When the Rachel Dolezal story first broke, I wrote my immediate thoughts in a previous post. However, what I thought was most important to an assmehnt of the situation was hearing from Dolezal herself.
Now that she has given an offici statement and began to take interviews where we hear her voice firsthand a more thorough analysis can be made.
Dolezal’s Transracial Blackness
Listening to Dolezal fumble through her responses and trying to substantiate her claim that she is indeed Black because she identifies with the Black experience is egregious. Nothing in Rachel’s life it backstory – except perhaps after re-crafting her life to support the lie that she is Black like adopting her adopted Black brothers, getting degrees in Africana studies, and taking the position at the NAACP when she best could pretend to be Black – relates to anything that Black people experience from the first day of their lives in America. Furthermore, Rachel sites being a child and feeling drawn to Black people and Black culture. That’s not her identifying with Black culture; it’s her fetishizing Black culture. Marc Lamont Hill brought this term into the discussion in his CNN interview on the topic. I think it is the most appropriate word for Rachel’s issue.
Most Black people know a person who is not Black but is having the Black experience in America. I grew up with Puerto Rican boys in The Bronx who call each other “nigga” and for all intents and purposes are having the Black experience; however, I have also known few of those people to deny their ethnic heritage in an effort to be Black. I believe this to be the identifying factor between someone who identifies with Black culture and/or is having the Black experience and someone, like Dolezal, who is fetishizing Black culture and attempting to appropriate the Black experience. The former has more respect for the culture and the people whose culture it is than to degrade and trivialize their experience by pretending that it can be attained through per normative acts.
Dolezal’s strongest argument for her Black identity is her adopted brothers that she now calls her son’s. She tries to pull the mother card – because in most contexts no one is going to argue with the love of a mother and what that love may force a woman to do – and states that she had to Black to raise her Black children. Again another indicator of a lack of respect for Black culture and the Black experience because there are countless stories of Black children being raised by non-Black parents where the parents do not take on the identity of the child in order to raise them.
It seems that in every other statement that comes out of Dolezal’s mouth in justification of her actions she disregards a person or group of people who are actually living the life she has lied about. It seems so obvious that Dolezal’s actions have nothing to do with anyone else or any greater cause or belief. It is quite simply her obsession with Black culture and her selfish desire to appropriate it at any cost.
In spite of some public Black personalities, like Melissa Harris Perry and others, who I guess in an attempt to play devil’s advocate considered the notion of transracialism and Dolezal’s possible Blackness, it was good to see many Black voices speak up against Dolezal’s claims and defend our culture. I really couldn’t understand why anyone was not able to understand why any Black person would be offended and disgusted by Dolezal given the simple fact that even if transracialism was an actual thing, it would be something that would only allow entry to Black culture as America would never allow our Black asses to exit Black culture in appropriation of White privilege.
For me it was like being raped. The thought of people from outside my culture being able to legitimately come into it and out of it at their leisure while I am resigned to live within it for life was repulsive. However, as I previously stated this is a lesson to the Black community that despite the terrors and hardship that come along with being Black there are people out there that want to be us so badly they will go to extraordinary lengths to do so. That should tell us that there is something admirable and mesmerizing in our struggle and the strength with which we endure it. There is something intriguing about how we adorn and carry our dark flesh in spite of the worlds criticisms. There is something desirable about the way our culture communicates, creates and recreates itself. Black culture is extremely captivating and compelling and that is something that we should be proud of, embrace and protect.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man