An unapologetic and defiant Rachel Dolezal persists in her charade of being black. During her interview on NBC news Dolezal said, “nothing about white describes who I am.” Reflecting on her childhood, Dolezal recalls that she always drew herself with the brown crayon. However, race is not based on self-identification but on the rules created in society and the biology attached to them. Dolezal is deliberately smudging two very distinct concepts to accommodate her white privilege and perhaps escape the criminal investigations that should be the focus of her conduct.
It is a testament to human development that we are tolerant of differences in people in our society. This allows people to play with personal expression and self identify. This is very different from racial identity. Society has set boundaries for racial identity and has included the biological element of colour.
Racial identity affects economic, legal, political, educational and social position. In short, it is the common denominator for the distribution of privilege. As a blonde white woman, Dolezal has had a lion’s share.
Born into a family of means, Dolezal was educated at Harvard and attended the historically black Howard University for her Master’s in Fine Arts. Under her married name of Rachel Moore in 2002, she sued Howard University. She argued that amongst other things, she was discriminated against on the basis of race. This led to her being denied a job, a grant and having some of her artwork removed from an exhibition “to favor African-American students…”
As Mrs Moore, Dolezal undoubtedly saw herself as a white woman. This belies her claim that “nothing about white describes who I am.” Taking her family ancestry, naturally white skin and straight blonde hair into account, everything about Mrs Moore (née Dolezal) categorises her as a white. As a point of fact she has legally acknowledged it.
Black racial identity is of the utmost importance. Research undertaken on black identity1 found that “Identity is informed by…how you’re treated by society”. The recurring theme for black identity is wrapped up in oppression; in being treated less favourably.
As much as Dolezal says she feels a “spiritual connection to the black experience,” one cannot change the socially defined structure of race by osmosis. As a person who was employed in the struggle for social justice, Dolezal knows this.
Rachel Dolezal switches identities to suit her purposes. This is something she has admitted when she said “… the decisions I have made along the way, including my identification, have been to survive.” As a white woman she sued, appealed and lost against a historically black institution. In the world of work, she has donned a black persona. Maybe she felt more privileged posing as an academic black woman in a small pond than living as a mediocre white woman in the sea.
This educated but mendacious woman has surely brought her public office into disrepute and may also have broken the law. Dolezal has lied on applications forms and misrepresented herself as a black woman for financial gain and status. It is time that attention was turned to the questions of fraud and policy breaches.
Another article on the bizarre case of Rachel Dolezal can be found here.