Thought For The Day:
“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, here we are again…. smh. I recently came across an article written by Jessica Krug, an associate professor of history at George Washington University, who like Rachel Dolezal, assumed the identity of a black woman in order to validate her work as an African History scholar and advocate for racial justice and equality. I read her article in Medium in which she pretty much burned herself at the stake as she admitted to the world that the Afro-Caribbean ancestry she claimed was nothing more than a farce. Though her alter ego, Jess La Bombera (werk! …lol) was a well-respected historian who educated people on the history and struggle of people across the African diaspora, the real Jessica was a white woman raised in a middle class Jewish neighborhood in Kansas City. Though she was heeding a noble calling, the unnecessary lies and black face is certainly a buzz kill. However, what’s more sad to me is the level of pain, self doubt, and self-loathing that was on display in that Medium article. https://medium.com/@jessakrug/the-truth-and-the-anti-black-violence-of-my-lies-9a9621401f85 The verbal lashing she gave herself was, in my opinion, a reflection of negative emotions that were likely already at play long before she put herself on front street. Like Dolezal, I have so many questions 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?
When the Rachel Dolezal scandal first hit the internet, it was clear she had many supporters and I imagine Krug might also have some fans. Some said Dolezal had 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, but 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 stepped up to show their support for the work she had 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 and Jessica Krug’s wonderful work, there is dishonesty and fraud that ultimately disrespects the very people they have worked so hard to uplift. Clearly, there is also a profound dysfunction that should be addressed before these women lose their 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 that suggest both women need way more help than they can effectively offer others.
I have a personal example to share. I’ve mentioned several times that I am a therapist who has worked with people battling substance addiction. Though I believe those clients respected my opinion, advice, and the knowledge I brought to the table as an educated woman, there were aspects of addiction that I could never fully understand because I’m not a recovering addict. Though I could empathize, support, and advocate for them, whatever I brought to the table was 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 was also an addict in recovery. Would it have mattered that I had the best of intentions when working with them? Perhaps, I’d lie to come off more credible or would want to be seen as more relatable. Maybe I’d fear they wouldn’t accept me if I wasn’t in recovery. Whatever reason I might have for lying about such a critical piece of information, would not have mattered to my clients who would have lost all respect for me. My good works would’ve been overshadowed by the fact that I pretended to relate to something that I didn’t personally understand. They’d surely feel that I’d spoken to them from a place of dishonesty and would have every right to wonder what else I had lied about.
This is what Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal have done. It’s not just harmless pretending. These women betrayed the trust of a community who believed that they understood an experience that they 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 ever lied to my clients about my history, one would have to wonder what was wrong with me to do so, especially if what I have to offer 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 wouldn’t be necessary. 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 Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal have issues, as does anyone who lives an inauthentic life. Here are the real reasons someone might go to extreme lengths to be something they are not.
Uncomfortable In Their Own Skin – Rachel and Jessica would not have pursued an African American identity had they not taken issue with their Caucasian identity. The truth is, there is no sin in being white. I feel sorry for these women, because they have apparently bought into the idea that race is a fair judge of character. Believing this is actually the very heart of prejudice. Though they have prided themselves on being champions for the oppressed, their judgment of her own skin color, rejection of their white families, and tendency to capitalize off the struggles of black people kind of makes them guilty of being prejudicial themselves. Who says they can’t just be a white women who love black people, identify with black culture, and know how to rock a head wrap? If this is who they are, then why not just own it? But when one sees who they really are as something to disguise, then Houston, we have a problem.
Not Feeling Good Enough – I read some of Rachel’s 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 outed her. Perhaps, there was a subconscious belief that if she were 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. Despite the fact that both Rachel and Jessica had their hand in important and significant work, received fabulous educations (and Rachel from my alma mater Howard University no less), and earned the respect of friends and colleagues, they tragically did not feel deserving as their authentic selves. 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 both Rachel and Jessica 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 they 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 had it pretty easy as a white suburbanite. Lots of people thrive on attention, chaos, and struggle. If this is the case, then both ladies are learning the hard way that there is a price to pay for the “edge” one might desire. Consequences are usually what helps us learn to appreciate the less remarkable times in our lives.
Unhealthy Need for Acceptance – At the end of the day, neither Jessica nor Rachel may have believed that they would be accepted as white women within the African American community. Rachel 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 who may have rejected their attempts to assist in the movement. Yet, if their honest objective was to support the causes they believe in, should it even matter? If your motives for serving the African American community are pure, then it should be a lot less important who approves. 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 celebrated as “down” is deep enough for you to disown your parents, force folks 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?
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 Jessica and Rachel to stand firmly with the African American community as Caucasian women who see issues of racism and discrimination for what they are. But to assume a false identity, perpetrate a fraud, lie about their personal experiences with race, hurt their families, and deceive the very people they 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.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or God? Am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”