Tag Archives: race

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.

Black folks, please be quiet

That’s what one apartment complex in Irvine, California wants black residents to do. A flier was placed in the building elevators reminding tenants to keep the noise down when it comes to loud televisions and stereos after certain hours of the night. Basically be mindful of your neighbors. And black folks were the primary targets.

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Residents at an Irvine, California, apartment complex were in for an unpleasant surprise when they stepped into the building’s elevator last night. A flier reminding tenants to keep it down at night pointed to black renters as the primary offenders.

A new poster had appeared on two different elevators in Toscana Apartments. The start of the message is innocuous enough, asking residents to be mindful of their neighbors by turning down their TVs and stereos in the evening hours.

But the second half—in bold text—is flagrantly racist: “We also would like to remind our African-American residents to keep conversation volume down and reduce music levels between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.”

The company that owns the apartment complex deny any involvement with the flier. I wouldn’t be surprised if this flier was created by a fellow tenant targeting black residents.  According to the article black folks make up only 1.7% of the population of Irvine.

Young men talk about growing up black

The New York Times has an Op-Doc video titled “A Conversation about Growing Up Black” where young black men and boys talk about the daily challenges they face in a racially charged world.

Imagine strangers crossing the street to avoid you, imagine the police arbitrarily stopping you, imagine knowing people fear you because of the color of your skin. Many of this country’s young black men and boys don’t have to imagine.

In this Op-Doc video, “A Conversation about Growing Up Black,”we ask African-American boys and young men to tell us candidly about the daily challenges they face because of these realities. They speak openly about what it means to be a young black man in a racially charged world and explain how they feel when their parents try to shelter and prepare them for a world that is too often unfair and biased.

The New York Times has a series of short films about race in America. Other short films include A Conversation With My Black Son, The Conversation:  Viewers Weigh In with their Stories About Race in America and coming soon A Conversation With White People on Race. You can check it all out here.

Michelle Fenty cries for her husband

The Washington Post has an interesting article about Mayor Adrian Fenty’s wife Michelle.   Michelle Fenty was raised in London and met her husband while they were students at Howard University Law School.

Michelle Fenty’s battle cry in D.C. mayoral campaign that brought her to tears

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 11, 2010; C01

Michelle Cross Fenty doesn’t look at the Internet much anymore.

She’s had enough. She’ll only find more of the same about her husband, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, she says: “He’s arrogant, disconnected or, even worse, that he doesn’t care.”

In her ideal cyberworld, “if you Google something, it shouldn’t pick up blogs,” the District’s first lady reasons from the corner booth at Oya, the stylishy mod Penn Quarter restaurant that has become her lunchtime favorite. Even in this quiet refuge, she’s working it for her husband, emoting as fast as she can — reluctant one moment, voluble the next.

Her manifesto includes her provocative thoughts concerning online meddling — and muddling of truths. She thinks the Internet is leading us all “down a dangerous spiral,” a spiel that even her friends sometimes consider a bit overwrought when she rolls it out at parties. “Everybody stares at me. ‘My God. It’s the doom of the world,’ ” she says they’re always telling her.

“I’m sooo dramatic,” she says at one point in the two-hour meal. “I know.”

The article mentions how she responded after the mayoral debate last week.  You can check out the video here at the Reliable Source.  Michelle has kept a mostly low profile since her husband was elected mayor in 2006.

That Michelle Fenty is saying anything at all is something of a revelation. She kept the lowest of profiles until last week, when she teared up during an emotional defense of her husband after his debate with challenger Vincent C. Gray, chairman of the D.C. Council. Michelle Fenty quietly headed an advisory board for a breast cancer screening organization and attended charity functions, but mostly she stayed away from the glare, focusing on her law career and her three children.

The debate aftermath changed all that. It only took 48 words — a mere two sentences that occupied only 19 seconds amid the white noise of 24-7 political combat — to draw her out. Suddenly, with videos of her remarks going viral in political circles, the reticent first lady transformed into a kind of local celebrity, humanizing a husband perceived by some as ice-cold. In the showdown between Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray, her husband’s campaign is acting like there’s now a Michelle factor juicing the sprint to Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Many folks in D.C. aren’t falling for Michelle’s tears. They’ve had enough of her husband as mayor.  I’ve been amazed at the comments coming from folks when it comes to this upcoming primary. I blogged about the mayoral race last month and mentioned how many black folks especially find Mayor Fenty arrogant and aloof.  From what I’ve been reading it’s mostly coming down to race. Majority of black voters are supporting D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray and Mayor Fenty’s supporters are mostly white.

Since D.C. has early voting some folks have already voted for the candidate of their choice and from what I’ve been reading and hearing Mayor Fenty can forget about a second term.

Check out the entire article here at the Washington Post.  While you’re there you can also check out another article, Fenty-Gray mayoral race centers on style & likeability as much as issues.

Eleven schools report low racial disparity in graduation rates

According to a report released by Education Trust there are 11 colleges and universities that have little or no disparities when it comes to the graduation rates between black and latino students and white students.  Several of those schools are located in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. The schools include UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County), Towson University, American University, George Mason University and Mary Baldwin College.

GMU, Towson reported among 11 schools with no race ‘gap’ in graduation rate

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

George Mason University in Northern Virginia and Towson University in Maryland are among 11 institutions nationwide with little or no disparity in graduation rates between black and Hispanic students and whites, a new study has found.

A pair of reports released this week by the nonprofit Education Trust identify several other colleges in the Washington region, including American University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where black and Hispanic students are as likely to graduate as whites. George Mason and Towson join a more select group, with no graduation “gap” for either minority group.

