Editor's note: This is a letter to the editor that was submitted by a Wayne State student and it's content does not necessarily represent the views of The South End, its editorial board or employees.
Rachel Anne Dolezal was born November 12, 1977, in Lincoln County, Mont., to Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal. Her education and civil rights background includes being an education director at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, part-time instructor at North Idaho College and Eastern Washington University and, as of now, former President of the NAACP’s Spokane, Wash., chapter. She has come under recent fire after her parents spoke outwardly against her acclaim to being African-American woman.
At first glance I did not question her cultural identity; I will admit she looked to be a light skinned, African-American woman. This is not uncommon in the black community as we come in all different shades, so her tanned skin and sandy brown tightly curled hair did not lead me to think otherwise. She taught Africana studies, fought for social justice and was president of one of the many organizations that fought for the rights of African Americans during the Civil Rights era, the NAACP. I cannot fault Rachel for identifying as black; we are a beautiful, rich and widely envied culture. I commend her for taking the time to inform herself on the black experience. I believe if more people who hold a dislike or prejudice towards African Americans educated themselves, we wouldn't have so many of the problems that we are facing today.
What I cannot commend her for is using or not using her new “transracial identity” when it benefited her. While attending Howard University Rachel filed a lawsuit claiming retaliation based on her race, gender, pregnancy and family responsibilities, saying she had been denied teaching positions and scholarship aid as a white woman. But whilst applying for presidency of the NAACP’s Spokane, Wash., chapter she identified herself as a black woman. This is the problem: when she is done playing dress up she can wipe off the fake tan, straighten her hair and move on with her life as if nothing has happened, living happily ever after in white privilege. Yet as a real African-American woman, I cannot take off my identity, I must wear it proudly with its beauty and hardships.
It is one thing to appreciate a culture and participate in it, but to completely lie about who you are to gain social prominence is beyond me. I believe there are bigger fish to fry, like the constant killing of black female and males by police in this country.
All in all Rachel made her bed and now must sleep in it; she knew what she was doing when she did it. She is an educated and functioning adult who must take responsibility for what she has done. This is no one else’s burden or problem to deal with. We as a black community cannot come to her defense, nor do I think we should attack her. We need to come together for more important issues. This is, however, an opportunity to speak on the black experience in America through real eyes and lives. Racism breeds from fear and misunderstanding and if more people educated themselves on other cultures we would not hold so many prejudices in this country. It is important to understand the people around you because we are all going to be here sharing the same space whether we like it or not, so it is our responsibility to blur the lines of division among ourselves and further ourselves as a human race.