Okay. I know some of you are wondering why we’re harping on the Rachel Dolezal story. She’s an activist from Washington State/Idaho area–why should we care? Well, for starters, the left does this to us all the time, especially when the chances for Democratic electoral success plummets. Before Dave Weigel joined Bloomberg, he was a writer for Slate–a Washington Post affiliated site–where he wrote a piece about this media-based phenomena. He calls it the “GOP Lawmaker Principle”:
As the national electoral plight of Democrats increases, so does the incidence of stories about obscure state Republican lawmakers.
Sure, state lawmakers are important. One of the grand ironies of politics is that people are more likely to know the politicians they're distant from (the president) than the ones with portfolios that cover them at the micro level (school board members). Every Congress contains a substantial number of former state legislators, and in this age of declining local media, not many of them have been scrutinized.
But as a rule, if you see the phrase "GOP lawmaker" in a headline, your click will usher you into a world of back-benchers from Bismarck and Jackson and Dover and Sacramento, not the people currently threatening to take the Senate back from Democrats. The Lawmakers are anonymous until they screw up, and when they do, they are often easier to grab hold of then, say, front-running South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds. If the lawmaker were famous, his name might make it into the hed. But he's not famous, so the story is about right-wing insanity that happens to come from a politician who may or may not represent you—click to find out.
Some of the stories about local conservative lawmakers saying insane things are legitimately horrifying–and they’re shared a lot on social media–but they mostly satisfy liberal appetites in the blogosphere; they rarely make it into the broadcasts of major news networks. In the Dolezal case, race, deception, and the aberrance of it all are making this quite the development, though I think the last two points are what makes this a story.
Adding to the bizarre factor, Buzzfeed reported that Rachel Dolezal allegedly told her adoptive brother–Ezra–to “not blow her cover” regarding the new identity she had assumed. She also wanted him to tell folks that he and his other brother were her blood siblings.
Rachel Dolezal’s parents, Larry and Ruthanne, appeared on HuffPost Live and said their daughter had a "happy childhood," with a family who loved her, which also included four adopted African-American siblings. So, in this instance, yes, Dolezal is from a transracial, (or more accurately a multiracial) family, but taking certain procedures to make you look black isn’t transracial. It’s just weird–and it’s seemingly indefensible.
Mediaite posted about Dolezal’s interview with Sky News, where it appears that she thinks we little people (aka people who think that it’s sort of bizarre to hijack a racial identity) just don’t get it when it comes to racial identity–and that she needs to “clarify” her situation with the black community, instead of explaining it to “a community that I [Dolezal], quite frankly, don’t think really understands the definitions of race and ethnicity.” Regarding those who are questioning her racial identity, she said, “I don’t give two s**ts what you guys think.”
Sky News also pointed out how a situation regarding misrepresentation is present when a NAACP chapter president, who claims to be black and the victim of hate crimes, turns out to be a white person. Dolezal said she understands that, but (again) that’s really for her to explain to the black community.
Well, for Marc Lamont Hill, this is the “ultimate exercise in white privilege to say ‘I’m gonna be black for a little while.” Hill has also said he doesn’t know Dolezal well, but has been at “settings” with her, and has organized events with her. He also said that he has heard her say that only African-Americans should lead the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a total lack of self-awareness.
Michael Jeffries, an associate professor of American Studies at Wellesley College, also delved into the world of white privilege and racism in his op-ed for the Boston Globe, which I’ll allow you to read and form your own opinions. Frankly, I’ve always found the term “white privilege” as a tool for liberals to stomp out debate. In Hill’s case, I agree more with the latter part of his quote, regarding Dolezal deciding to act black and perpetuate a fraud. Here’s where I agree with Jeffries [emphasis mine]:
Dolezal’s transformation was not unconditional; it was commensurate with benefits received for posing as a black person and speaking on black people’s behalf. She profited both personally and professionally from passing as black. She applied to Howard University, was understood as black by the admissions office, and given a scholarship. She rose to a position of power in the NAACP, and she serves as chair of a police/community relations commission in her city. In her statements since the story broke, she has endeavored to protect her power, refused to admit that she has misrepresented herself, and cast herself as a chief authority on the matter of who is and is not black.
Yep, her actions are just like a politician’s when they’re busted for fraudulent actions.
The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart wrote about why the whole fiasco was totally avoidable since Dolezal didn't have to pretend to be be black in order to do good regarding social justice:
A white person identifying strongly with African Americans and African American culture is not a problem at all. The more the merrier in understanding who we are and our place in this nation’s history. A white person running a chapter of the NAACP is not a problem, either. That’s someone so down with the cause that they are putting their time, energy and clout into public activism on behalf of fellow Americans. But a white person pretending to be black and running a chapter of the NAACP is a big problem.
Dolezal’s mother nails it when she told the Spokesman-Review newspaper, “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”
Instead Dolezal is a laughingstock and has made a mockery of the work she said she cared about.