“The more you run from the truth, the more comfortable you’ll get with living a lie.”
Question For The Day:
Are you living a lie?
So, I’m tripping like most of the country that the President of the Spokane, Washington Chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, has been “outed” for being a Caucasian woman who has been passing for African American. So many questions come to mind. How much was her tanning bill? Are those crochet braids? Why does her twist out look better than mine? How did she get her cornrows to stay in place? Did she hire an escort or an out of work actor to play her daddy? Did her husband know he had Jungle Fever? Can she make collard greens? Didn’t any of her people from Jackson State or Howard remember she was White once upon time? Why’d she opt to keep the blue eyes? But mainly I wonder… was it really that easy to become a Black woman and if so, would it have been as easy if she hadn’t had a choice?
I’ve been perusing the comment section of several internet sites today and it seems Ms. Dolezal has a lot of supporters. Many say she has done more for Black people than many actual African Americans. Their question, who cares as long as she was supporting the cause? They argue that not only did she not cause anyone harm, she educated people on African history, mentored students, worked to address issues of police brutality, and was an outspoken advocate for civil rights, race relations, and equality. Even the NAACP has stepped up to show their support for the work she’s done. What could be wrong with a Caucasian person fighting on behalf of African Americans? After all, it’s nothing new. White Americans have always been an active part of the civil rights struggle. Some even say, they are impressed that this woman had such an affinity for African American culture that she chose to embrace it as her own. To them, this proves to be the highest form of flattery. Though all of this sounds good, there is no getting around the fact that at the core of all of Rachel Dolezal’s wonderful work, there is dishonesty and fraud that ultimately disrespects the very people she has worked so hard to uplift. Clearly, there is also a profound dysfunction that should be addressed before this woman loses her remaining grasp on reality. ‘Oh by the way, I’m not really an African American’ is not just a harmless omission, but a display of significant mental and emotional health deficits from a woman who needs way more help than she has to offer others.
I have a personal example to share. I’ve mentioned several times that I am a therapist who works with people battling substance addiction. Though I believe my clients respect my opinion, advice and the knowledge that I bring to the table as an educated woman, there are aspects of addiction that I can never fully understand because I am not a recovering addict. Though I can empathize, support, and advocate for them, whatever I bring to the table is an outside perspective. Only an addict can really speak on behalf of other addicts because they will fully identify with what it feels like. Now, suppose I were to lie to my clients and tell them that I am also an addict in recovery. Would it matter that I have the best of intentions when working with them everyday? Furthermore, it is worth considering why I might do something like that. Perhaps, I’d want to come off more credible or want to be seen as more relatable. Maybe I would be afraid that they would not accept me if I wasn’t in recovery. Whatever reason I may have for lying about such a critical piece of information, would not matter to my clients who would surely lose all respect for me. My good works would be overshadowed by the fact that I pretended to relate to something that I didn’t personally get. They would know that I spoke to them from a place of dishonesty and they would have every right to wonder what else I’ve lied about. This is what Rachel Dolezal has done. It was not just harmless pretending. This woman betrayed the trust of a community who believed that she understood an experience that she frankly did not. No matter how close you are to an issue, unless you have lived and breathed it, it is disrespectful to pretend to understand it, less more speak from a place of knowing. Also, if I told such a lie, one would have to wonder what was wrong with me to do so especially if what I have to offer my clients wouldn’t change. The only reason someone would perpetrate that kind of fraud would be to hide a sense of personal inadequacy and a deep need for acceptance. Otherwise, as long as I’m serving from a pure heart, that type of deception would be unnecessary. The lie would serve no one else’s purposes but my own, which would indicate I had issues. Sorry to disappoint you ladies and gentlemen, but Rachel Dolezal has issues as does everyone who lives an inauthentic life. Here are the real reasons anyone would go to extreme lengths to be something they are not.
Uncomfortable In Their Own Skin – Rachel Dolezal would not have pursued an African American identity had she not taken issue with her Caucasian identity. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with being Caucasian! I feel sorry for this woman, because she has apparently bought into the idea that race is a fair judge of character. Believing this is actually the very heart of prejudice. Though Ms. Dolezal prided herself on being a champion of the oppressed, her judgment of her own skin color, rejection of her White parents because of their color, and tendency to take advantage of people (i.e her “play daddy”) for their color, kind of makes her guilty of being prejudicial herself. Who says she couldn’t just be a Caucasian woman who loves black people, identifies with black culture, and rocks a mean afro? If this is who you are honey, then own it. But when you see what you really are as something to disguise, then Houston, we have a problem.
Not Feeling Good Enough – I read some of her backstory and learned that her parents were very racially inclusive and had adopted Black children. This is all great, but the therapist in me wonders if in her mind, she associated being Black with being more special, interesting, or deserving of love and assistance. From what I can tell, the entire family is likely dysfunctional considering their strained communication, pending litigation, and the shady way her parents put her on front street. Perhaps, there was a subconscious belief that if she was Black, she would be more acceptable to her parents. Was she in some ways jealous of her adopted siblings? Of course, I’m just theorizing but the bottom line is that Ms. Dolezal just didn’t feel good enough. She had her hand in important and significant work, received a fabulous education (from my alma mater Howard University no less), earned the respect of friends and colleagues, and had support from a family who helped her to get where she is, even if they didn’t get along. Yet despite all of these blessings, she still did not feel satisfied enough with Rachel to just be herself. Many of us are constantly in search of that little something extra that will finally make us worthy of all the accolades. But, perhaps we were born worthy…ijs.
Excessive Need For Drama – I do suspect that Ms. Dolezal might be suffering from some type of mental illness or personality disorder. Maybe all of the blackface was an attempt to shake up an otherwise status quo life. Could she have been in pursuit of an interesting story? After all, it’s far more interesting to claim to battle racism regularly than to admit you probably have it pretty easy as a Caucasian woman from the south. Lots of people thrive on attention, chaos, and struggle. If this is the case with Ms. Dolezal, then she is learning that there is a price to pay for that “edge” one might desire. Consequences are usually what helps us learn to appreciate the less remarkable times of our lives.
Unhealthy Need for Acceptance – At the end of the day, Rachel Dolezal might not have believed that she would be accepted as a Caucasian within the African American community. She might have assumed she would have been shunned by the NAACP, though the organization has refuted this assumption by saying that people of all backgrounds are welcomed to lead. Keeping it one hundred, there are some closed-minded Black people that may have rejected her attempts to assist the movement, but if your honest objective is to support a cause you believe in, then does it really matter? If your motives for serving the African American community are pure, then it should be a lot less important who likes it or not. I think of the brave White activists and Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement who stood for what they believed in without regard for who accepted it or not. If being accepted as “down” is deep enough for you to disown your parents, force your siblings to lie on your behalf, and basically run the risk of making a mockery of your life’s work, you apparently want acceptance a lot more than you want anything else, and that’s just plain scary. Can you say Single White (or Black) Female? lol
Here’s the bottom line for me. There is always more value in being your authentic self. It would have been far more meaningful and impactful for Rachel Dolezal to stand firmly with the African American community as a Caucasian female who sees issues of racism and discrimination for what they are. But to assume a false identity, perpetrate a fraud, lie about your personal experiences with race, hurt your family, and deceive the very people you claim to love is doing way too much! Being a White woman who makes a difference for people of all races would be a great legacy. You don’t have to be Black to fight injustice, but you do have to be yourself to truly make a difference. Rachel Dolezal, get lifted girl!