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Woman who claims to be black has long history of producing black art

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

Rachel Dolezal's internet presence reveals more layers to her strange story

Rachel Dolezal's story is currently spreading like wildfire. Currently living in Spokane, Washington, Dolezal serves as the president of the local chapter of the NAACP and is an adjunct faculty member in African studies at Eastern Washington University. She is currently being investigated by the city of Spokane as to whether she lied about her race on her application to serve on the citizen Police Ombudsman Commission.

Dolezal checked off African-American on her application and presents herself as African-American despite the fact that she is white, according to her biological parents Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal. There is so much to this story, and with each thing I uncover, I keep digging deeper and deeper. Like with most viral sensations on the internet, I became quickly lost down the Rachel Dolezal rabbit hole, and what I found was incredibly interesting.

Most of Dolezal's online presence is steeped in black culture, particularly art. It should be noted that there usually isn't an issue with a white person teaching African studies or using black people as subjects in their art. The problem in this case is that Dolezal seems to be appropriating black culture while passing herself off as black when she is apparently not.

More: Rachel Dolezal says she doesn't care if you think she is black

Her art is actually beautiful and very evocative, but knowing about the artist and her attempts to pass as a different race gives them a whole new, disturbing meaning. Her work speaks to the black experience, something she purports to have personally lived, and yet, has she?

In her piece "My Place," Dolezal provides some context for the painting of a young black girl standing in a field. "The original is painted on panel with a puzzle-piece texture, revealing that this image is about connecting parts of myself and finding my sense of place," writes Dolezal on her blog. "The background is a sunset where I was born in Montana, and the model is a girl in Cape Town, South Africa, where my family lived for 5 years."

What she doesn't clarify is that she never lived with her family in Cape Town, according to her mother. Using the picture of a young black girl in a piece about identity is both bold and shockingly brazen, not to mention very inappropriate. At the same time, perhaps it speaks closer to Dolezal's deluded sense of truth than anything else.

And then, there are her tweets.

Like her art, she is claiming black culture in her tweets, continuing to craft this persona that is based, ostensibly, in fiction. The more we learn about Dolezal, the more confusing and intricate her story becomes. Hopefully she will soon speak for herself so we can understand her motivations behind all of this, from her arts to her social media presence to her career (which also includes experience as a Zulu dancer and African hairstylist). For now, the mystery of Rachel Dolezal continues.

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