When the Rachel Dolezal story first broke, I made a statement on social media about possible mental instability.
I was challenged by someone I know as to the reason behind calling her mentally unstable. They asked how I could openly support Caitlyn Jenner but not support Rachel. They said it was the same thing. I disagreed but I APPRECIATED their thoughts. It made me think. Is it the same thing? Do I know enough about the story to even make an intelligent opinion about it. Conversations were starting all over the Internet. With every hot news topic, everyone had an opinion and everyone wanted to share theirs.
I love conversations. I love having my thoughts challenged, especially when it is done respectfully and by someone who isn’t just spouting off to say something but someone who has given thought to their perspective as well. It is how we grow, how we learn. If we only surround ourselves by people who think like we do, act like we do, look like we do, we never grow as a person.
Let’s look at some of the positives surrounding Rachel Dolezal.
She immersed herself in something she was passionate about. I read an article on Jezebel about complimenting Rachel on her hairstyles and her commitment to black hair. The article was spot on! Rachel did an amazing job with her hair. She was a professor of Africana Studies. Clearly she educated herself in many ways.
She was doing a job she was proud of. NAACP does not limit their hiring to just people of color, jobs are open to the most qualified person. Would Rachel have been the most qualified if she said she was white only? Who knows. It isn’t for us to speculate. At the end of the day, she was doing a job she loved. I actually feel bad for her about losing it. I haven’t read one article stating she did a bad job, so it’s sad she had to walk away from something she enjoyed and it may be a loss for the NAACP chapter. If the job application asked what race do you most identify with (like many do) she didn’t lie on it. She did identify with the black race. I’m not mad at her for it.
People seemed to genuinely like her. She seemed happy. She was married, divorced, had a circle of friends, had children, worked…overall, appeared to be living the American Dream.
I have no issue with someone wanting to be transracial. With someone wanting to identify as another race. I think we, as a society, get too hung up on little things. If someone white marries a Hispanic man and, because their children will be half Hispanic, immersed herself in learning all about the Hispanic culture, speaks Spanish fluently, etc, no one questions her racial ethnicity if her last name has a Hispanic sound to it, she gets divorced and then married a Scandinavian man and takes his last name, someone might not take her as seriously about her Hispanic knowledge. To me, that is a problem. We only want to accept someone as an authority on a subject of they look the part. Rachel seemed to understand this and decided the only way to truly be seen as an authority in the field she loved was to truly immerse herself in it. She stated, in an interview with the Today show that she saw herself as black from an early age, using brown crayons and curly hair when she drew self-portraits (her parent’s denied this).
In that same interview, Matt Lauer asks her about changing her complexion. She stated, “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun.” As a white woman who tans, I understand how easy it is for someone to develop a darker look to their skin tone. At one point, I tanned so much, a guy I was dating would tease me and say I was darker than his son, who wasn’t bi-racial and we would both laugh about it. Had I changed my hair to a darker color instead of my blond highlights, would people think I was a different race? Would they wonder if I was bi-racial when they saw me walking with a black man? Would they even care? I would like to think they just wouldn’t care, why would it matter? I can see how easy it was for Rachel to just allow the news stories to print whatever race they wanted to print about her and not correct them.
Some other statements Rachel made make complete sense to me. When she was questioned about the black man she called her dad, she smiled and said, “he is my dad” she went on to explain any man can be a father, but not everyone can be a dad. My dad, who passed away in 2013, was an amazing man. Sadly, his death followed a ten year battle with Alzheimer’s. During that time, I had moved to Kansas City, was away from my family, living on my own. There was a father figure down here who would be an ear for me, would be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. I, and many others, appreciated his wisdom and called him dad. He is black. I never once thought anything about his race. It was never to take anything away from my own dad or my family. I loved him dearly and love my family, but I couldn’t talk to my dad, he was a shell of his former self and appreciated the time and wisdom I had down in Kansas City. Had someone heard me call him that outside of the scope of those who knew us, they might have drawn their own conclusions. It is clear Rachel and her family have issues. It has been said they are estranged. This man, whom she identifies as her dad, could be, by all rights, a dad to her. Again, I have no issue with that.
