Rachel Dolezal has been all over the news lately.
Is she black? Is she white? Does it matter what SHE thinks she is? Is her claim to identify as a black woman even valid if she was not born into that skin, culture, etc.? Or is it her life to decide how she lives it?
As a white woman, my opinion doesn’t really matter in this case, so I’d like to share a quote from a fantastic article from a black woman (Alicia Walters) who wrote of Dolezal’s appropriation of black culture:
Dolezal managed to put on an identity – that of a black woman – in a way that renders invisible the experiences that actually forged for us our identities as black women. She presented to the world the trappings of black womanhood without the burden of having to have lived them for most of her life. She represented us and gained status in both black and white communities as one of us, even though she could have worn her whiteness and talked to white people about their racism – something sorely needed in a town like Spokane.
Her adopted brother Ezra also doesn’t agree that Dolezal has the life experience necessary to identify as a black woman. “She made herself into a martyr on purpose for people to feel sorry for her and to help her,” He said in an interview with BuzzFeed.
Getting away from the black vs. white aspect of the Dolezal story though, things get even weirder. With accusations of her parents trying to shake her credibility in regards to her biological brother’s child molestation charges; lies about hate-mail that apparently never existed, lies about her friend being her father and her brother being her son.
I don’t really know what to think of Dolezal. Whether her heart was in the right place and she truly thought she could not fight for racial equality as well as she has if she were to present herself as a white woman, if she honestly just feels more comfortable around black people having been raised in a household with adopted African-american siblings, or if she’s a lying sociopath with a mix of a new breed of Munchausen syndrome thrown in to physically express the oppression she feels has been inflicted upon her.
These are weird days and I hope that in the least this episode helps the world discuss the separation of race and culture, the difference between appreciation and appropriation, and all in all just helps us all get along better.
It probably won’t, but whatever.