Black like her- The Rachel Dolezal Story

Sounds like a book or a Lifetime movie. By now most folks have read or heard about Rachel Dolezal. The white woman who’s been passing as a black woman.

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Ms. Dolezal is the president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington. She is also an adjunct professor at Eastern Washington University and a chairwoman of Spokane’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission. Earlier this week she was asked if she’s African American.

Yesterday her parents Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal claimed that their daughter Rachel is Caucasian.

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The Dolezals said they are of German and Czech descent.

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Rachel Dolezal was born in Troy, Montana. Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal said their daughter has always identified with the African American culture and had black siblings who were adopted. They said she went to school in Mississippi and was part of a primarily African American community.

The Dolezals said Rachel married and later divorced a black man. They said after the divorce in 2004 Rachel began identifying differently. She started claiming to be partially African American and the daughter of bi-racial parents. They said they have noticed her change in physical appearance but do not know how she did so.

“Rachel has wanted to be somebody she’s not. She’s chosen not to just be herself but to represent herself as an African American woman or a biracial person. And that’s simply not true,” said Ruthanne Dolezal.

The Dolezals said they do not have a problem with Rachel advocating for a civil rights group for African Americans, rather that she is being deceptive about it.

According to Rachel’s dad:

Lawrence Dolezal said his daughter was involved in Voice of Calvary, a “racial reconciliation community development project where blacks and whites lived together,” while at Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss.

“You speak and sound and act and take on the mannerisms of the culture you live in,” he said. When Rachel applied to Howard University to study art with a portfolio of “exclusively African American portraiture,” the university “took her for a black woman” and gave her a full scholarship.

“You’ve got a white woman coming in that got a full-ride scholarship to the black Harvard,” Lawrence Dolezal said. “And ever since then she’s been involved in social justice advocacy for African Americans. She assimilated into that culture so strongly that that’s where she transferred her identity.”

He added: “But unfortunately, she is not ethnically by birth African American. She is our daughter by birth. And that’s the way it is.”

When it comes to the history of this country there have been plenty of light skinned blacks who have passed for white. Many did it for economic opportunities not afforded to black people, especially before the 1970’s when discrimination was legal in the United States. Others felt that they could live a better life as a white person. But I have never heard of a white person passing for black. The New York Times gives examples of a couple of white people who have passed for black:

There have been other examples of white people living as black, in American history and culture, though not many. When in the company of his black wife and children, Clarence King, the subject of Ms. Sandweiss’s book, pretended to be a black Pullman porter, while in his parallel life he was a famous white geologist and surveyor with wealthy, powerful friends.

Mezz Mezzrow, a jazz musician who died in 1972, often passed as black, called himself “a voluntary Negro.”

What I don’t understand is why did Ms. Dolezal feel it was necessary to pass for a black woman?

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There are plenty of white people who have advocated for the civil rights of blacks without passing for black.  I have no problem with Ms. Dolezal being the president of the NAACP Spokane chapter. The NAACP was founded in 1909 by a racially mixed group of blacks and whites. But what she did was lie about who she is. She is a white/Caucasian woman and she needs to accept that.  I agree with her parents.  She is being deceptive.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in Hollywood is chomping at the bit to make a movie out of this situation.  Lifetime could be working on the script right this minute.  Let’s just hope they don’t cast Emma Stone in the movie.  She’s already played the part of someone who’s half asian american.

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