It’s been revealed that the leader of the NAACP for the Spokane Chapter is a woman called Rachel Dolezal, she has identified herself as a black woman complete with deep tan and tight ringlets for the past 8 years, but it was just revealed this past week that she isn’t black at all, she’s white, and the only trace ethnic blood she has in her is native American ancestry. She had fair skin, straight hair and blue eyes as her parents showed pictures of her when she was young. Girlfriend is definitely white! She’s originally from Montana but moved to Spokane, Washington and reinvented herself as a black woman and became involved in the civil rights movement and eventually became the leader of the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP. Though not familiar with the hiring practices of the NAACP, I am pretty sure that you don’t have to be black to work for them as there are many non-black people involved with the NAACP’s civil rights movement.
Aside from pretending to be black, Ms. Dolezal by all accounts is a competent leader and organizer and brought the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP into financial compliance. She’s deeply passionate about the issues of racial discrimination and economic injustice and always has been. She’s a graduate of Howard University and had deep ties to the black civil rights movement. It’s just unclear why she couldn’t do it as a white person? What difference would it have made? She has since stepped down from her leadership role and gave a parting statement:
“This is not me quitting; this is a continuum. It’s about moving the cause of human rights and the Black Liberation Movement along the continuum from Resistance to Chattel Slavery to Abolition to Defiance of Jim Crow to the building of Black Wall Street to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and into a future of self-determination and empowerment.”
From all accounts, she will still remain a member of the NAACP (which accept membership from all races and ethnicities). When confronted about her attempts at passing herself off as black, she seemed confused at the question and told the reporter that she doesn’t ‘give two shits what everyone thinks’. In her resignation statement, she didn’t address her racial identity only that she would continue the good fight. Most people in the mainstream media, including her former colleagues at the NAACP and social media most reacted with confusion and concern for her mental state, that someone would go this far to create an elaborate new identity for themselves that involved changing her race. Many reacted with mockery, how can you not? This is just ripe for late night jokes.
We are in a day and age where we are allowed to label ourselves how we like, people are free to change their identities and beliefs according one’s most recent identity crisis or personal revelation, but it must stop somewhere, and I believe it stops at race. Being an Asian-Caucasian biracial American, I have some experience with racial identity and the confusion that it may cause and can speak with some authority on this. First of all, no one should be ashamed of their race and ethnic background to feel compelled enough to invent a new one. Ms. Dolezal seems to identify with the ‘victimhood’ aspect of being an African-American woman as it fits into the narrative of her work and activism. However, as a minority myself, I don’t view minorities in America as victims, I think minorities of all colors have moved past the the victimhood narrative and mentality as people know that is not a position of strength to fight for your rights from. We as minorities demand equal rights because we are people not because we we are a victimized minority group. The narrative of white people, white society, systems created, built and maintained by white people are the perpetrators and everyone else are its victims is no longer an accurate depiction of inequality in America today. We are definitely not in a post-racial society as many conservative whites would like us to believe. Just because we elected a black president doesn’t mean there’s no longer racism in this country, far from it. Racism has changed from overt racism from the Jim Crow days to a more concealed subtle form of racism, which makes it much harder to detect.
Ms. Dolezal’s attempt at becoming black to identify with society’s victims will only backfire. As many black people will tell you, they are united by their experiences as growing up black in America. The sideway looks when you walk in to a fancy store, the suspicious looks if a black person is driving a fancy car or living in a nice neighborhood, the suspicion and brutality in which police treat young black men, these seemingly small but significant events that make up the tapestry of a black person’s life in America, collectively known as the black experience which is totally lacking in Rachel Dolezal’s experience growing up in Montana. As much as much as she may wish it, she didn’t grow up black and experience these humiliations and indignities of being black in America, so for her to pretend to be black is not only insulting to herself but to black people at large. Her adopted sister who is black said that her actions are tantamount to wearing black face, that is too harsh of a criticism as Ms. Dolezal has nothing but love for black people, but her impostering does no favors for the cause that she is so passionate about. It makes no difference what race you are when you are fighting for the civil rights of others as long as you are sincere in your work and Ms. Dolezal seems to have missed that memo.