Recently, University of Texas Black Beauty Queen Rachael Malonson stated her case speaking from her heart on being Black.
In the story, “Yes, I am ‘Black enough’ to be Miss Black University of Texas” that appeared in Daily Dot, May 12, 2017, Malonson makes it clear that the criticisms she received about her skin color were off color, mean and unwarranted.
The Confusion of Being Biracial vs Being Black
In the article, she uses her own words and takes a stand by attempting to speak to her critics. However, her arguments though heartfelt, fall far short of defining what it means to be Black enough.
The newly crowned winner takes a stand against the hate and plans to use what happened to her promising to use her new celebrity role as a platform to speak truth to power on the issues of being biracial in America.
In one of her comments she states reasons for coming out of the color cocoon.
“Long before I was crowned Miss Black University of Texas, I’ve worried about people thinking I’m not black enough. Some of it was warranted, some of it was in my own head. When you’re a light-skinned half-black, half-white woman, you are often asked, in subtle and overt ways, to prove yourself.
The fear even crossed my mind before I made the commitment to sign up for the pageant, which was a decision already out of my comfort zone. I tend to struggle with a fear of failure and it often keeps me from going after things I really want—from applying for competitive jobs to studying abroad. I worried I wouldn’t be talented enough or likable enough to succeed in the pageant. But I chose to ignore my concerns and pursue the opportunity. My hope was to be part of—and promote—an inclusive environment for all shades of black women.”
What Malonson has to understand first is that defining Black cannot be defended by a Black Beauty pageant. Her focus appears to be more on self than on connecting herself to Blackness.
“…Growing up, I was constantly questioned about who I was racially. Many people thought I was Hispanic, others thought I was adopted, and then some would just blatantly ask me “What are you?” When I would tell people that I was mixed, black and white, it was almost never a good-enough answer. I was often asked to show a picture of my parents to prove that I was indeed what I already told them. And one of the worst yet most common responses that I got was that I was joking, that they wanted to know my “real” race.”
“…Once I entered high school, I began to feel more secure in my identity as a biracial woman. (not a Black woman)
As people continued questioning me based on the way I looked, I started to see it as an opportunity to explain that black comes in all different shades and hair textures. I finally felt confident in who I was because I realized that I am a walking example that the black community is not built on a single story. People continue to question my identity and others still try to exclude me, but it will not allow me to deny myself as a biracial woman who is black and white…”
As her Blackness was tested and questioned at periodic intervals in her life, the question is what did Malonson do to explore and get in touch with her own Black history and the Black history of her people? It appears great opportunities to understand and find her true Blackness and be at peace with it long before the beauty pageant victory.
Being Black is an experience that happens day in and day out in a series of occurrences and events called life. Understanding what it means to be Black starts with knowing your history.
It appears all her life she has been in a type of “color bubble” and did not have enough of a real Black life experience or the kind of exposure needed to understand the challenges, plights and uphill battles African-Americans face today and faced in years past, ie, lynchings, racism, voting rights, business opportunities, discrimination, unemployment and much more.
“Though many might think pageant training is just about posing and picking out outfits, I was working up to three hours a day for five days a week to master a variety of categories, while juggling 18 hours of school, 10 hours at my internship (here at the Daily Dot), and leading the UT chapter of National Association of Black Journalists as its vice president. I had to prepare a transparent introductory monologue, which included the obstacles I face as a biracial woman. I had to work on my talent (singing) and my platform (the need to increase diversity in the media newsrooms), and I had to heavily study the news (because there would be political questions to answer, like “In your opinion, how can the nation maximize the number of women we have in corporate executive office positions?”)… But after a lot of hard work, laughter, and tears—and a lack of sleep—I was honored to be crowned 2017’s Miss Black University of Texas on my school’s auditorium stage. As 2016’s Miss Black University of Texas, Khady Diack, placed the tiara on my head and sash around my dress, I felt that I was breaking past a barrier within my identity. I finally felt that people saw me as “black enough.”
Three months of hard work, determination, and ultimately validation were quickly erased by the same questioning I’d faced my whole life.”
What does it mean to be Black enough?
Blackness is not determined by putting on a crown and being declared “beautiful”. That trivializes Blackness around a pageant, limits true Blackness and corrals Black history and locks it in an entertainment vacuum.
Being Black means meshing your whole being and experience into identifying with our rich and historic Black past for better and worse.
Standing and being a spokesman means accepting the risks of standing up and standing out.
It means being willing to take the public criticisms and bullets for the cause.
Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and James Earl Chaney are brave examples of Blackness for their roles as fearless, unselfish outspoken and firm on their Blackness and the fight for the people.
Malcolm X was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.
Evers (1925-1963) was an African-American civil rights activist whose murder drew national attention. Evers was subjected to threats as the most visible civil rights leader in the state, and he was shot to death in June 1963 when a gunmen killed him in the driveway of his home.
James Earl Chaney was a young black man born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi. In the summer of 1964, Chaney volunteered with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) to establish education on voting and became a liaison between CORE and church leaders to encourage churches to set-up voter registration stations. He was jailed, beaten and killed in Mississippi.
Blackness wasn’t focused on them. It wasn’t about being spoiled, beautiful, being crowned or winning a pageant and acclaim of a few selected people and peer acceptance.
It’s about linking to Black history and being willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to have the same kind of commitment as each of our Black heroes displayed. Being Black can and does cost something.
“…There is the large circle of friends and family who care about me, but there are also millions of mixed-race young people who have also worried if they are enough. And now I have a bigger platform to stand up for what I believe in—and for them as well.”(Nothing about Blackness)
Is Rachael qualified to take this stand and create a platform for Blackness without the experiences of really knowing her Black history and Black life well?
One woman from Spain reminded Malonson that it does not matter what others can see from the outside and that she should always embrace her black roots.
Rachael Malonson needs to take that advice and truly get in touch with understanding the real truth about Blackness and learn the real truths about Black History and Black roots.