As 2019 winds down, a few thoughts on beauty queens, Black QBs and Wakanda | John N. Mitchell
In all likelihood, you are going to spend the rest of your life having Wakanda moments — experiences that inspire pride that is unique to African Americans.
December was loaded with moments like this. For the first time in history, five Black women simultaneously held the crowns of Miss World (Toni-Ann Singh, Jamaica), Miss Universe (Zozibini Tunzi, South Africa), Miss America (Nia Franklin), Miss USA (Cheslie Kryst) and Miss Teen USA (Kaliegh Garris).
This is big news considering that Black women were prohibited from competing in the Miss America pageant until the 1940s, the first Black contestant didn’t compete until 30 years later, and the first Black woman (Vanessa Williams) wasn’t crowned until 1983. That’s 62 years after the “bathing beauty revue” was first held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Sure, many of you knew Black was beautiful all along and didn’t require ratification from those who historically have done whatever they could to suppress this notion.
And let’s be honest: Sadly, there are some in the African-American community — you might be one of them — who simply don’t feel that they are legitimized unless they receive that confirmation from mainstream America.
The NFL, celebrating its 100th season, also recorded a notable first in December.
For decades, the quarterback position had been mostly set aside for dashing, 6-foot-4 white dudes. Many were ascribed a certain level of heightened intellectualism for no other reason than their demography.
This trope of white domination has been vanishing for the last few decades. And earlier this month, for the first time in league history, all three of the AFC quarterbacks in the Pro Bowl — Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) and Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) — are African American.
As with the beauty, so with the brawn, I assume that most didn’t need confirmation that Black men can put in stellar performances in reaching the postseason as quarterbacks.
While these are nice stories, they are mostly baubles and trinkets.
Sure, it feels good to talk about these things inside nail salons and barbershops — places where style is of more value than substance.
But they are false signs of progress.
What are the chances that your daughter will grow up to be Miss Universe, or that your son will be the star quarterback for an NFL team?
Especially when pageant preparation and football training can cost thousands of dollars, and the average net worth of white families is still 10 times that of the average Black family (pretty much the way it has been since the Civil Rights Movement).
President Donald Trump claims truthfully that the Black unemployment rate is the lowest it has ever been. What this means for most Americans is that there is a much greater likelihood that more are working in underpaying jobs and forced to work a second job to make ends meet.
You might know a few African Americans with good jobs in banking, but the odds are that you know fewer today than you did 10 years ago.
A 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office says the proportion of African-American managers in financial services companies is smaller now that it was more than a decade ago, and it continues to shrink in a supposedly robust financial market.
So, enjoy the Pro Bowl and all those young African-American quarterbacks who have revolutionized the way the quarterback position is played. And feel free to marvel at the audaciously beautiful and talented Black and Brown beauty queens because, yes, they are special.
But remember that they don’t really represent the attainable. The chances of your son or daughter joining their ranks are slightly smaller than the chances of your next Powerball ticket being a big winner.
Don’t get the real work confused with Wakanda.
Capital-Star opinion contributor John N. Mitchell is a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this piece first appeared. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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John N. Mitchell