It’s time to Break It Down!
With wars, prison breaks, the NHL/NBA Finals, World Cup Soccer, a newly minted acronym (JEB = John Ellis Bush) presidential candidate, Democrats abandoning the President on the Trade bill, and a shark biting off an arm of two different teens off the North Carolina coast, the Rachel Dolezal saga hardly warrants a mention. That, however, is the beauty of having one’s own blog. Unlike LeBron, I don’t have to proclaim myself the best in the world to write about what I choose, and today, I choose Rachel; Ms. Dolezal, if you’re nasty. (That’s a cultural literacy/pop culture reference that you either get, or you don’t). Conduct a web engine search of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” if it escapes you. And yeah, I know the rule: The joke didn’t work, if you have to explain it. My blog; my rules.
In my view, there really isn’t a lot to say. To immediately frame this in a different, and sobering, if you will, light, simply imagine if, beginning today, I decide to “Identify as white.” OK, once you quit laughing, assuming you know me, really what if I did that? If, because I attended an historically white high school, matriculated and earned a graduate degree at a PWI (OK, another cultural literacy reference/Predominantly White Institution), spent a career working in majority white organizations, lived what some people would consider a middle class existence, and reside in suburbia, can I successfully commit cultural appropriation and declare, once and for all, I’m white; end of discussion? Can I? Really?
Before you spit out your coffee, or whatever your morning beverage of choice is, let me make it perfectly clear, I have no plans to either shed my locks, or begin any sort of bleaching treatment. I’m black; Ms. Dolezal is not. End of story!
Now, many folks smarter than me, and of much greater acclaim, have weighed in on this story. Frankly, I think it has taken up more time and space than is warranted. But we are a nation of excesses, so it is not unusual to immerse ourselves in flights of fancy while real issues go unaddressed.
Be that as it may, there are multiple issues at play here with the Montana-born, former Spokane, Washington NAACP President. They include, among others:
Is Ms. Dolezal black?
Did she misrepresent her race on various job applications?
Did she lie about whom her parents are?
Did she lie about whom her father is?
Did she lie about whom her child is?
Did she lie yesterday by saying she began identifying as black at age 5?
Has she done good work in her roles, while identifying as black?
The bottom line here is, not that hard to decipher. Moreover, I’m not writing any of this to persecute the woman. There is a lot to like about black culture and the African American experience. A number of people have been appropriating it for many years for that very reason. To that end, despite the fact Ms. Dolezal is not black, misrepresented her race on job apps, lied about who her parents are, lied when identifying someone who purportedly was her father, lied by saying one of her adopted brothers was her son, and lied yesterday when she said she began identifying as black at age 5 (according to her parents), she has apparently done significant and good work in roles afforded to her as a result of her various deceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. To that, I must say, she may have been able to do all those things by asserting that as the white woman she is, she was committed to advancing society in the same ways she did, in those same positions.
I applaud Ms. Dolezal…for her goals and the aims that she achieved while pursuing those goals. Her tactics and methods; those leave something to be desired. And I would add, those tactics and methods proved to be the instruments of her undoing.
There has been a lot of airtime and web space devoted to how much black folks disdain Rachel Dolezal. That may be true; but I am not one of them. I think she made a number of questionable judgments, employed a series of deceptive practices, and she may be, as her parents have contended, delusional. In fact, as I make mention of her parents, it is essential to note, it was they who exposed her canard. And while it seems to me, they are really the people most angered by all this, they only responded to questions posed by the media after the media sought them out and posed direct questions, to which they could have responded truthfully, declined comment (further intensifying the inquiry), or lied…as their daughter had been doing. Some would say, to their credit, they chose the honorable option.
Ultimately, if an accusatory finger points at anyone, sadly, it must be pointed at Rachel, herself. I’ll say this, her journey already has the makings for a book, movie, or TV deal…”Black Like Me: The Rachel Dolezal Story!”
I’m done; holla back!
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