During the Sept. 10 Miss America broadcast, the final contestants were tested with not one but two rounds of questions. Though the first set were humorous and casual, the second set were serious and for the most part, political. Miss Texas spoke out against white supremacy at Miss America 2018 when asked a question about the violence in Charlottesville and Donald Trump's response to it.
After breezing through the swimsuit, evening gown, talent, and first question round, Margana Wood was invited to make her thoughts on this event known, and she took advantage of that opportunity. Some may have the perception that pageant contestants are trained to stay away from voicing strong opinions — to always choose the diplomatic answer and to avoid offending either side of an argument. But Miss Texas seemed completely unafraid of drawing a line in the sand.
When it was her turn to take her question, Wood pulled the name of judge and editor Jess Cagle out of the basket. Cagle asked:
"Last month a demonstration of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK in Charlottesville turned violent and a counter-protestor was killed. The president said there was shared blame with 'very fine people on both sides.' Were there? Tell me yes or no, and explain."
Of course, the question referred to the "Unite The Right" rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12. White nationalists gathered to promote their views and protest the removal of a Confederate status, and crowds of counter-protestors made their voices heard as well. Soon, videos and photos hit the internet of a car plowing into a group of counter-protestors, injuring some and killing one. The New York Times reported that James Alex Fields Jr. was arrested after the rally, and charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and failure to stop at a crash that caused a death, in conjunction with the death of counter-protestor Heather Heyer. (Per NBC News, Fields did not enter a plea during his first court appearance.) Donald Trump's response to the violence drew vehement criticism, as he did not denounce white supremacists or white nationalists in the process.
The issue is immediately relevant, and Miss Texas needed no time to think up an answer. She formulated her response quickly, and seemed to gain even more confidence as the crowd responded positively. She said:
"I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack, and I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure that all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now."
First of all, the Miss America organization made a statement simply by including terms like "neo-Nazis," and "white supremacists" in the original question. And Wood's unequivocal answer to it showed strength of character and shut down that stereotype that young women who compete in evening gowns can't be politically aware. She also shut down the idea that "nice" people have to kowtow to compromise, where no compromise is due. Imagine, a Miss America contestant scolding the president. It was a particularly badass moment during what was an often politically-charged event.
But her answer was also in line with her own personal platform. According to her Miss Texas bio, Wood calls it "You Belong," and works with a number of local organizations to combat bullying and promote inclusion. So standing up for equality is nothing new to Miss Texas, and I'm glad she was given this platform to commit to it so publicly.
While Miss Texas didn't take home the crown — that was Miss North Dakota, Cara Mund — she provided Miss America 2018 with its most woke moment, and showed how all white Americans should be meeting displays of bigotry: with an unwavering call for us to do and be better.