Jun 13, 2015 - Rachel Dolezal, Blackface and Pretendians
She catfished a nation.
Rachel Dolezal, an adjunct professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University and President of the NAACP Spokane chapter, has been outed as a white woman who’s been passing herself off as black, for years. This newsflash comes straight from the horse’s mouth, her own Caucasian birth parents.
Her deception runs deep. In a Facebook post on NAACP Spokane, Ms. Dolezal poses with a black elder, claiming the man was her father when he is not. Rachel has also been telling people that her two younger adopted black brothers are her sons.
While some argue that Ms. Dolezal was merely sympathetic to the cause, Rachel was committed to blackface and playing the role on a daily basis by bronzing her skin and wearing black hairstyles. Rachel’s IG handle is, “Afrocentricfemme.”
Yes. Rachel was way, way down the rabbit hole.
Whether the woman is delusional and really believes herself to be black or if she is indeed knowingly disguising herself as a black woman and has woven a web of lies to support it, is beside the point.
Rachel used the harrowing struggle of blacks in America for her own benefit. She made bank by giving speeches about her experiences growing up as a ‘black woman,’ and by making a living and gaining notoriety and prestige from this false identity, she exploited their culture and heritage- one her own white ancestors sought to dismantle.
Other black women could have assumed the leadership roles Rachel usurped. It’s hard enough for women of color to be heard in this country already. Platforms for black and native voices are still few and far between. Yet here stands this white woman, supplanting them. Not to mention, as someone who is not black, she had no right to speak for them or represent them.
But wait, there’s more. Rachel also claims to be native, although she has not stated from what Tribal Nation she hails. In an interview with The Easterner, she says she was born in a Montana tipi in 1977, and that her family hunted for food with bows and arrows.
Unfortunately, Ms. Dolezal is not the first Caucasian to claim native heritage with absolutely no proof or legitimate connection to native peoples. There’s been an epidemic of intellectual and spiritual redface in this country ever since they stopped massacring natives outright, and Hollywood, along with new agers, ushered in an era of native romanticism. Plastic shamans, drunk festival goers in headdresses, savage grinning mascots, and buckskin panty clad pocahotties followed in their wake.
Perhaps grade school lessons led these posers to believe that Indigenous genocide was complete, so it was safe to assume our identity, or the theft of our lands, resources, women and children wasn’t enough to fill the void created by the assimilation that was demanded of their own European ancestors who freely entered the colonial melting pot, and the only thing left to steal was our cultural identity. Either way, pretenders continue to take on native personas when it is advantageous, by making them appear more ‘exotic,’ or to vouch for racist mascots or gain access to the sacred.
We Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) call them wasicu. Fat takers.
They want to take everything, but the burden.
A little more than a century ago, pretending to be black or native could’ve meant death, just by virtue of being mistaken for being that race. In recent decades, pretending to be native meant you were sentenced to crushing oppression, poverty, and your children being shipped off to boarding school or foster care, if they survived infancy.
One can’t help but wonder if Rachel Dolezal would have pretended to be black +100 years ago when she couldn’t profit from it.
Rachel and others like her do more harm than good, because cultural appropriation hurts racial reconciliation. Besides committing the initial harm of theft and creating offense, the deception hinders dialogue between groups. She could have acted as a bridge between cultures, healing old wounds of racial division, and speaking as a white woman who is enlightened, leading the way for Caucasians to become strong allies. Instead, she is a just another white lie.
When a white person who is educated about the sins of their forefathers jumps ship by assuming the identity of another race instead of taking responsibility for how they’ve benefitted from white privilege, they are cowards.
So many have died just for being black, red, or brown. Ancestors have given their lives to protect our ways. How dare you use them as a stepping stone, Ms. Dolezal.
What becomes of Rachel now? Surely, her credibility is damaged. Everything she’s ever said may be called into question. She’s being accused of making up hate crimes she reported too.
Welp, she can always quit using bronzer and go back to blonde. Her race card reads, “white privilege.”