[guest post by Dana]
This week it was revealed that Rachel Dolezal, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, has been misleading people for years about her race. Dolezal, who passed herself off as black, is actually white:
Dolezal’s mother, Ruthanne, said the family is Czech, Swedish and German, with some native American roots.
Ruthanne Dolezal said that she and her daughter have not been in touch for years but that Rachel Dolezal began to portray herself as African-American eight or nine years ago after the family adopted four black children.
“She’s white,” her mother said in an interview with KREM News. “Rachel has wanted to be someone she’s not,” she added.
Her mother says the family has been aware of the racial claims but has only commented about them when contacted.
When asked whether she was white, Dolezal, who is an Adjunct Professor of African-American Studies at Eastern Washington University, gave an evasive, if not bizarre response:
“That question is not as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of complexities… and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.” She concluded, “We’re all from the African content.”
Dolezal called the controversy a multi-layered issue. She says the controversy is emerging because of legal issues between family members.
“It’s more important for me to clarify that with the black community and with my executive board than it really is to explain it to a community that I quite frankly don’t think really understands the definitions of race and ethnicity,” she said in a Friday interview with CBS.
The NAACP released a brief statement of support for Dolezal’s work with the organization.
NAACP Spokane Washington Branch President Rachel Dolezal is enduring a legal issue with her family, and we respect her privacy in this matter. One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership. The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record.
Most interestingly, Dolezal is a charter member of the #BlackLivesMatter:
In the famous last words of Eric Garner, “I … can’t … breathe,” there is a metaphor for the asphyxiation we are experiencing as black people in America and in Spokane. The air is thinner for us now; we are not all getting the same amount of oxygen here. So don’t stop us when we reach for the oxygen mask that is hope for justice. Let us say what we need to say, march when we need to march, and hold our kids when we need to feel their hearts beat. Let us be, be with us, and let us breathe.
Clearly, Dolezal has some mental health issues and one hopes she seeks professional help. But. Given that we are no longer bound by the gender we are assigned with at birth, why should we be bound to identify by the race we are born into?
From Marc Lamont Hill, on a CNN panel discussing Dolezal:
“He told Anderson Cooper this is a “very dangerous practice of trying on someone’s identity” and even said what Dolezal did was the “ultimate exercise in white privilege to say ‘I’m gonna be black for a little while.’”
Trying on someone’s identity? Dolezal would say she’s wearing her own identity. Who are you to judge her for living out loud what she feels and believes is her own truth?? Don’t you know we’re not bound by anything as antiquated and restrictive as identity – be it gender or racial. It’s fluid. And who are you to make the determination of which identities one must remain wed to in their lives? Or maybe you and others just prefer to be selective in which white women you support who are seeking the freedom to be their perceived real selves.
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Actually, orange is the new black.