Strange Case of Rachel Dolezal
The strange case of Rachel Dolezal has the country up in storm. Dolezal was born to white parents of Czech and German ancestry. Sometime after emancipation she decided to identify as black. She immersed herself in the African American culture, tanned her skin, weaved her hair; and spoke in the cadence and sauntered with the swag of a black middle class woman.
Quite frankly, I find what she has done refreshing. She could not have appeared on the national scene at a better time. Dolezal’s claims of being black is just the fresh air that the country needs to finally get a grip on the great racial divide that W. E. B. DuBois said would be the main problem in the 20th century. DuBois, I believe, surely thought Americans would have solved the problem of race by the 21st century.
It saddens me to report to DuBois’ legacy: As Americans, we have not solved how “the lighter races of men relate to the darker races in America, Asia, Africa and the island of the seas.”
Individually, some Americans have. I have met several white women who identify very deeply with black culture and the struggle of the African American community to rid itself of the shackles of racism. One of whom told me just the other day, that as a young white woman in the work world, it did not take her “long to figure out that the white man was the problem.”
Albeit, none of my friends have taken the Dolezal step and rejected their European ancestry and self identified with people of African descent.
Dolezal’s bold and courageous move speaks volumes for race relations in America. The Christian Messiah preached that if you wanted to be like him you must be prepared to “… leave your possessions, pick up your cross and follow me.”
This Dolezal has done and like the the Christian Messiah, she has suffered her own crucifixion, in the media, by white and black people. Whites find it impossible to believe that a white person would voluntarily give up the privilege of white skin. Perhaps because few of them would be willing to do it.
From the appearance of it, Dolezal has rejected her biological parents and created a new life in the black world. None of my liberal white friends, no matter how progressive, when pushed have said they would be willing to forfeit the perks of skin color.
On the other hand black people feel a sense of disrespect, as if, Dolezal is treading on precious black space. Precious because the dominate white culture only allows a small percentage of black people to occupy space with rich soil. Blacks are reluctant to share what little good space there is in the American melting pot.
In the Soul’s of Black Folks, DuBois writes about the “concept of twoness” experienced by black Americans. The experience of being American, yet not being treated like an American and how black people struggle with who they are as a result of this “unreconciled twoness.”
Dolezal has wrestled with DuBois’ identity crisis from the white perspective, as she has tried to reconcile the American dream of white Americans, with the American nightmare of black Americans. She has opted to live black, to think black, and to work for black advancement, all the while entrapped by her genetics, which dictate that she is predisposed to live the white cultural myth based upon the lie that somehow white people are superior and blacks are inferior people.
Dolezal freed herself from her genetics the only way she could, and the only way all of us can, by freeing the mind.
How cool is that?
Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org