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Rachel Dolezal's fantasies about being black seem like more than just lies

Sasha Brown-Worsham

by

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Sasha Brown-Worsham has written for dozens of publications over the course of her years as a journalist and blogger. She lives outside NYC with her three children, husband, and multiple pets. She is working on her first novel.

There could be more to Rachel Dolezal's pretending to be black than just attention

Rachel Dolezal is the president of Spokane's chapter of the NAACP. She is an outspoken media presence and someone whose commentary on race has always been in the press and media. And yet new evidence seems to suggest that she is not African-American at all.

For years, Dolezal has presented herself as biracial. She has shared a photo of her "father," clearly an African-American man, and she has spoken about race, clearly claiming a heritage her biological parents now claim is a lie.

Could she have wanted the attention? Could her self-proclaimed abuse at the hand of her parents have caused it? From a psychological perspective, pretending to be something you are not, whether racial or otherwise, is a sign of low self-esteem and possibly even some mental illness. This might be an extreme version of this, but before we rush to condemn her, we might do well to remember that.

More: Rachel Dolezal has nothing to say to people who don't think she's black

KXLY-TV reports that, in a picture posted to the Spokane NAACP Facebook page, Dolezal posed with a black man whom she said was her father. Also, in an application to serve on the city's citizen Police Ombudsman Commission, she listed herself as African-American, Native American and white.

Her parents say she is strictly Caucasian. See below for the origin story:

So why would someone lie about their race like this?

What is most troubling in this story is that there are also allegations of hate crimes. In fact, Dolezal claims she has been continually harassed with nooses, among other symbols of oppression and racism, that show up in her mailbox. And yet authorities say only a person with a key to her mailbox could have sent the messages. So has she been harassing herself for attention?

On so many levels, this story is sad. There is so much good she could have done in the world by being truthful, and yet by lying, she has done so much harm. History is full of people "passing," but usually that means the other way. It usually means someone in a minority group who looks enough like the majority that they can take that privilege as their own. It's sad, but it makes sense. It is certainly possible that she believed posing as African-American allowed for special privileges she would not have otherwise received as a blond, Caucasian woman. It's possible. But, of course, it's also racist. Terribly racist.

Whatever the truth is, this is not a simple story. It's not black and white at all.

More: Mindy Kaling's brother pretending to be black is rubbing people the wrong way

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