Strange Case of Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal has sparked a fresh debate over race and ethnicity in America. Photo Credits:
Rachel Dolezal has sparked a fresh debate over race and ethnicity in America. Photo Credits:

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 He can be contacted at



We’d love to keep you updated with our latest news and offers 😎

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Published by Michael

Harold Michael Harvey is a Past President of The Gate City Bar Association and is the recipient of the Association’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award. He is the author of Paper Puzzle and Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, and a two-time winner of Allvoices’ Political Pundit Prize. His work has appeared in Facing South, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Black Colleges Nines, and Medium.

14 replies on “Strange Case of Rachel Dolezal”

  1. We have seen through the era of the Civil Rights Movement in this country, that numerous white clergy joined the fight for equality in America. They helped the cause during that era, and I see no reason why this lady can’t help the cause now. If I remember correctly the NAACP is open to ALL regardless to skin color or national origin. If she felt like she had to change her appearance to be better accepted, and to do a good job, so be it. We as a people have that tendency to keep our Blackness(twoness) to us and only us. But criticized our brothers for acting, “white” as we did during the 70’s and 80’s. We bullied the smart black child in class for trying to be white rather than embracing them for their intellect. So now some want to grab her down in the bucket, or better still kick her out of the bucket.

  2. As I glanced briefly at this subject posting of versatile comments I too took a double take at the picture of the subject as I read. Yes I see a trace of myself having lived in Europe raised internationally with a father and Blackfoot mother – Seminole Native on her father’s side. I was raised in Harlem NYC. In my 5th. Grade class I was told by two white girls that they want to see me after school. They never said anything to me till that day although we were in the same classroom. I got faint because they looked so angry. I asked them why. The said: “We want you we wanna fight you we are going to get you after school.” I was Stunned and troubled. I just knew they were joking. Well they waited for me and the teacher heard them. She saw us outside the window but did nothing. she was a white female teacher. However I asked them what happened, why do you want to fight me. They say “we don’t like you. You think your are cute.” I was so floored. My heart sunk. Then one girl threw the other girl into me. I had told her what did I do…or are you going to say. Why…they kept hitting; so anger raged came over me like lightening and I balled my fist and did not stop going into her back non-stop till they began screaming stop stop crying wailing, saying I am crazy. I screamed for teacher to look out window and finally they got help. I told my mom what happened she said if they hit me then I did good and she is glad I let the teacher know. This school was in upper peninsula Mi.twelve miles from Toronto. But I looked like braids down to my waist and I looked mixed so just jealousy is what attribute to these. The Messiah says jealousy is cruel as the grave.

    1. Ms. Simone, thank you for sharing your story. It is kind of hard for people who are not mixed to understand what life is like for those who are. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with my readers. Hopefully, some will have a better understanding of the emotional trauma people with multiply heritage have to navigate as a matter of daily survival.

  3. Dear Michael, great story as usual. However, you might consider that because the first people were from Africa, and genes do funny things, the woman could possibly have some overactive melanin. SMiLE!

  4. My only comment is to say that this is truly a thought-provoking article. As you say, it is all too easy to get caught up in the media hype. But this woman’s actions and intentions do cause a thinking person to wonder. (Why would she give up the comforts and privileges afforded to those with white skin and make herself a target of hatred and bigotry?) I am so glad that Karen Dabney brought up the point that is all too often ignored by mainstream America: ALL life began in Africa! Accepting this truth also means we also must accept that we are all brothers/sisters “under the skin”.

    1. I’m working on the question you just posed and should be in position to publish it by breakfast time tomorrow morning. Thanks for posing this very important question, which is being missed by the whirlwind of media bashing.

  5. I see nothing wrong with it…Regardless of how you look at it her life was difficult. So I for one see a none story in this story.

Comments are closed.