The winner of the Miss Black University of Texas is taking the high road after critics on social media claimed she's “not black enough.”
Congratulations to our 2017 Miss Black University of Texas! We thank our lovely contestants, as well as everyone else who came to support!👌🏽 pic.twitter.com/yEva52wpSp— Iota Delta NUPEs (@ID_NUPEs) May 2, 2017
Rachael Malonson, 22, who is biracial, was crowned on Sunday. The event was hosted by Kappa Alpha Psi, a predominantly black fraternity.
“It was definitely a huge honor to win. As a biracial woman, I didn’t even think I was able to place,” she told Fox News.
In a Facebook post after her win, Malonson said she was at first reluctant to take part in the pageant because of her mixed race.
“I challenged myself by vulnerably expressing obstacles I face as a biracial woman and was not going to leave the stage without letting others know that my blessings and strength are in Christ alone,” she wrote.
But soon after she was crowned, Twitter trolls said she should not have won the pageant because, quite simply, she didn’t actually identify as African American.
Malonson, whose father is black and whose mother is white, said she was taken off guard by the criticism, particularly since part of her pageant platform was trying to break down stereotypes and educating people about racial identity.
“I didn’t realize that even after I received the title I would still have to explain myself, that there was still ignorant people out there who are asking me to prove myself,” she said. “Just because I have straight hair and olive skin tone doesn’t mean I’m not black…I don’t have to look a certain way to be black.”
Malonson, who is a senior and a broadcasting and journalism student at the University of Texas, seems to have taken the criticism in stride. In a Twitter post and to Fox News, she thanked everyone who came out and supported her, particularly those in the African American community.
“The beautiful thing about this is all the people her [at UT] who have come out and defended me,” she said. “It shows I have a beautiful support system here.”
She said she will take this experience and turn it into an opportunity. She will dedicate the next year to educating people about racial identity and breaking down stereotypes by posting videos from different people talking about their cultural and racial roots.
“And I will continue to support black women empowerment,” she said.
In a story in the Daily Texan, a student newspaper, Malonson said she has long struggled with her mixed heritage because no one could figure out where she was from. So many people thought she was Hispanic, she said, that she started to believe it herself – even though she was not.
“I remember I felt so insecure because people didn’t understand who I was by my look,” Malonson said. “I’m confident in it now and see it as a unique trait where I’m able to teach people that not every black person (and) not every mixed person looks the same way.”