Rachel Dolezal, an NAACP leader in Spokane, Washington, told TV journalists that she considers herself to be black because that's how she identifies. (Photo courtesy of Huffington Post)
I've always held a special contempt for white people who act “black.”
One, it suggests weakness, and two, it’s deceitful and exploitative. It’s weak because at this time in the world — at any time in the world — white people hold most, if not all, of the power. To glom onto a culture that, despite myriad talents and natural abilities, is one of the most consistently reviled, disrespected and ill-considered suggests the white body in question cannot make it among its own people.
It’s deceitful and exploitative because those same white bodies who perpetuate obvious themes of so-called black culture won’t admit they can’t make it among their own people; instead, they choose to fabricate an affinity or appreciation for the lowest common denominators of “blackness.” And in doing so, they very often turn a tidy profit.
Of course, nothing is 100 percent.
There are white people who sincerely love black people and black culture and don’t seek to hurt us. But I don’t believe Rachel Dolezal falls into that category. I think she falls into the weak, deceitful and exploitative category, and here’s why.
If we believe Dolezal’s parents, who outed her to the media, she lied consistently, elaborately and with passion. I would venture to say she might even believe her lie in some ways because she has lived it for so long. But it was her deliberate choice to deceive each and every person that she encountered. It was a premeditated decision to emulate the hair, the body language, everything she could to flesh out and make her lie credible.
She profited from her lie.
She made money and got herself a lot of attention, sympathy and who knows what else by pretending to be someone she is not. Her advocacy and other ‘good works’ on behalf of black people cannot erase that level of deceit. Further, she’s not done profiting from this lie. When the dust settles, and the appearances, magazine articles, book deals and speaking engagements pan out, Dolezal will end up a wealthy woman.
She’ll cry crocodile tears and discuss how everything she did was out of love, etc., and many will believe her. But in the end, she will likely still be lying. She will still be profiting from her lie, and she will still be gaining a platform from which to stand on the backs of black people to perpetuate her special, high octane brand of deceit.
She gained power from her lie.
Dolezal was in a position of authority within the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, and she has been an educator with an academic platform at various institutions, a forum that allows her to mold and shape young minds. Who knows what damage this person, this liar, inadvertently did while teaching black studies? Pretending an affinity or understanding of something, is not the same as actually having it, after all.
For those reasons, she has no credibility. She cannot say with certainty that she did good because she began from a place of deceit, of selfishness, of perversion. Any good she might have done, any decision she made as a so called advocate for black people, will forever be called into question because no one can trust her. She. Is. A. Liar.
This was not a white lie, a little lie, a contextual lie, or a mild untruth tendered from a desire not to hurt someone’s feelings. This was a systemic, elaborate charade perpetuated over years. She lied every day, all day, to every single person who she came into contact with. She put on a costume in the same way an actor would, with her faux locks and wigs and dark makeup. But when actors do it, there is an unspoken understanding that they’re engaging in make believe, that they’re behaving a certain way for entertainment. Dolezal had no such contract with the public.
She took shameless advantage of a community’s trust. She behaved in a predatory, premeditated and manipulative fashion over a protracted length of time, analyzing, assessing and tailoring her actions, appearance, speech and behavior to curry favor and gain acceptance. She lied consistently and well. She had to. There is no other way to sustain a ruse this layered for so long.
Flip this situation, and look at it another way. Black people have also donned elaborate covers and pretended they were white to gain favor. What Dolezal did is not new. It’s been done for hundreds of years. But black women who “passed” during slavery, for example, did so for survival because they had no options, because their lives very often depended on not revealing who they were. Those women passed for white to avoid consistent rapes, abuse, to be able to eat, to survive.
What was Dolezal’s motivation? Why couldn’t she advocate for black people as a white woman? That’s what’s needed. If the races were reversed, I don’t think this would just be a media circus. A black Rachel pretending to be white would have been unceremoniously fired, removed and likely brought up on charges — anything and everything that could be done to punish her, would have been done.
Still, I can’t wait to hear what she has to say. I likely won’t believe a word when she does finally break her silence, but it should be entertaining, at least. As with anyone who wears a mask and then removes it, we are left to scrutinize with particular interest that which has been uncovered.