What’s Up With You, Rachel Dolezal?

Rachel dolezal, racial identity, NAACP, passing for blackRachel, the idea of one of the whitest white women on the planet “passing” for black just cracked me up. I’m not mad at you, girl, but my mind screamed, “Who the hell would choose to be black in America?”

What’s up with you, Rachel Dolezal?

When I first heard about you, I burst out laughing. I mean I let loose with one of those stomach-powered LOLs. Please let me explain.

I am a 70 year old woman of mixed race. Although I have probably been mistaken for almost every other kind of person of color, no one has ever asked me if I was white. (Okay, well there was that little kid – what did he know?) I have facial characteristics of all three classifications of my ancestry: European, African and Native American. I suppose I could have attempted to “pass” for something else in my life, but because of where we live and our particular social history, I am black.

What that means, Rachel, is I have experienced my blackness from even before I was born. Had the hospital in suburban Chicago where I was born known that my white mother would deliver a cafe-au-lait infant, my little ass would have been welcomed to the world in the “colored” hospital, of which there was none. My mother would have had to travel all the way to inner city Chicago, only to be hassled by the admissions people because of her whiteness.

So, Rachel, the idea of one of the whitest white women on the planet “passing” for black just cracked me up. My mind screamed, “Who the hell would choose to be black in America?” But, sistah-girl, you pulled it off pretty convincingly. Your look is similar to the thousands of other mixed-race women thriving in America – that is, after you changed your hair and started showering in tanning solutions. The curly Afro is trendy right now, so I’m sure you aren’t the only white woman rocking that style. But the black-face?

Why?

It has been fascinating to listen to all the buzz about you. Some black people are not happy with you appropriating our culture. You could have done all the great the work you have done wearing your whiteness. In some circles, you would have been respected even more than you were. There are very few white women who know all you know about blackness. And you are the first white person I have ever heard of who transformed herself, not just for an experiment or a literary work, but for real. Tim Wise is one of the most prominent experts on race and race relations in the U.S. today. Tim Wise is white, but he speaks from his white Jewish mouth.

I saw you on the Today Show.There is no question you are an intelligent woman. It takes brains and talent to say absolutely nothing while being interviewed by one of our country’s best (Matt Lauer). Weasel wording is a tool reserved for the fleet of mind.

My white friends are just as bemused over you as my fellow black friends. Why? What does she think she was accomplishing? Does she have a history of mental illness? Did she yearn to be like her four adopted brothers who are black? Has she learned so much of the truth about how white Americans have dealt with black Americans over the centuries that she is compelled to turn her back on her whiteness out of shame or guilt?

It doesn’t look like you are going to answer us, Rachel, and that is your prerogative. Unlike many others I’ve talked to, I’m not mad at you, girl. You do you, whatever that happens to be. But there is one thing that keeps bugging me. It is at the very top of my list of pet peeves. You lied. Black Americans have been lied to about every doggone thing for hundreds of years. While I have a feeling your heart is in the right place, for your own very personal reasons, you chose to lie to the very people you’ve dedicated your life to advancing. And now, everything you know and everything you’ve busted your butt to achieve has been relegated to fodder for late-night television comics.

And that makes me sad for you, Rachel.

Lezlie Bishop is a mixed-race woman of a certain age who has fought racism her entire life. After retiring from her corporate public relations position, Lezlie has blogged on the now-defunct Open Salon since 2010 and is a regular contributor to The Broad Side. She is a co-author of the book Talking to the Wall.

Screenshot via slate.com

  • Neighbor55

    I can see what you are talking about. It is about lying I guess. Did she lie though when she did the lawsuit? She didn’t correct assumptions. People did what they do best, a hundred times over, they assumed. I can’t be too angry because if I am going to dispense with what biology is and accept people that say they are a different sex than they were born with, that say they always knew they were this other sex, then why would I not accept someone who tells me that they have always felt black or white or Jewish. I don’t know. People are saying this woman is a psychopath they say that people are crazy when they can’t accept or understand them. I guess it just points out that there are these “rules” in society. I guess the rule is if you are black you are black, if you are white, you are white, if you are a male you are a male, if you are a female you are a female. If you are a Jew you are a Jew, wait, what? Why aren’t we just all people and let’s say, humans? Just making some correlations that no one seems to be accepting of at this time. Maybe in the future when we are less divided by race, by sex and by religion…..thanks as always for your excellent observations and writings Lezlie.

  • HighFashionAverageWoman

    They lying, the blackface routine, and the faking a hate crime. that’s all pretty manipulative and awful.

  • Linda Seccaspina

    Excellent piece Lezlie

  • Seer Kennel

    I’m waiting for Rachel to speak. Meanwhile I’m perfectly content to listen to Lezlie :).

  • lschmoopie

    Excellent piece, Lezlie. Weasel wording, indeed. She never really answered one question he asked.

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