Y’all it’s hard being a Black woman outchea. You’re either too Black or not Black enough. Two years ago, Ariana Miyamoto, with her Black father and Japanese mother, was too Black to be named Miss. Japan. And now, two years later, Rachael Malonson is apparently not Black enough to be named Miss Black University of Texas.
Malonson is biracial, with a Black father and White mother. And she was crowned Miss. Black UT by the historically Black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi.
When the fraternity announced the winner and shared her picture on social media, it was met with backlash, including folks questioning whether not she, with her lighter skin complexion and straight hair, had even been able to relate to the Black experience. Then there were others who found it interesting that the Kappas chose the lightest girl in the room to wear the crown.
Then of course, there were those who saw the light and called people out for their exclusion of Malonson.
Then there were those with questions.
Seeing that his sister was being targeted in this way, her brother Gregory stepped forward to defend her.
Interestingly enough, Malonson herself anticipated some of this backlash. She told USA Today College,
“I wasn’t sure if I would even place in the pageant because I wasn’t sure they would think I was ‘black enough’. I chose to do the pageant to gain a deeper inner confidence before I graduate, while breaking stereotypes that black people or mixed-race people have to look a certain way.”
Still, when she saw the tweets and comments about her win, she was still a bit shocked.
“At first, it really caught me off guard because I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Then I realized I could use this as an opportunity and platform to break down the stereotypes that black people have to look a certain way to be accepted.”
I can understand where people are coming from. Light skinned Black women experience quite a bit of privilege in our country. And I don’t think the Kappas or anyone else should attempt to deny that undeniable fact. Still, as someone mentioned the crowning of Malonson as Miss Black UT doesn’t mean she’s the quintessential Black woman or a representation of what Blackness should be. And pageants are problematic for that very reason. Because far too often, there is so much focus on the looks of the contestant, even when a competitor is worthy, it’s the looks that are so prominently showcased, that people can’t focus on anything else.
I don’t know how the Kappas at UT do things, but from what I recall from our Black Pageants at my university, the contestants had to be involved in campus activities. (For the record, Malonson is the Vice President of the University’s chapter of National Association of Black Journalists. And researched the lack of racial diversity in the media for her service platform.) They had to perform community service, answer questions appropriately and, let’s be honest, raise money for either the event or the fraternity itself. And in exchange, they get a scholarship. From the picture the fraternity tweeted, we don’t know which requirements Rachael and her opponents met and which ones they did not. Again, the focus is on her looks, and in this case her light skin.
Furthermore, it’s so interesting to me that people only want to qualify you as Black based on the level of struggle your life has included. Yes, oppression is also an undeniable fact of the Black American experience for many people but I refuse to accept it is an essential part of what it means to be Black. And it’s not fair to use it as a qualifier.
To what someone pointed out earlier, in the same way we can’t talk about Black Lives Matter and exclude gay or trans people, we can’t do that same with biracial folk who are willing to not only acknowledge their Blackness but to also fight for it. We can’t decide to claim certain Black people at one point (looking at all the Barack Obama voters) and then decide other, less prominent biracial folks aren’t good enough to sit at the table.