The analysis illustrates that entrenched racial achievement gaps in college completion are not inevitable, and that some colleges have managed to overcome them.

Graduation rates nationally run 15 to 20 points lower for black and Hispanic students than for white students. But at Towson, they are nearly identical: The school’s graduation rate is 67 percent for both white and black students, and 70 percent for Hispanics. At George Mason, 57 percent of whites graduate, compared with 59 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of blacks.

The article states the reasons for the graduating success of minority students:

The authors write that the key to eliminating achievement gaps may lie in “what colleges do with and for the students they admit.”

Colleges with high minority graduation rates tend to aggressively recruit a “critical mass” of black and Hispanic students, to support them with pre-collegiate preparatory programs and then cultivate a culture of academic success for the entire student body. When a college president sets minority completion “as an important goal and as a priority, that really filters down through the university,” Lynch said.

George Mason benefits from a long tradition of multiculturalism, said Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions. Students come from 125 countries. The university is a known destination for minority and international students, and its pre-collegiate programs are well-established. International Week is a signature campus event.

Check out the entire Washington Post article here.

You can check out the article at Education Trust here and check out the college results for black students here and latino students here.  You need to have Adobe Reader in order to read the college results.

Raising Katie

During my lunch break today I read a very interesting article at Newsweek.com.  I was clicking a link to an article and glanced at the title of another article. That other article was Raising Katie:  What adopting a white girl taught a black family about race in the Obama era. I clicked the link to the article since it peaked my interest. You always here about white families adopting black, latino and asian children but you never hear about black, latino and asian families adopting white children.  Of course there’s an imbalance between whites adopting children of color and people of color adopting white children.  When folks see young white children with a person of color most assume the child is with their nanny or babysitter. They never think that the adult of color could be the parent of the white child.

As a black father and adopted white daughter, Mark Riding and Katie O’Dea-Smith are a sight at best surprising, and at worst so perplexing that people feel compelled to respond. Like the time at a Pocono Mountains flea market when Riding scolded Katie, attracting so many sharp glares that he and his wife, Terri, 37, and also African-American, thought “we might be lynched.” And the time when well-intentioned shoppers followed Mark and Katie out of the mall to make sure she wasn’t being kidnapped. Or when would-be heroes come up to Katie in the cereal aisle and ask, “Are you OK?”—even though Terri is standing right there.

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The article talks about the Riding family who live near Baltimore, MD. Mark Riding and his wife Terri have two biological children.  In 2003 Terri’s mother took in a then 3 year old Katie O’Dea on a temporary basis.

That question hit home for the Ridings in 2003, when Terri’s mother, Phyllis Smith, agreed to take in Katie, then 3, on a temporary basis. A retired social worker, Phyllis had long been giving needy children a home—and Katie was one of the hardest cases. The child of a local prostitute, her toddler tantrums were so disturbing that foster families simply refused to keep her. Twelve homes later, Katie was still being passed around. Phyllis was in many ways an unlikely savior. The former president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, she joined her colleagues in condemning the adoption of black children by white families as “cultural genocide”—a position she still holds in theory, if not in practice. She couldn’t say no to the “charming, energetic” girl who ended up on her front doorstep.

Last November, after a grueling adoption process—”[adoption officials] pushed the envelope on every issue,” says Mark—little Irish-Catholic Katie O’Dea, as pale as a communion wafer, became Katie O’Dea-Smith: a formally adopted member of the African-American Riding-Smith family. (Phyllis is her legal guardian, but Mark and Terri were also vetted as legal surrogates for Phyllis.)

To be sure, it’s an unconventional arrangement. Katie spends weekdays with Phyllis, her legal guardian. But Mark and Terri, who live around the corner, are her de facto parents, too. They help out during the week, and welcome Katie over on weekends and holidays. As for titles: Katie calls Phyllis “Mommy” and Terri “Sister,” since technically it’s true. Mark has always been “Daddy” or “Mark.”

I wonder if Phyllis Smith ever thought that she would become the legal guardian of a white girl. I do have a problem with her attitude towards transracial adoption when it comes to black children as cultural genocide. You would think that having Katie around would soften her stance a little bit.

Part of the reason for the adoptive imbalance comes down to numbers, and the fact that people tend to want children of their own race. African-Americans represent almost one third of the 510,000 children in foster care, so black parents have a relatively high chance of ending up with a same-race child. (Not so for would-be adoptive white parents who prefer the rarest thing of all in the foster-care system: a healthy white baby.) But the dearth of black families with nonblack children also has painful historical roots. Economic hardship and centuries of poisonous belief in the so-called civilizing effects of white culture upon other races have familiarized Americans with the concept of white stewardship of other ethnicities, rather than the reverse.

The result is not only discomfort among whites at the thought of nonwhites raising their offspring; African-Americans can also be wary when one of their own is a parent to a child outside their race. Just ask Dallas Cowboys All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware and his wife, Taniqua, who faced a barrage of criticism after adopting a nonblack baby last February. When The New York Times sports page ran a photo of the shirtless new father with what appeared to be a white baby in his arms (and didn’t mention race in the accompanying story), it sent a slow shock wave through the African-American community, pitting supporters who celebrated the couple’s joy after three painful miscarriages against critics who branded the Wares “self-race-hating individuals” for ignoring the disproportionate number of blacks in foster care. The baby, now their daughter, Marley, is in fact Hispanic. “Do you mean to tell me that the Wares couldn’t have found a little black baby to adopt?” snarled one blogger on the Daily Voice, an online African-American newspaper.

You can read the entire article here.

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