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Tips Thoughts and Easy Talk

Rachel Dolezal and Understanding Racial Identity

Tiffany Sanders - Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Rachel Dolezal story is mind-blowing, confusing and electrifying. Never in a million years would I think a white woman would fully embrace the burdens, challenges and difficulties of being a black woman. Yet, Rachel Dolezal, a blonde hair blue eyed woman for 25 years, donned on some beautiful natural hair wigs, wore braids, tanned her skin, and created an elaborate rouse that included borrowing a black father and son to convince the world the she indeed was a black woman.  She embraced the black experience so much that she taught a wide variety Africana studies classes, became a leader of the local NAACP chapter and served as chair the police oversight committee.

But why? What on earth would make a woman lie to so many people knowing that one person could out her in a moment’s notice? Couldn’t she have been an ally for the black community without fabricating untrue stories? Is she mentally unstable, searching for attention? Or is she just a misguided woman with altruistic intentions but the execution commensurate of a buffoon? Even more puzzling is why would her parents throw her under the bus in such a vocal manner?

People have the right to be up in arms about this story. Rachel Dolezal lied for 10 years duping people to believe that she was in fact a black woman. But that’s not the main reason parts of Black America are upset with her. People are upset that she CHOSE to live as black woman, and she can CHOOSE to live as a white woman with all rights and privileges restored while everyday black folks can’t shed their blackness in favor of being white for a day.

Yes, Rachel Dolezal’s integrity is shot to hell, but that doesn’t mean that her intentions weren’t altruistic. Shaming and ridiculing Rachel Dolezal isn’t the answer. Instead let’s take time to understand her motives, get her counseling, and teach her how to embrace and identify with black culture and defend its plight and honor without misappropriation and denying herself of her true heritage. Let’s also use this opportunity to shine light on and create future dialogue about the issues blacks face in an alleged post-racial society versus ridiculing Rachel for pretending to be someone whom she’s not.

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