In a 10-minute-long Today Show interview Tuesday morning, the former president of the Spokane, Wash. chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) confirmed what we already knew.
It’s no secret. Dolezal’s biological (and White) parents came forth last week to reveal their daughter’s true identity, sparking a national debate about what it truly means to be “transracial” — a conversation that also exposed both Black and White people who believed we should cut Dolezal some slack for all the work she’s done for Black communities.
But this Black liberation work of Dolezal’s, all done under the guise of blackness or blackface, also erased and excluded actual Black women from spaces that are there to help them. Imagine if Dolezal’s leadership position went to an actual Black woman with Black experiences and Black perspective? Imagine if Dolezal was an actual White ally championing Black humanity? Imagine the strides these two hypotheticals could have assisted. Then imagine Dolezal insulting the Black community in blackface.
Now, please, tell me again how this “helps?”
We get it. Dolezal identifies as Black. That may or may not be problematic for you, but the question everyone should be asking is why? And if Dolezal’s cringe-worthy interview with Matt Lauer is any indication, I’m not even sure she knows the answer. What’s more is the conversation surrounding what it means to be transracial.
I’m not sure Dolezal gets that either.
Here are 10 contradictory responses from her Today Show interview that prove that even she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. You’re not alone in the struggle to understand Rachel Dolezal (and the breadth of Black hairstyles I still haven’t been able to achieve).
When asked if she expected the lid to blow off on her secret: “The timing of it was a shock. I mean wow! I did feel that at some point I would need to address the complexity of my identity.”
Would next year be better, Dolezal? If allowed, Dolezal would have lived the rest of her days telling everyone she was a light-skinned Black woman. Problematic enough, given the privilege colorism exposes, but compound that with Dolezal’s dishonest tactics for personal gain and you’ve got yourself a monster case of entitlement that exposes both an assault on Black communities (Black women specifically) and Dolezal’s own White privilege. We are talking about the same woman who identified as White to bring a lawsuit against Howard University. Don’t see the issue here? Check out Dolezal’s next response.
On changing her appearance and Blackface: “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun. I also don’t, as some as the critics have said, put on blackface as a performance. I have a huge issue with blackface. This is not some freak ‘Birth of a Nation’ mockery blackface performance. This is on a very real, connected level. How I’ve had to go there with the experience, not just a visible representation, but with the experience.”
OK, let’s get to the meat of this entire post. Being transracial can be a real thing. But dressing up, wearing darker makeup, appropriating the style and culture are not a part of what it means to actually be transracial. And Dolezal’s argument that she is identifying as such, along with her supporters conflating her racial identity to transgender individuals, is irresponsible in a way that it erases real transracial people and reduces transgender communities to a matter of choice. Simply put, lying about your race is not the same thing as being transgender. And throwing on an afro wig with curl definition I strive to get with all the curly puddings Miss Jessie’s makes is not transracial. Legally, the term is used to describe the process of placing a child of one race or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another. Through this process, the adoptee usually feels a stronger connection with the adoptive parents’ race or ethnic group. For Dolezal, she was neither adopted nor raised by a race not her own.
Transracial in this sense doesn’t lend itself to Dolezal’s narrative. Sorry, but try again.
When asked when she began identifying as African-American: “I would say about 5 years old, I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon and black curly hair. That was how I was portraying myself.”
In short, Dolezal’s been Black since kindergarten? Interesting that Dolezal identified as a White woman years later when fighting the university that took away her teaching position and a scholarship so that the opportunity could be given to someone of a marginalized community. Yes, the same folks she claims to fight for. Interesting indeed.
When shown a picture of her younger self at 16-years-old: “I would say that, visibly, she would be identified as White by people who see her. In that picture, during that time…no [she did not identify as African-American].”
But I thought that at 5-years-old…never mind.
On her parents exposing her: “First of all, I really don’t see why they’re in such a rush to whitewash some of the work that I have done and who I am and how I have identified.”
Note to Dolezal — your parents’ reveal is not “whitewashing” your work. Invalidate may be a better term. After all, I’m sure that somewhere there’s a rulebook that says you can’t claim to help Black women while simultaneously pushing them out of spaces where they belong. But what’s even more is the blame placed on your parents because they exposed your secret. This wouldn’t be a conversation had you understood the power of being a White ally. That’s important work that we would certainly welcome. You don’t have to pretend.
On when she started “deceiving” people: “Well, I do take exception to that because it’s a little more complex than me identifying as Black or answering a question of are you Black or White. I was actually identified when I was doing human rights work in north Idaho as first transracial and then when some of the opposition to some of the human rights work I was doing came forward and started, the next newspaper article identified me as being a biracial woman. And then the next article when there were actually burglaries, nooses, etc. was ‘this is happening to a Black woman’ and I never corrected…”
Right. It’s the newspapers’ fault this has gone so far.
When asked if she didn’t correct the misidentification because it helped her reach certain goals: “I don’t necessarily think that’s fair. I think not just at that time but before that too, I have had to answer those who haven’t seen me, and because I’m a Black hairstylist and have styled my hair in many different ways, have been identified as mixed, light-skinned, Black. I’ve had to answer a lot of questions throughout my life.”
That’s not what Lauer asked you. Also…Black hairstylist?
When discussing when she truly began identifying as Black: “And the point of which that really solidified is when I got full custody of Izaiah and he said ‘You’re my real mom.’ And for that to be plausible, I certainly can’t be seen as White and be Izaiah’s mom.”
The contradictions are too numerous to point out, but it seems Dolezal’s Black identity retracts and expands when needed. In this case, irresponsibly so. White mothers have Black children all the time, biologically, and by adoption. To suggest otherwise is just false.
When asked if her lawsuit against Howard University exposed how she used her tottering racial identity for personal gain: “The reasons for my full tuition scholarship being removed and my teaching position as well, my TA position, were that other people needed opportunities and ‘you probably have White relatives that can afford to help you with your tuition.’ I thought that was an injustice.”
An injustice that a Black student, who has likely come from an underserved community with grossly disproportionate education inequalities, needs a scholarship? Let’s all take a moment to remember this is the same woman who taught Black women about Black struggle and held a leadership position in the NAACP. Now, try not to scream.
On if she would make the same choices: “I would. As much as this discussion has somewhat been at my expense recently, and in a very sort of viciously inhumane way come out of the woodwork, the discussion is really about what it is to be human. I hope that that can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self-determination, personal agency and, ultimately, empowerment.”
One could argue that what’s vicious is Dolezal’s dishonesty — the distrust that will likely culminate from this White woman masquerading as a Black woman, occupying Black spaces, and blocking actual Black individuals from leadership positions is doing nothing for the racial climate in the nation. But Dolezal’s privilege to dress up as a Black woman when she wants, claim she’s White when it works in her favor, and then sit on a national television show and call her critics, mostly Black women who are hurt by her deeds “vicious,” is a real crime.
And no matter if you want to adopt Dolezal’s transracial narrative or not, the fact still remains that the same Black women she claims to help are the same Black women she’s alienating now.