハーフブームと『ハーフ顔』? [hafu boom and hafu face?]. Retrieved from http://www.kreuzungsstelle.com/column5_10.html

Miss Universe Japan. Miss Universe Japan Official site. Retrieved from http://www.missuniversejapan.com/

Glenn, E. N. (Ed.). (2009). Shades of Difference: why skin color matters. Stanford: Stanford University Press.