Put on My Black Coat, Honey

So, this Rachel Dolezal has finally been outed by her own parents, who revealed recently that she has been lying about being black for decades. Former head of the NAACP in Spokane, it is said that she had done extraordinary work for the civil rights group. Couldn’t she have done just as well without co-opting black identity? Another black writer recently took Dolezal to task, arguing reasonably that blackness was not like a suit of clothes you could put on or take off for your convenience (or profit). I was astounded at the announcement of her true identity, but also dumbfounded when NAACP leaders at first argued that her race had nothing to do with her being hired or with her job performance. In the wake of more serious allegations of fraud (and, perhaps, false reports to police of racist targeting), however, someone must have decided that she was expendable. So, she was “allowed” to resign.

Even liberals, who seem generally unconcerned with ethics or morality (judging by their blind acceptance of Obama’s failed policies and of Hillary’s wholesale corruption), have finally declared their non-approbation of this woman’s antics. Talking heads indicate that white people are generally more bothered by this woman’s imposture than black people are. If true, I find that more confusing than the reasons behind Dolezal’s black-face minstrel show. Why would someone do this? In the century after the Civil War, it was common and understandable when black people who could “pass” for white would do so. It was a matter of survival both personal and familial. What is Dolezal’s excuse? If she had merely wanted to get a frizzy permanent and wear bright colors, to enjoy hip hop music or whatever other stereotypical accoutrements of black life were attractive to her, no one would have batted an eye.

But this theatrical extravaganza of hers was not a reflection of her admiration of black culture; no, this is a deliberate caricature, an attempt to steal black identity for her own nefarious purposes, just as the old minstrel shows did. Her brother told reporters that Rachel had been treated badly while a student at Howard University, a black college. That is when she began this impersonation, according to him, to fit in. I don’t believe it for a minute. I think her choice of college and of Africana studies was in line with her plans from the beginning. People are saying that Dolezal has some sort of psychological problem, and that is one explanation. Another might be that she is a sociopath intent on manufacturing a name for herself, an importance far beyond what she could have created as a midwestern white girl.

She wanted fame; I guess she settled for infamy. After all of the suffering blacks have endured in this country, this may be one of the worst abuses. Your lives don’t matter, your identity doesn’t matter, except as they can be borrowed by a sociopath to cheat her way to fame and fortune. She has betrayed the trust of everyone she has ever worked with or for. She may also be subject to prosecution for committing fraud. Hers is the worst example of “white privilege” I’ve ever seen. One wonders whether she received scholarships or grants because of her claims of being black. Even her former position with the NAACP raises questions—did she displace an equally qualified black woman because of her falsehoods?

Adding more padding for the psychiatrist’s couch are statements of her parents about Dolezal’s attempts to destroy her actual family—she brought a black man to church, identifying him as her “real” father, despite proof that both her parents are white; she married a black man, had a child with him, then divorced him, claiming he was abusive (keeping up those stereotypes!); she whined that her white father had a bullwhip like the ones slave drivers carried and used it to punish her and her siblings (based on their ethnic heritage, whatever that’s supposed to mean); she has even claimed that one of her adoptive brothers is actually her child by a black man (her parents adopted 4 black children about a decade ago); and she has insisted that her siblings keep her “secret” or else.

When reporters asked her for the umpteenth time whether she was black or not, she stared like a zombie, saying that she didn’t understand the question. Another heard Dolezal say that “we all came from Africa originally.” Yeah, what’s a few hundred thousand years? In her resignation message, she stated that she did not want to detract from the work of the NAACP which has been overshadowed by this story (no pun intended). I suspect that overshadowing everyone and everything was exactly what this woman aimed to do. When you are not praiseworthy for your actions, you retreat into a safe spot of identity. She wanted praise for being a black woman. She doesn’t deserve it. She deserves our contempt. Ultimately, though, one wonders if anyone harmed by her imposture will feel pity for this deranged creature. I guess it depends on whether you see her as evil or merely psychotic.

