You’ve probably heard by now about Rachel Dolezal, the president of the Washington chapter of the NAACP. She recently resigned from her position because, well… she’s white. This might not have been that big of a deal under normal circumstances; there are white people in the NAACP. However, these were not normal circumstances. Ms. Dolezal was pretending to be black. Yes, you read that right; Rachel Dolezal identified herself as black on official documents and spent quite a bit of time and money in order to make herself look black. Or at least as black as a blonde haired, blue eyed white girl from Montana can look.
Ms. Dolezal’s unusual prevarication has sparked a media storm, with most of the debate centering around whether she is delusional and in need of psychiatric help or whether she is simply a fraud.
While it is certainly unusual that someone would lie in order to claim a different race, it’s not unheard of. But is this a psychiatric issue? Ms. Dolezal’s adopted brother (who really is black) claims that she asked him not to give her secret away. This points pretty strongly to the fact that Rachel Dolezal is most definitely aware that she isn’t really black. Since she doesn’t actually believe she’s black, that would seem to leave only one option: she’s just a fraud.
How is she a fraud? She obviously felt masquerading as a black woman would bring her advantages that she could not have as her true self. Therefore, whatever these advantages were, they were fraudulently obtained. Scholarships, jobs, positions of power… whatever opportunities she received for being an educated black woman were stolen from a real educated black woman. Stolen by a sneaking, scheming, lying white woman. This is a person who is supposed to improve race relations?
Perhaps the most frightening thing about this entire situation is the media handling of the story. There are articles popping up everywhere criticizing Ms. Dolezal’s parents for “outing” her. Really? Her parents should have gone along with fraud? With the outright mockery of black people? What world do we live in where this despicable person is supported for lying to obtain money and opportunities, but her parents are criticized for refusing to support that? It’s absolutely absurd.
Is this white guilt run amok? Judging by some of the comments on articles about this story, it would seem that at least a small segment of society feels Ms. Dolezal should want to be any other color than white and should be forgiven for her fraud because of this.
Another (admittedly smaller) segment of society compares this situation to the Bruce Jenner story. I understand the comparison on some level, but I don’t recall Bruce Jenner defrauding anybody, gender notwithstanding.
The saddest part is that, for whatever reason, Ms. Dolezal didn’t feel she could accomplish what she wanted as a white woman. Perhaps it goes back to when she attended Howard University. Apparently, the school was under the impression that she was black when they gave her a scholarship and accepted her, and when they saw her in person she was not treated very nicely. Maybe that made her believe that a white person attempting to help would not be taken seriously by the black community. Her brother reportedly stated that after she attended Howard University, she made many comments alluding to the fact that all white people are racist. Apparently, that’s what they teach there.
If you are serious about working on race relations, is this not where you should begin then? How does changing who you are help that particular problem? If you think that you cannot achieve what you want to achieve because of what you are, then instead of changing what you are or lying about it, shouldn’t you try to change the perception of what you are by being a better example of it? If you think you can’t do good work in the black community because of the way white people are perceived, pretending to be black while doing good works does not address this problem at all. In fact, it perpetuates it. Addressing it would be doing good works as a white person. That’s real change. This is just lies and foolishness.
If Rachel Dolezal truly cared about race relations in this country, instead of resigning in total disgrace, she’d have martyred herself. She should have stood up and said, “Yes I lied, but I felt that I had to because of the nature of race relations in this country. It’s something we really need to resolve so that people of every race and ethnicity can work together and no one ever feels the way I did again.” Instead, she took the coward’s way out. She resigned in disgrace, with absolutely no dignity.
In the end, this woman has made a mockery out of two races, at least two organizations and many, many people. Most of all, she made a mockery of herself. She’s destroyed her own credibility and integrity, which damages the good she’s done, possibly irreparably. All for a lie.