When Keylin Perez turned the primary Latina to be crowned Miss Coppin State College in Baltimore, she was thrilled. She had been named the college’s Miss Sophomore and Miss Junior beforehand and was desperate to proceed representing the varsity with delight because the 91st Miss Coppin State College queen.
However after a TikTok video she posted went viral, she obtained backlash, together with harassment, from online critics who stated the position ought to be given to a Black girl, since Coppin State College is a traditionally Black college, often known as an HBCU.
“I by no means thought of stepping down,” Perez instructed NBC Information. She utilized for the high-profile position understanding she would possibly face some backlash, however ran unopposed and was formally crowned in October. “I stayed agency in my determination of persevering with to serve my establishment that has poured a lot into me the previous 4 years,” she stated.
The authentic TikTok video featured Perez and Mister Coppin State and their Royal Courtroom counterparts at Morgan State College, one other HBCU in Baltimore, recreating a scene from the Zoolander film, which was a trending meme on the time on the platform. The group recorded the lighthearted video whereas at Mister HBCU Kings’ Management Convention and Competitors, Inc., held in St. Louis.
The video has since gathered greater than 430,000 views, greater than 78,000 likes and had greater than 2,700 feedback earlier than Perez turned off the remark part as a result of of the barrage of hateful messages.
Dozens of movies and posts on different platforms equivalent to Instagram and Twitter additionally surfaced, elevating bigger questions of illustration, race and legacy, and debating whether or not a non-Black individual being crowned contradicts HBCU tradition.
Perez, who turns 23 on Saturday, stated the backlash online escalated as some of the feedback turned vulgar, with some even suggesting she harms herself.
Perez took to Instagram to deal with the controversy and issued a press release. The publish obtained greater than 1,000 feedback with divided opinions.
“They’re going to have to start out eradicating ‘Black’ in titles now,” one commenter stated, whereas one other stated, “The majority helps and stands with you. You’re doing superb sweetheart. Proceed serving your campus with grace.”
Kelaina Slaughter, 20, a junior majoring in English on the College of Louisville in Kentucky, first realized concerning the controversy surrounding Perez from a unique TikTok video.
Slaughter defined why she thinks a task like Miss Coppin State College ought to go to a Black individual.
She stated roles just like the Royal Courtroom positions at HBCUs are essential in representing college students who’ve been traditionally underserved at predominantly white establishments.
“The cause why these persons are so vital for them to be Black is in order that they will have Black voices in areas the place they have been traditionally not allowed. They’re making an attempt to indicate that we’re educated, that we will maintain these positions, that we will have the identical factor as white folks — anyone else,” Slaughter stated.
“Whenever you take these areas away, you’re taking away an further voice for our group you could have on a nationwide house and permit to signify our group as a complete,” Slaughter continued.
But Perez says she’s obtained assist from friends, professors and college directors.
Perez famous that the controversy is a stark distinction from her time as Miss Sophomore and Miss Junior. She didn’t obtain any backlash then, she stated.
Justin Evans, 23, president of Coppin’s scholar authorities affiliation, stated Perez “has our full assist.”
“I really feel prefer it’s bonded us collectively much more than earlier than, as a result of we’re already a small establishment, so all this backlash,” he stated, “simply helps us understand how we’re all we received in a way. The campus life has truly been up.”
Evans, who’s Black and Mexican American, stated Perez has been one of the extra impactful queens the varsity has had but. He additionally stated Perez has been featured all through campus and on the varsity’s web site since her time as Miss Sophomore and Miss Junior.
Jawaad Williams, 20, who’s Mister Junior at Coppin, stated concerning the controversy: “I feel typically folks simply get wrapped up within the thought, like an HBCU is simply Black folks solely and no person else is allowed to go to the varsity.”
Earlier than the social media backlash, no person on campus questioned Perez’s crowning, Williams stated, as a result of “all of us really feel like she deserved the spot that she’s in.”
“She goes above and past. She would not simply put on the crown and take footage. She truly goes within the Baltimore group and does work. She does work on campus. So she’s very lively in her position,” he stated.
Queens from different HBCUs additionally posted a video and statement in support of Perez.
Different HBCUs up to now have confronted comparable backlash for electing non-Black queens, together with Kentucky State College.
Traditionally Black — however changing into extra various
HBCUs are outlined as establishments based earlier than 1964 with the particular mission of educating Black college students amid the realities of authorized segregation. However in recent times, rising populations and altering demographics have impacted scholar composition. Non-Black college students accounted for 25% of enrollment at HBCUs in 2021, in comparison with 15% in 1976, based on the Nationwide Middle for Training Statistics.
Coppin State College President Anthony Jenkins addressed the difficulty of a multicultural campus in a video statement online denouncing the “racist, hurtful and unintelligent feedback made by a number of folks” in response to the backlash towards Perez.
“We’re a proud HBCU that educates a multicultural and multigenerational scholar inhabitants. Thus, we worth range and inclusion. As such, we don’t purchase into the parable that college students who signify our HBCU have to be African American,” Jenkins stated. “We’re not going to permit irrelevant haters to make our queen really feel as if she doesn’t belong, or that she shouldn’t be worthy to signify our beloved establishment.”
Perez, who’s of Guatemalan descent, attended public highschool in Glenelg, Maryland. “I by no means actually felt like I match it in, understanding that there was simply lower than 5 college students who’re Latino and fewer than 20 college students who’re Black and the remaining have been Caucasian,” Perez stated.
She stated she was drawn to Coppin State for its smaller classroom dimension ratios and its various scholar inhabitants. Coppin State’s scholar physique is 80% Black, 3.1% Hispanic or Latino and 1.7% white.
“Once I got here to Coppin, I actually felt welcomed,” Perez stated. “They pushed me, they impressed me and I felt like after I got here to their orientations, I discovered the whole lot that I’ve at all times needed in a college.”
Perez is a senior anticipated to graduate in Could as a nursing and navy science main. She additionally serves as a sergeant within the U.S. Military Reserves and plans to grow to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner throughout the navy.
For Latinos fascinated by attending an HBCU, Perez stated she recommends the colleges and advises potential college students to take an orientation tour to be taught extra.
Ashley Román, 21, a scholar athlete on the Coppin ladies’s volleyball crew majoring in biology pre-med, is from Isabela, Puerto Rico. Selecting to attend an HBCU, she stated, has been one of her finest experiences.