“When Miss America Was Always White”

(Summary of Article)

When Miss America Was Always White

Navita Cummings James


The article is about the experiences of a black woman during the 1950s.  Racism, stereotypes, and hate crimes are all discussed.  The author believes that in common history books, the “real” life of a black woman during those times is not fully told.  One way to tell the story is with her own personal experiences.  Nativa’s life struggles can be seen when she describes the murder of a black young girl by a white drunken man. The drunken white man saw the black young girl in the street and put his gun in her mouth and began to play in form of Russian roulette. The man ended up killing the girl but nothing happened to him; “Instead, White people felt pity for the man because he was drunk and had to witness his own folly, rather than for the murdered child and her family” (110). Nativa also expresses the difficulties she had growing up because of the economic issues her family had to face.  Her father was a pilot for the US Army, part of the first few black men allowed to fly planes in those days.  But when he got out of the army he could not get any pilot jobs because of the color of his skin. Instead he was offered janitor positions.  From her personal experiences with White people, Navita created her own stereotypes (during her Youth). For example, “Black people as just as good as white people-and in some ways (morally) better” and “White people are often violent and treacherous.” (113).


Nativa goes to explain how someone’s personal identity is constructed from their “self” and culture.  What helped her to be a successful person were her family stories, her “self” and pride of her culture were strong. Nativa learned to change her own stereotypes.  For example she learned that “…race was not a good predictor of violence-gender was; and that race was not a good predictor of intelligence-income and opportunities were.” (114). How does this article tie into communication? Nativa concludes her article by saying that “I made definitive choices about how I would relate to others.”(114). Navita chose to communicate with people with different backgrounds, including white people, and this has helped her to be the person she is today and has made her able to teach her own children about the opportunities and difficulties that awaits for them in the “real” world.


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