You either recognize Rachel Dolezal by name or facially. She’s been a topic of national discussion and examination for the last week. Dolezal is ubiquitous: in television interviews, magazines, all over the internet, and a fixture on social media. She’s a polarizing figure. Either you’re completely for her, or completely against her. There is no middle place. I’ve been monitoring this particular news story closely. I’ve heard the opinions of white people and black people, young folks and elderly folks, liberals and conservatives. It’s think it’s time for me to weigh in. I have a few things to say on this Rachel Dolezal thing.
For those of you who have been traveling abroad the last week – and for those of you who live off the grid – Rachel Dolezal was the President of the Spokane, Washington Branch of the NAACP. She’s a white woman who steadfastly identifies herself as black. This was a local news story confined to Spokane until Dolezal’s parents came forth to declare that their estranged daughter was lying about her ethnicity. When a journalist asked Dolezal directly during an on-air interview days ago if her was black – and she could not answer – the media began looking into her background. What they found generated many more questions than answers. That’s when a local story became a national story.
Before I continue, I need to say this. I’m praying for Rachel Dolezal. I’m praying for her immediate family. I don’t pretend to know all the intricacies of her life story. However, she’s my sister in Christ. She’s also your sister. And it’s abundantly clear that she’s hurting. There is pain in her eyes, in her voice, and upon her face.
Yes, Dolezal has been caught lying about certain aspects of her past. The black gentleman that she has publicly acknowledged as her biological father isn’t. Her claims that she lived in a teepee as a child have been proven as false. Her statement that she lived for a time in South Africa is also untrue. Dolezal has all but disavowed her life as a child of well-to-do parents. She has nothing to say about her life of privilege – or the loving parents who provided her with that upbringing.
Conversely, Dolezal does have some basic truths which also demand consideration. She is a graduate of Howard University – one of the most well-respected, historically black universities in America. She was married to – and divorced from – a black man. From that union, Dolezal is the mother of two black children. Dolezal served for years as the President of the NAACP – an unpaid position. In that capacity, she fought for the pillars of civic engagement, climate justice, economic opportunity, educational initiatives, federal advocacy, health & wellness, legal equality, and media diversity. The NAACP doesn’t advocate for those aforementioned objectives strictly for people of color – but rather for all Americans. These things are near and dear to my heart, too – especially since I’m Vice-President of the Thomas County Branch of the NAACP. Ironically, Dolezal did more to realize positive societal change than many of her current critics.
Of course, America’s political and social fantasy that we’re all living in a post-racial democracy is a lie’s lie. It’s like trying to bear the weight of a bowling ball on a wet sheet of tissue paper. It cannot stand. It will not stand.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: we desperately need to talk. Race in America remains like the rabbit hole depicted in “Alice in Wonderland” – it’s deep, it’s dark, and it’s painful. Race in America was, is, and will continue to be as complicated as it is controversial – as mysterious as it is malignant.
Rachel Dolezel is a human perfect storm. Many black people are offended that she claims herself as one of their own – and are convinced that she did so for a job, a man, or a paycheck. Many white people are offended that a white woman from an upper-class background would throw it all away to do something they would never do – willfully choose to be black, with all the trials and tribulations therein.
The whole Rachel Dolezal thing is a gigantic, media-propelled distraction. Jeb Bush’s and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential announcements this week mostly fell on deaf ears because of Dolezal. Even the huge decisions due from the US Supreme Court and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal developments paled in comparison to Rachel Dolezal’s hair, makeup, and complexion.
Her recent resignation from the NAACP only fueled more media coverage.
If you’ve never told a lie in life, throw the first stone. Otherwise, have a little mercy.
If she had simply described herself as a white woman who had great respect for the black experience, that would have been that. She didn’t – so it isn’t. Therefore, the Rachel Dolezac thing rages on.