Jerica Deck | Campus Co-Editor
After resigning from her position in the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal recently announced on The Today Show that she still identifies as black. The civil rights activist allegedly hid behind, what her brother Ezra Dolezal describes as, “perms and dark makeup”. However the facade was uncovered when Rachel’s white parents outed her as a Caucasian woman.
Dolezal was the president of the Spokane, Washington NAACP and is a professor in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University. She is also a chairwoman of Spokane’s police oversight commission. On her application to this commission she marked that she was black, white, American Indian, and two or more races.
Previously when asked in interviews if she was African American Rachel has vaguely replied “That question isn’t easy as it seems. There’s a lot of complexities, and I don’t know that everyone would understand that”.
“We hope that Rachel will get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues,” says her mother Ruthanne Dolezal. “Of course we love her, and we hope that she will come to a place where she knows and believes and speaks the truth.” After speculation about whether Rachel lied about her racial identity, her mother revealed that her family is Czech, Swedish, and German, with some Native American roots.
As a teacher she’s given several lectures about her experience as a black woman. She’s described being born in a teepee and living in South Africa, both of which her family members claimed are false.
Dolezal also stated that her parents abused her family with “baboon whips…pretty similar to what was used during slavery,” varying the beatings according to skin tone. One of her former students wasn’t allowed to be in an activity because Rachel thought she didn’t look Hispanic enough to know about racial discrimination.
“She just told me, ‘Over here, I’m going to be considered black, and I have a black father. Don’t blow my cover,’” said her brother Ezra Dolezal. Ruthanne Dolezal claimed her daughter began to take on this African American identity after her family adopted Rachel’s four black siblings. Rachel took that a step further by pretending one of her brothers was her son and naming an African American man as her father.
Ezra told Buzzfeed how he felt offended that his sister pretended to endure the African American struggle after she grew up privileged in a nice home and with a great education. “She puts dark makeup on her face and says she black,” he said, “it’s basically blackface.”
This has sparked a major debate about race and identity in America. People are questioning whether a person can be transracial in a similar way to being transgendered. Some are supporting the idea that racial identity isn’t necessarily tied to skin color including actress Raven Symone.
On The View, Raven noted that everyone’s ancestry traces back to Africa. She also said “Black women straighten their hair every day. Black woman do it all the time…White women can’t do the same thing?”
Still, there is an immense amount of backlash. Hip hop artist Lizzo tweeted “My prob w/ #Transracial: Black folk can’t decide to be white when the cops raid their pool party. But a white woman can be NAACP president.”
John Stewart from, The Daily Show had a skit spoofing the situation where a white man jokingly tried to be the black correspondent. Jessica Williams then joined the skit by saying “You can’t just appropriate persecution because it’s ‘cool’…We need allies not replacements”.
Whether Rachel Dolezal is a pioneer or a cultural appropriator, she has opened up a nationwide conversation about race.