What Has Rachel Dolezal’s Story Taught Us About Racism?

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What Has Rachel Dolezal’s Story Taught Us About Racism?

So, maybe there is a valuable lesson to be learned from Rachel Dolezal’s story. If a white woman can disguise herself as a black woman, live the struggle as a black woman, yet still move up the political ladder to rachel-dolezalbecome a leader in the NAACP, then what excuses do other African Americans have for not accomplishing the same?  Hell, we’re authentically black, but what do we stand for and why haven’t the majority of us accomplished what this “fake wanna be black lady” has? Are any of us qualified enough or care enough about the causes in our own communities to fill her vacant spot?

In many situations all we do is complain, make excuses, and point fingers, but Rachel Dolezal went as far as disguising herself and passing as a black woman to take advantage of some of the opportunities available to us. While doing so, she was able to accomplish quite a bit in terms of supporting black causes.  She simply overcame obstacles that we as blacks face everyday. She made a difference.  Perhaps the black community should give her some credit instead of tearing her down. 


Rachel Dolezal received benefits  for posing as a black person and speaking on black people’s behalf.  By passing as black, she profited both personally and professionally.  She was accepted to Howard University, on a scholarship because it was understood by the admissions office that she was black.  She rose to a position of power as the Spokane NAACP leader and serves as chair of a police/community relations commission in her city.  

But what would make a white woman give up a life of privilege to live a life as a black woman, supporting many of the causes, making changes, and taking on issues in the black community that many of us dare not to tackle?

Michael Jeffries, an associate professor of American studies at Wellesley College and author of “Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America,” points out that, “White households have far more wealth than black and Hispanic households, as economic class privilege has been generated, passed down, and protected through slavery, Jim Crow, and continued discrimination in housing, banking, and the labor market. Whites are presumed innocent and nonthreatening, and are allowed to assemble freely and move through all sorts of public spaces without being labeled deviants or “thugs.” Racial identity is always linked to privilege.”

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According to Michael P. Jeffries:

Dolezal’s transformation shines a light on the social distance between blacks and whites, as well as her inability to address her own white privilege. Dolezal chose a spectacular racial renovation over living her life as a white woman who not only loves black people, but understands that her love and commitment does not eradicate the white privilege she enjoys. To be clear, I am not arguing that Dolezal should have simply been honest about her background because cross-racial intimacy is a magical solution for racism. It isn’t. The point is that it was more appealing to Dolezal to completely reinvent herself and erase her history than to live in margins of whiteness. She was more comfortable appropriating black efforts to dismantle racism than acting as an ally.

Finally, it is troubling that so many of us now know the name and story of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who passed as black advocate, rather than the names of countless black women who occupy the front lines in the war against racism. Dolezal is a national phenomenon, but Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, the activists who started the Black Lives Matter campaign, are scarcely recognized. Dolezal’s peculiar and sensational fall from grace have made her more recognizable than Rekia Boyd and Natasha McKenna, two black women among many who were killed by police with little national attention. Uncovering the truth about Dolezal is no substitute for speaking the names and telling the stories of true martyrs and warriors in the battle for social justice.

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Read the original article:  Rachel Dolezal a Lesson in How Racism Works


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