Even the discussions around her suing Howard University for discrimination because she was pregnant and white were interesting. At first, like others, I thought she was just using her race to suit her when it fit. She wants to identify as black, yet sues and says the university has a problem with her being white, because she is, in fact, white. Then I dug a little deeper. Rachel lost the suit. She claims her anger was over the accusations that she didn’t need the money because she had white relatives who could pay her way. Maybe some did say that to her. Maybe it was the catalyst that caused her to start thinking she had to drastically change her looks in order to get to where she wanted to be in her life.
Where my understanding and agreement towards Rachel ends and where I begin to question her mental stability seem to largely stem around the topic of her family. She made a statement in the previously mentioned interview on the Today Show that when she received full custody of her brother Isaiah and she stated, “I certainly can’t be seen as white and be Isaiah’s mom.” To make a statement like that is a slap in the face to every parent of a bi-racial child! Every mom and dad who is raising a child of a race different than their own fights battles of one kind or another from time to time, but they don’t turn around and say they are the same race or make physical changes to their bodies to closer identify with their child’s race!
Rachel would send out tweets that, would, in fact, seem almost anti-white in nature. While they didn’t come right out and say, hey, I hate white people, they were pretty close. I found it interesting that she referenced Kwanzaa in one tweet. While many people just think it is an African term for the Christmas holiday, similar to Hanukkah, it is not. Kwanzaa is actually a celebration of African-American unity. It was NOT started in Africa. It was started by an American less than 50 years ago. It has some similarities to different African thanksgiving style celebrations, but it not rooted in Africa. There is some debate that, while non African-Americans do recognize it and celebrate it, it really is another tool for division between the races. The true history behind it is to empower African-American’s to help each other, build their own communities, support one another. While this is great, the deeper roots studies show it is said to be done without the “white person’s help” which would make it, in some ways, Anti-white. If you change it in your family to match your style, and say it is about supporting your community, your family, regardless of racial affiliation, that is great, but it should be understood better before you just start celebrating it.
She posted on Facebook she was “going with the natural look as I start my 36th year” regarding her hair.
She recently admitted it was a weave. Since she is a black hair hairstylist, she does all her own hair, but still, it is clearly a lie to say she is “going natural” when, in fact, it is a weave.
I think Rachel has been living this lie for so long she is no longer able to differentiate between what is truth, fact, and fiction.
Rachel wants to be so far away from her family that she is making up her own history. She says she was born in a teepee, hunted for food with bows and arrows. Once the story starts, it just seems to keep snowballing. That is typical of a person who has a problem with telling the truth.
Maybe there is a reason she has distanced herself from her family. I don’t believe her parent’s are saints as some in the media are claiming they are. Yes, they did adopt four children of a race different than their own. Yes, they are all over the news media sharing how they just want to tell the truth and their daughter doesn’t. None of this means they are without blame or wonderful parents. Did Rachel turn her brother Isaiah against her parents and white people in general? Is that why he went to live with her at 16? It seems like this is truly a family divided, full of hurt, thrown accusations, allegations of abuse and lies, between parents and children alike. Maybe it was easier for Rachel to just become someone else than to truly deal with the damaging affects of this toxic family dynamic.
While there have been comparisons between her at Caitlyn Jenner, I have to disagree. When Caitlyn was Bruce, she owned who she was. She might have been miserable as a man, and longed to be a woman, but she still owned who she was. Now, as Caitlyn, she isn’t going around saying everything about her is real. The ONLY similarity I can see is that Bruce (born a man) DESIRED to be Caitlyn (a woman) and Rachel (born white) DESIRES to be black. I have no issue with her following her dream and desires, just don’t lie along the way!
At the end of the day, I appreciate Rachel for opening our eyes and our conversations towards racial acceptance and the desire to be transracial. As I always say, everyone should be allowed to be who they want to be as long as it doesn’t bring harm to children, animals, or other individuals. If she wants to be black and wants to be viewed as black, who are we to say she can’t be? My heart does go out to her and all of her family though. Perhaps with help, they can navigate through all of the hurt they all feel, start admitting their faults and forgiving the other’s faults, and be a family one day again.