Race is not as fluid as sexual identity or gender. Spokane NAACP president Rachel Dolezal seems to think that race is as interchangeable as a pair of underwear. For those that may have been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, the Caucasian Dolezal was exposed as falsely portraying a black woman for over a decade by her parents, Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolazel. Her decision to keep up such a charade has been heavily debated since the time it became public. Spawning some of Twitter’s most hilarious trending topics (#askRachel and #RachelDolazelplaylist), several debates, and even denial and anger from the black community, many have already come to her defense, claiming that her choice was born out of identifying herself as “transracial.”
Unfortunately, Dolazel’s choice to mock an entire race and dress in a disturbing form of blackface is not self-expressive or transracial. Defending her actions is just as misguided as her choice to cut off her background to live a fantasy. Though her choice to identify as black was rooted in her intricate family of adopted siblings, her continued fallacy of labeling herself as African-American on important documents was delusional. Her choice to take on another race as her defining character is not transracial, but a sad form of appropriation.
The 37-year-old former Spokane NAACP president did not spend a majority of her life relating to the black struggle of African-Americans in today’s world. Dolezal was born to two white parents in Montana and raised with four adopted black siblings. She claims that she identified with another race at the age of five, but did not take on the mantle of a biracial woman until her later years. As far as the public knows, Dolezal did not grow up suffering racial injustice or prejudice. She later went on to attend institutions that put an emphasis on race during her college years.
During her years as an undergrad, Dolezal was a part of the Racial Reconciliation Community Development project at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. The program tackled the issues of social and communal segregation in the area. Recognized for her work within the community during her four years at Belhaven, Dolezal would eventually go on to receive a scholarship to Howard University. Then identifying as Rachel Moore, Dolezal was later denied a teaching position at the prestigious, historically black college/university (HBCU). She believes her denial was due racial discrimination, when the real reason was her tardiness in applying for the position and lack of following the proper procedures.
Dolezal’s academic stint was short-lived. After multiple lawsuits against the school claiming discrimination against her artwork and scholarship, she later took on new persona. Her adoptive siblings began to notice the gradual change in her appearance and mannerisms. Ezra Dolezal claims that Rachel even told her not to let people know about her past or her birth parents. Rachel Dolezal’s other sibling, Zachariah Dolezal, also noticed the progressive change in his sister, from her hairstyle to her darker tan.
As her appearance changed, so did her career. Moving to Spokane, Washington, Dolezal became a prominent civil rights activist and procured a high-ranking position within the NAACP chapter of the area. Enlisting an elderly black male, Albert Wilkerson, as her supposed ‘father’ during her swearing-in ceremony, Dolezal went to great lengths to keep up this facade. From this point on, the lie crossed the borders of reality and fiction in her mind.
Although the self-described transracial woman’s actions to help the black community were rooted in bizarre good intentions, it appears that her motivation was purely selfish. To claim that she is transracial is a mockery to the transgender commuity, because Dolezal purely took on a new persona to secure high-profile positions she felt would be awarded to people of a marginalized group. Some may argue that her transition is comparable to what Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner) is going through, but the two differ drastically.
Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn was a decision that the former pro athlete has been battling with his entire life. Jenner has struggled with identifying with another gender since her age was a single digit, but he never hid the fact that he was physically born a man. Jenner does not look at being a woman as a commodity, but an identity that he feels is most relatable to his mental state. Jenner also does not have the luxury to switch his gender off or on. Dolezal can recover from her Jersey Shore tan and take out her box braids, and easily become a white woman again. Jenner has already made the transition to another gender and identifies as solely Caitlyn.
The irony of the whole Dolezal situation is that one of the original founders of the NAACP organization was Caucasian (Mary White Ovington). Rachel’s choice to put on blackface and deny her parentage is made more from mental instability than it is transitional. Her recent resignation is only a fair decision, given her manipulative procurement of the position. Though she may identify as an African-American woman, she is still Caucasian and no lies, tans, or hairdos can hide that fact.
Opinion by Tyler Cole
The Source: Rachel Dolezal Responds to Accusations That She’s Not Actually Black