Rachel Dolezal: Perks and Pitfalls of Privilege


In Baltimore
Rachel @ Baltimore Rally

This story was one I chose to wait and truly consider for some time. It is not that I did not find it relevant, but I have had mixed feelings concerning it. Contradictory feelings, that maybe even I could not articulate well or well enough.

So as I am trolling across various stories via a number of social media platforms (after an absence of a few days), I watched a few clips and episodes of Jon Stewart, and boy did he do it again! That brilliant, insightful insane genius that he is, never missed a beat. He will be missed immensely come his August departure.

Personally, I have not touched on this Rachel Dolezal topic for various reasons, but I felt that I had to get something off of my chest and into the ether after watching Stewart nail just about everything I was thinking and feeling, yet do so far more comically than I. As if women, specifically black women, don’t have enough struggles to overcome, now we all got “single white female-d” by Dolezal. Funny, haha, yet not so funny.

I suppose I wasn’t sure how to feel, because I met her in Baltimore during the protests; liked her, we chatted at a rally and I took pics. I appreciated her compassion, empathy, love, and support concerning equality and my fellow Baltimoreans; not to mention some of her previous work and accomplishments (once I looked up her CV). On the other hand, after learning more about her, I thought how all of this hard work she put forth, would have been far more valuable for racial equality if a white face were delivering the message. The white woman that she is could have spoken directly to White America. And White America would listen because they can relate to the messenger – they would actually hear her voice and relate to her face, because let’s face it, they don’t listen to black people. They don’t listen black voices. They don’t identify with black faces. Black voices are often left unheard, ignored, silenced, and/or simply shut up and removed.

I have issue with NAACP requesting her resignation. I understand due to the controversy, this may have been an agreed upon means to an end, but I have mixed feelings about it. That said, I do believe this result would have been less a likely the outcome had she not sued Howard University for discrimination, for instance. I honestly believe that her own white privilege would not allow her to let it go and accept the determination of the Historically Black College. If she were honestly a black woman, she would have been more accepting, she would have let it go and kept it moving. Now, I am not by any means saying that black women should allow society to run all over them, but when you are black, defeat is a common theme and you have to be strong enough to know when to fight your battles. This is a battle Ms. Dolezal lost and the DC Superior Court ruled against her, forcing her to pay HU court costs – insult to injury.

In Baltimore @ FOP HQ
In Baltimore @ FOP HQ

Now, I read that this woman who has done such great work for so many, was a product of structural abuse. Her parents, Lawrence Dolezal and Ruthann Dolezal, adopted many young black children, were considered “christian,” homeschooled their children, and believed in alternate forms of discipline. They employed discipline referred to as blanket training and forced sibling-sibling corporal punishment. Not to convince anyone of my own beliefs, but consider the home she grew up. Her younger black brothers and sisters lived in a home where they were subject to “discipline” (abuse?) by a white domineering presence (both peer and parent). It is surprising Ms. Dolezal chose the path she did and wanted to remain connected to the black experience at all. Her white privilege was immense and she could have done anything she wanted… and she did.

Typically, that type of home, would foster the emergence of other sorts of characters – white supremacists come to mind, to be perfectly honest. Hell, that type of foundation might be even be considered a plantation, or a brothel, or the US Federal Government, or some other wonderful place of great amusement and privilege used to exploit those considered to be “less” than their domineering “overseers” regardless the circumstances surrounding it. Her biological brother, Joshua Dolezal, emerged as the antithesis of his sister.

She grew and became an adult who identified with the black community, so much so she truly identified as a member. Whereas her brother, grew to become (albeit, allegedly) accused of sexually abusing a young black girl. I mention black, not only because she was, but also because the abuse included a racial element inclusive, but not limited to: his sexuality, a National Geographic Magazine, and photographs of topless African women = You do the math. He is a product of his parents and he chose to live his life this way – please note: he was an adult when accused of these abhorrent actions, he knew right from wrong. He cannot empathize with people he does not identify with – viewing the black body as an object rather than a fellow human being. That is sickening and his parents should not stand behind him, but being that they do, proves where their mental/emotional/humanitarian/american/white privilege lies. I don’t blame Rachel Dolezal for being estranged from them. I understand it. I fight alongside her.

This privilege issue brings to mind something from early 2000, yet remains so incredibly relevant (and hilarious) today. Chris Rock said it best in his comedy special, ‘Bigger and Blacker’ (I believe), that no white man no matter how down on his luck, how low his life, regardless how poor, regardless how broke down would never in a million years trade places with a black man regardless how unbelievably successful.

Question: Do you know why?

Answer: “when you’re white, the sky’s the limit; but when you’re black, the limit’s the sky.” Well, Chris Rock was right, although not entirely. Apparently, a white woman, every now and then, would in fact take him up on that offer.