CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The selection of a college homecoming queen, deeply rooted in the Southern white debutante tradition, has become the South's latest battleground of racial symbolism.
The homecoming-queen role itself is strictly ceremonial, but black students at the University of North Carolina have used it to assert their leverage and unity. In doing so, they have won some significant campus victories.
UNC, which is 90% white, has elected a black homecoming queen every year since 1988 due to bloc voting by its black students. The campus reaction has ranged from alumni grumbling that black homecoming queens "don't really represent the school" to vandalism--in 1991, the homecoming queen's car tires were slashed.
Year after year, the athletic association, which oversees the queen's selection, has tried to change the rules to thwart the Black Student Movement's bloc-voting tactics. This year, it greatly complicated the application and interview process, which the association administers. Currently, student votes count for two-thirds of a finalist's score, the application and interview the remaining one-third. Still, a black was crowned homecoming queen.