Jakiyah McKoy, stripped of her Little Miss Hispanic Delaware crown. (Via youtube.com)

Opinion: Defense of Little Miss Hispanic Delaware proves we have much more to do

When Latino Rebels published the story of Little Miss Hispanic Delaware early Wednesday morning after receiving a community pitch from the @djolder, little did we know that the story would go viral, but after getting picked up by both NBC Latino and The Grio, we knew that the story was indeed resonating with people. Then The Daily Mail wrote about the story and we were now global.

All because of this tweet…

…and because new Rebelde @ludacristiano was the first one to get the interview with pageant organizers.

The response to the defense as to why Jakiyah McKoy, whose parents said is of Dominican descent, although admirable, was quite bizarre. When in doubt, blame the parents. Get defensive. Say others have won the title from different descents. Question why the community is overreacting. And so on.

Nonetheless, after getting three replies from Nuestras Raíces Delaware, there was one question that they failed to answer. According to the initial Tumblr post of journalist Dash Harris, “There was uproar when the winner was announced because, according to the public, she was not the best representative of a Latin beauty.” I asked Nuestras Raíces about the details of the “uproar,” and so did Cristiano. All the responses we have received never denied that an “uproar” occurred, just that this was started by McKoy’s parents.

Something happened that day, and although the details are sketchy, I am still surprised that the campaign organizers have yet to not answer that question.

Granted, we are talking about a beauty pageant, and a world without these types of pageants would be a better world. Just ask France or Ireland. Nonetheless, questioning someone’s latinidad is a slippery slope, especially if the person in question is Afro-Latino.

Once again, Latinos are discussing one of our ugliest secrets: race and identity. It is a topic that we continue to dissect and redefine. Whether it is about a Mexican ad calling for no dark-skinned people, or a hilarious hashtag that questions how “Latino” GOP senator Ted Cruz is, these conversations are becoming more and more common.

I am thrilled that we are talking about this.

I am thrilled that people are responding.

I am thrilled that the story took off.

Issues like these rarely get the mainstream attention they deserve, and when we as a community can amplify them, we not only grow as a community, we also educate other non-Latinos.

The story of Little Miss Hispanic Delaware is just the latest example. The overwhelming response that it has received has only confirmed what so many online Latinos have known all along: that social media continues to be the one force that is helping to shed more light on reality. The response is authentic and honest. The reactions can be unfiltered and raw. It can make you feel uncomfortable and defensive. But it always comes from the ground up, and if the story matters, it will get noticed.

As with any story, we are now past the outrage and looking forward. Like Nuestras Raíces told the Rebeldes on Friday:

We hope that the community shifts focus back to the many positive outcomes of the organization – Hispanic Heritage month -is our focus right now and keeping education moving forward about Latinos and Hispanics.

I agree. But that shouldn’t stop us from continuing to raise the issues that will redefine what it means to be truly Latino in the U.S. right now. That is the end goal.

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