Miss Teen USA, the “N” word, and standing up for justice: an open letter from White Nonsense Roundup

Nikki Fowler, founder of Glitter Magazine, alerted us to the racist language used by the current Miss Teen USA. Glitter Magazine’s own open letter can be found here. bit.ly/GlitterMissUSA

We were very disappointed to see such a celebrated figure in the pageant world use the N word without repercussions or apology!

White Nonsense Roundup was created to combat systemic racism at the request of communities and individuals of Color. We are not the loudest or most crucial voices on this issue – nor should we be. But it’s important to stand in solidarity and show that there are many of us concerned, watching, and waiting for a response on this issue. The privilege granted to Miss Teen USA illustrates the racial inequity in our culture, and needs to be addressed quickly and thoroughly. Please read the attached Open Letter below.

August 30, 2016


White Nonsense Roundup was created by white people to address racism in other white people. We have been silent for far too long as communities of Color experience violence, oppression, and marginalization. We believe that all of us, together, can bring about a more equitable society.

This is why we were so troubled to learn of the casual racism shown by the winner of Miss Teen USA, and of the painful silence and refusal to take action on the part of Miss Universe and parent company IMG. The proper response would include an apology, a stripping of her title and crown, and use of the platform to turn the situation into a teachable moment rather than a disgrace.

In the past, contestants have been disqualified for many different infractions. These include using makeup artists, photos of nudity, and crass behavior online. So why the special treatment of this young woman? Is it because racist comments don’t violate your otherwise strict standards? Or is it because she is a beautiful young white woman who you are willing to grant extra leniency because of her skin color?

For example, Miss Florida was disqualified for allegedly using a makeup artist, even though it was not proven. Yet Miss Teen USA admits to breaking the codes of conduct contract and has been allowed to stay. The Miss Teen title is a privilege, and it belongs to people already walking in excellence; not girls promoting the systemic racism that plagues our society. If Miss Florida isn’t allowed a second chance, why should she? This is a prime example of white privilege – getting those extra chances and excusing bad behavior when People of Color are punished for lesser offenses.

Use of the N word by a role model and teen celebrity is absolutely unacceptable. This is true even if the white person saying it is ignorant of the effect it has – the impact is still very clear to everyone else. Unless you are a victim of anti-Black oppression, those words are not appropriate and you appear to be mocking something that causes many people pain. While Miss Teen USA has experienced struggles in her own life, as most of us do, this is no excuse for employing a word that has been used to oppress, humiliate, belittle, and marginalize Black people throughout American history.

Miss Teen USA’s refusal to step down, and Miss Universe’s unwillingness to take responsibility and remove her title, sends a terrible message to young people. It says that white people are allowed to be racist and promote their own privilege without consequence. It tells young people of color that they don’t matter, that their painful lived experience isn’t important. These should not be the values your organization promotes.

At the very least, an authentic apology should be made immediately. Miss Teen Oklahoma spoke to the media about how Miss Teen USA’s “apology” was really one of those non-apologies people give when they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. She’s absolutely right. We don’t need to hear “sorry if your feelings were hurt,” which only further blames the victim. We need to hear “I hurt you and it was wrong. I’m learning and I will do better in the future.” While she may think that her good intentions excuse her actions, it doesn’t excuse the very real hurt she has caused through the impact of her words.

Here is a great introduction to getting called out and how to apologize from Franchesca Ramsey.

This could be a real opportunity to address racism and take a stand against bigotry. Many of us white folks are still learning about racial inequity and white privilege, and the Miss Teen USA platform could be an agent for positive change. But when GMA asked how she would use her title to correct what has happened, she dodged the question with a non-answer.
We stand in solidarity with Glitter Magazine, who has written an open letter outlining these problems and the consequences there should be for racist behavior. The magazine was founded on the principles of diversity in 2006, and has changed the industry by example. The conduct of Miss Teen USA offends the celebrities and brands mentioned in that letter, along with huge communities of the viewing public. Glitter magazine’s #SelfLoveCampaign© promotes the importance of diversity and could serve as a positive example of role models and compassionate behavior.

We will be watching to see what steps are taken to correct this unacceptable behavior. And we are on call to help identify those next steps, give advice on proper apologies, and support Miss Teen USA when you are ready to do the right thing.

White Nonsense Roundup