The fascinating Rachel Dolezal story has more layers than one of those flaky Pillsbury biscuits. She’s the president of the Spokane, Wash., chapter of the NAACP and a professor of African American studies at Eastern Washington University, who was outed as not actually being African American. Her years of deception came to an end after her inability to answer a simple question at the end of an interview with KXLY television reporter Jeff Humphrey. “Are you an African American?” he asked. After a long, blinkless and blank stare, Dolezal said, “I don’t understand the question.”
Dolezal most definitely understood the question, which is why she took flight 16 seconds after Humphrey’s query. She posted a picture of herself last January with a black man on her Facebook page who she claimed was her father. And she checked “African American” and all the other race choices on an application for a public position in Spokane. Those turned out to be two loose threads that quickly unraveled once pulled by Humphrey and Dolezal’s own white parents.
“There seems to be some question of how Rachel is representing her identity and ethnicity,” Lawrence Dolezal, Rachel’s father told The Post. “We are definitely her birth parents. We are both of Caucasian and European descent — Czech, German and a few other things.”
Turns out Dolezal has been frontin’ (as we used to say back in the 1980s to describe people who fake aspects of their personalities or lives) since she went to Howard University on a full scholarship in the 1990s. Seems the historically black college thought she was black, too. “[E]ver since then she’s been involved in social justice advocacy for African Americans,” Dolezal’s father told The Post. “She assimilated into that culture so strongly that that’s where she transferred her identity.”
And this gets to the larger issue here. A white person identifying strongly with African Americans and African American culture is not a problem at all. The more the merrier in understanding who we are and our place in this nation’s history. A white person running a chapter of the NAACP is not a problem, either. That’s someone so down with the cause that they are putting their time, energy and clout into public activism on behalf of fellow Americans. But a white person pretending to be black and running a chapter of the NAACP is a big problem.
Dolezal’s brother Ezra was right when he told The Post, “Back in the early 1900s, what she did would be considered highly racist.” Blackface remains highly racist, no matter how down with the cause a white person is. But Dolezal’s mother nails it when she told the Spokesman-Review newspaper, “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”
Instead Dolezal is a laughingstock and has made a mockery of the work she said she cared about.
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