I watched Rachel Dolezal's interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show this morning. I'm still insulted, and frankly, you should be too. If you've missed it, you kind of have to see it to believe it. There are a lot of head-scratching quotes within this interview, so get ready.
Here are my issues with Rachel Dolezal:
1. On being "transracial" and "identifying yourself as black":
Cementing your experiences as a black artist (with plagiarized work), doing natural hair, learning about African dance and doing work in the community for less than 10 years (with half of that time as a white, then "black," woman and tanning your skin) does not afford you the title of "a black woman." The struggles of the black female experience start from birth until death. There is no option to change your racial representation during the course of life. Society gives you constant reminders of this existence, and it can be wary given the discrimination and racism that comes along with it. Electing a few parts of blackness for personal gain is opportunistic and maladaptive at best.
2. On the public discussion of assigning Caitlyn Jenner's transgender experience to the idea of "transracial" (changing of race):
Caitlyn admitted that she felt uncomfortable as a man for the majority of her life and didn't feel empowered enough to make physical (yet mostly judged negatively by mainstream media and family) changes until three years ago. The younger Jenner — an accomplished, medal-winning male arch of fitness and achievement — held back a natural decision to live her truth because of societal pressures for over 60 years. Gender identity is not the same as racial identity when you are utilizing the byproduct of makeup and self-tanner to justify the transitioning of one race to another.
3. On masking herself as biracial by explaining her current skin tone with the statement "I don't stay out of the sun" and its implications:
Biracial identity can be complex and extremely misidentifying for those who grow up in environments that are not accepting and still very ignorant. Considering that interracial marriages were deemed unholy and illegal in states and countries across the world due to racial hatred, this experience should not be diminished by including Rachel into this narrative. My grandmother, who raised me exclusively, lived through this experience with the burden of utilizing her skin tone to make a living and provide for her family. She was undeniably proud of being black but made certain impactful decisions, because at that time, being lighter (appearing white) improved living conditions. To some degree this is still true. For Rachel to include herself in this confuses and dissolves so much of what biracial identity comes with for a person with black and white heritage. Imagine living a life where you deal with elements of nonacceptance because society can't place you in one racial "check-off" box. You can't vote your way into that particular lifelong journey. Being deceptive about your race and deeming yourself light skinned because you "drew pictures of black people with a brown crayon versus peach" as a child is a brazen statement. When I heard this during the interview, I became extremely upset, and all of my grandmother's traumatic stories came rushing back to memory.
4. On the importance of integrity and feeling comfortable in one's skin:
There are plenty of white people fighting against racial injustice across the globe. Advocates in this space, who are white and not by choice, are successfully navigating circles where the work and intentions aren't second-guessed. One's race has nothing to do with standing up for basic human rights. But when you are purposely masking race as a way to elevate position and circles, it's fair to wonder why you are afraid of who you are. For Rachel to falsify hate crimes, berate racial injustice leaders because they are white or otherwise aren't black when you yourself are not, to sue Howard University, a historically black college (which Rachel did indeed attend on scholarship) for discrimination against white applicants and to ask family members to "not blow your cover" is confusing from an integrity aspect. If you can't stand by who you are without deceit, then what can you stand for when truth comes to light?
I know she is going to ride out this wind with a book deal and a movie. It disgusts me. Once again, blackness is being twisted around for personal gain, and I'm afraid she'll be rewarded for her dishonesty. I'm taking a personal pledge to stop talking about this woman and her trails of inconsistency, falsehoods and lack of awareness. Blackness is not a thing. It is my life-assigned journey. There are bigger fish to fry. I'm done.
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