MAO, You Know Better

I need to talk this one out with my favorite therapist: my keyboard.

I’ve been tagged in all the things and murmuring in the groups and dryly commenting snips of my opinion on my Facebook timeline, but then I thought – wait, what am I so afraid of saying out loud? I haven’t held a title in 11 years and I’m completely and fully retired…but I’m still tight-lipped under the fear and shame of actually speaking my mind. I’m still afraid of not sounding like everyone’s favorite sweet, demure, mild-tempered, crown-wearing inspiration. I’m still living under the censor of Miss America.

But I’m not a titleholder any more. I’m a bold, fierce, grown woman who is ready to fearlessly and fully step into her purpose and calling. At least, I’m trying to be. And with that dedication of rebuking inhibitions, let me tell you what I really think – or at least, ask the challenging questions:

I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…

 1.       Miss America Organization, what do you think are you doing? (Hear me saying that in my most disapproving Mom Voice) Why are you dragging your heels and deliberating over what is very clearly a cut and dry decision? Netflix, CBS and NBC all acted more swiftly and justly than you – and they are for-profit entities. In taking time to “properly” “investigate” (those are air quotes, by the way), you are putting one wealthy white male’s fragility above hundreds of thousands of strong, brilliant, ambitious women you claim to represent and uplift. You’re brushing off all of our #metoo stories, all of our social platforms, all of our hard work and dedication to becoming our best selves and helping the next wave of young women to climb upon our shoulders and achieve higher. Shame. On. You. Suspension? Really? That’s lazy. It’s ineffective, it’s inconsiderate, it’s rude. You, too are a victim of your own censorship; your own imposed keeping-up-appearances lifestyle. It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade. We all know, well-behaved women seldom make history (thank you, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich), so let’s put some hot sauce on these unsalted boiled carrots. It is 2017! In the year of the #metoo campaign, the silence-breakers being our persons of the year, with the march of the nasty women in pink pussy hats, you know better.  

It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade.

2.       When people find out I was Miss Michigan, their gut reaction is, “Well, gosh I can see why, you are SO BEAUTIFUL!” I choke on my immediate response and accept the compliment – truly, I appreciate the kind words. What makes me gag a little is that people STILL think all we do is smile and wave and say “world peace.” They don’t know about the years I spent practicing my cello until my fingers were numb and immovable; they don’t know about the hours I spent dancing until my toes bled and physically training my body to do beautiful and amazing things on the stage. They don’t know about the hours I spent writing and speaking about the need for cultural diversity at all levels of everything that is American, and how much better humanity would be if we took a moment to empathize and converse with someone of a different background. They don’t know about the time spent writing and rewriting my life view essays, training, and crying, and holding my sisters’ hands as we work ourselves raw to put ourselves through school, and add something worthwhile to our resumes – all so that we can climb just one more rung in the ladder that is still a white man’s world.

Miss Michigan Octavia Reese
(C) misswaynecounty.org

The masses still think we are just money-making babes in bikinis and most of them associate us all with Trump’s Miss USA ties. Well, The Miss America Organization is vastly different from the Miss USA Pageant – at least it was until the news broke out. Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House. It’s disgusting. To the MAO Board, it is your lack of action that is putting ratings, broadcast backing, viewership and support in jeopardy – not the CEO’s deplorable behavior. If you say you’re different, be different. Do the hard thing. Be bold. Be fearless. Maybe we just need a woman of color running that place. We made it happen in Alabama. Let’s get it done in MAO.

Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House.

 3.       Miss America is NOT just another beauty pageant. It used to be. It was made to be. But it has since evolved into the largest scholarship organization in the country, helping to put young women through school and repay student loans. It is the only “pageant” system that requires talent on and off the stage. We have intimidating academic aspirations and accomplishments; we donate hours upon hours of our time and talent to spur our society onto some better version of itself; our cultures, practices and skin tones and bodies come from all curves of the globe; we eat right, work out, take care of our families and friends, and we look damn good doing it. It’s time that the state and national leadership – reflected this. Why isn’t Miss America being run by a woman and backed by a thoughtful, compassionate, world-changing, forward-thinking, culturally and ethnically diverse, Board?

As a mother of half-white sons, I wonder what they think of me. I wonder how they see my role in their lives and how that translates to all women – all Black women. I wonder if I’m raising them to be the kind of man that will not only NEVER call a woman a c*nt, but would also bravely stand up to the kind of disgusting man that would. I wonder if they will not look at a woman as “other” or “less than.” I wonder if they see my hard work and will in turn do that hard work themselves, or if they will just expect other woman to pick up the slack for them. I wonder these things. I lose sleep over these things. I pray that my boys will grow into men that know better. Men that wouldn’t bring another white man onto an already monochromatic team – men that will deliberately look to work for and with and uplift women of all colors – men that will be honorable and make just and fast and swift decisions with compassion and care, putting the safety and peace of mind of others before their own selfish gain…and I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…

~ OR

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