So...why? Why did Rachel Dolezal get outed now? This is the one question that keeps rumbling back up like a bad chili dog, invoking sick feelings as it does.
For those that came in late: Dolezal was the president of the Spokane, Washington branch of the NAACP. She claimed to be a light skinned black, but the truth is she's white -- if George Plympton and Snow White had kids, they'd look like her. According to accounts of her personal history reported by the press, she adopted an African-American identity in a fit of sibling rivalry. But while most of us leave behind our fronts because they are just too bothersome to maintain, she kept hers, and climbed the activist ladder.
And this has prompted a strange reaction. A woman who posed as black has been villified by the black community. No surprise and quite deserved. But the white community, commentators, media like the Christian Science Monitor, and others, are saying that Dolezal is "transracial," which prompted Amy Schumer to quip, "So we can choose to be black now?" I guess Clayton Bigsby was closer to the mark than we realized. Only a group for whom racial identity isn't a minefield of implications and consequences could be entertaining this thought.
Like I said, I keep wondering why this came up now. Dolezal was elected to her position in 2014. That's a looooooooong time for something like this to remain hidden, especially given her family did it allegedly just to keep her from perpetuating a lie. No. I don't buy that. If they were that outraged and conscientious, they should have said something during the election. Instead, they waited until now. Why?
The motivations of the parents, unfortunately, do nothing to change the situation. Black people are outraged, and they have every reason to be. They feel like they've been had. And that's because they WERE had. A person not only deceived them about her identity, but she refused to admit defeat -- a reporter asked Dolezal, "Are you an African-American?", and Dolezal responded, "I don't understand the question." This ranks right up there with Bill Clinton insisting that oral sex isn't adultery. Instead of just admiting to being busted, they tried to change the context so that they weren't in the wrong.
Changing context...oh, boy, is that dangerous. Changing context is the stock in trade of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Randian Objectivists use it all the time to assert their superiority to regular people and divorce themselves from being governed by the same rules, then reacting with outrage when people go John Stuart Mill and extract social punishment on them. Mill wrote that the threat of being ostracized, of being denied the protection and company of the community, was a greater motivator for ethical behavior than any jail sentence ever could be. But Randroids and people with NPD don't need people unless they are reaffirming how awesome they are, so his argument has a major flaw.
The major question being raised by Dolezal's defenders is, What difference does it make? After all, white people can and are members of the NAACP. One guy at work told me, "Joe Biden is a member!"
I countered, You realize that isn't exactly a point in their favor, right?
There are people saying that Dolezal is the racial equivalent of Caitlyn Jenner, someone who was not comfortable with their birth identity and adopted something that reflected them better. This is bullshit. Jenner never made any secret that she considered herself transgender, and we saw the changes happen. Dolezal hid the truth. She. Lied.
The lying is what has the black community up in arms. The bottom line is, being black is a liability in this world. For all the talk of pride in their heritage and such, being black still holds people back from being successful and admired. Every time I see Beyonce on a mainstream magazine cover, her hair is straightened, her skin tone is lighter -- she looks like a very tan white woman instead of a black woman. And blacks will ostracize each other based on how dark or light their skin is. And this isn't me parroting the talking points of the liberal talking heads, I SEE IT CONSTANTLY AT MY REGULAR JOB. With the rise of cinema, we saw the genesis of the jungle adventure film, which frequently went with a Great White Father metaphor and its bastard offspring, the Noble Savage. The biggest selling rap artist, Eminem, is white, and whites make up the majority of consumers of rap music.
And now, you have the ultimate Great White Father twist, a white who successfully disguised herself to help protect black people. OF COURSE, THEY'RE UPSET! If a black man had done the reverse, disguising himself as white and rising to a position of social influence and getting busted, blacks would ostracize him as a sell-out and whites would be chasing him with pitchforks and torches. And yet, in this situation, people are trying to advance that this is okay.
Dolezal has finally stepped down, although it took her long enough. Even with the writing on the wall, she apparently felt that she could keep her position. That lying and hiding the truth were okay. I have a suspicion that it wasn't some flash of conscience that did it so much as realizing no one would ever take her seriously again so her activism was now hampered. If she could have continued to have people look to her as an authority and defender, I suspect she never would have done it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she tries to turn her situation into a cottage industry, becoming a professional talk show guest to help "translate" the behavior of the black community to white audiences who see her as a window to a world they don't have to live in.
Rachel Dolezal isn't transracial. She's a phony. And she's done more damage than she's fixed. All because she wouldn't admit the truth.