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8 thoughts on “Put on My Black Coat, Honey

  1. Very strange.

    My paternal grandfather, born a few years after the turn of the last century, ran away from home at the age of thirteen to live in the white world. His father was white, his mother black, and with his smooth hair and blue eyes, he could pass as a white man with a suntan.

    I was 24 when my father finally told me the secret about our heritage. With my pale freckled skin, green eyes, and strawberry blonde hair, no one would ever guess by looking at me that I have African ancestors. But the first thing I said when my dad told me about his black grandmother was: “I knew it!” — for I had long felt the connection, in my blood.

    When my grandfather was passing for white, with the restrictive segregation laws that were in effect at that time, his subterfuge was understandable. But… a white woman passing as black? I cannot begin to fathom her motive. While I “feel” the African part of me in my soul, and I sadly regret that I have been unable to connect with my black cousins — my grandfather hid his tracks too well — even so, I can’t imagine the allure of lying and pretending to be something I am not, just to feel part of a particular “family.” I am what I am, an all-American, Heinz 57 mutt.

    Black is beautiful, white is beautiful, and so is mutt. 😀

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    • It was a sad time for your family and others, when your grandpa had to hide his heritage. Passing (for white) made sense for survival, but what Dolezal did is inexcusable. You’re right, we’re all beautiful. My oldest nephew married a black girl and they have two lovely children. Two of my nieces have children with latino fathers, again beautiful kids. I’m sorry you feel the loss of family, but may I suggest that you go on ancestry.com with whatever info you have–births, marriages, etc.–and you might be able to connect. Don’t forget the DNA program, too. Good luck. If you need advice on family history, let me know. They’ve been adding lots of material on black American ancestry and you might be pleasantly surprised that some cousins are looking for you, too.

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      • I actually had my DNA tested by ancestry.com back in May. I received my racial profile a few days ago (since I left my earlier comment). My racial profile is nothing like I had expected it to be, based on family legends and surnames. I am stunned by my DNA results. Who am I? Who were my parents, especially my father? Was everything my parents ever told me about our heritage a lie?

        According to ancestry dot com, they have more than 500 people in their DNA data banks who are my 4th cousin or better. Two are probable second cousins. So far I only recognize one name. She is a cousin on my mother’s side.

        I know that we only inherit a random 50% of each of our parent’s DNA, so after a few generations, ancestors can completely disappear from our genetic code. But how can I have 0% German DNA when my paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Eisenhour? How can I have a less than 1% trace of African DNA when my paternal grandfather was supposedly half black? And why did I think that I “felt” the African in my blood when the trace of Nigerian is so small, ancestry dot com tells me that it may not even really be there?!? Was my “feeling” merely the power of suggestion?

        For most of my 62 years I have believed that I was 1/8 African, 1/8 German, 1/16 Native American…. but I have been informed that I am 0% Native American, 0% German, and less than 1% African/Nigerian. Talk about an identity crisis!!

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    • Alaina, no need to apologize. It’s always shocking when we discover that the reality created by our parents is a distortion or even a lie. 1st, have you verified the DNA profile? For ex, brothers/sisters have it done, too? My DNA was similar to expectations at first, but as more people get tested, the profile has changed and I, too, am a little surprised. 2nd, have you tried to use ancestry and birth records to verify or disprove what you’ve been told? For ex, I spent a good 4-5 years developing an extensive family line on my great grandmother, only to discover that her parents were not what I’d been told, and the records indicated. Same name, different family. Now, I discover that records for her parents are so twisted around with the other people, in so many family trees, that I get a headache when I try to unravel it all. You might contact some cousins through ancestry.com to see if they want to share info. If your great-grandfather was black, he might not have been African-American or had such a sliver of DNA from his parents that it ‘disappeared’ if later generations were all white. Good luck with your hunting. The important thing is that you’ve just proven (accidentally) that it really doesn’t matter what race a person is, and isn’t that what Dr King wanted?

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    • What is laughable is that she (unsuccessfully) sued Howard University for discriminating against her for being white! I’ve since learned that they had given her a full scholarship for her artwork, assuming she was black. I foresee some legal complications for this beeotch…

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