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I am sure you knew we would weigh in on this one. It is too good not to talk about over breakfast – and it was a great conversation. What was best about the conversation – it was honest. We did not talk platitudes; conversation society would expect or accept; we just talked.
The first question was of honesty; the roles of physicality, culture and identity; is there anything about physicality/biology that informs identity in an essential way. That is certainly what this public discussion has put forth. Somehow, according to the media, Ms. Dolezal’s biology has determined that she is not Black.
It gets really tiring the way color is discussed. One person is really Black – wow that brother is something else! Another is Black, but not Black enough. Another is ‘high yellow’ trying to be what she is not ‘Black’. She has AFrican American parents, but her Blackness is what is questioned. He doesn’t talk as though he is Black. She doesn’t dress as though she is Black. Who do they think they are – they know that’s not how Black folk act. and on and on. Who are they pretending to be – look at her, trying to be like Miss Ann. We’ve heard these conversations and more for decades.
And then we got into it. Is Rachel Dolezal Black? And who determines Blackness? Where are the determiners of who is Black and who is not. No one heard anything like that being discussed in this media onslaught. The discussions on television, in the print media, on the internet, etc. all were fraught with assumptions. The first – to be Black one had to be African Americans and apparently come from African American parents. That then allowed the charges of ‘dishonesty’ to come into play. Ms. Dolezal was ‘dishonest’ so she had to give up her Presidency, which she wouldn’t have if she hadn’t work for it. There are too many “Blacks” in the NAACP for someone to be elected President simply because they are Black. It was very disheartening to see the NAACP move Ms. Dolezal out of a position for which she put in hard work to achieve. Because they didn’t want to have this ‘distraction’? If this isn’t an issue of race and a primary issue of race which the NAACP needs to be addressing I don’t know what is.
That brought up – why, after all this time, did Ms. Dolezals mother decide to come out and take her daughter down. She did it in as wide spread and mean spirited way that she could – so the dysfunction in that family is out in the media for all to see. It is one thing to adopt and raise African American children – or any other minority child. It is quite another to be identified as the race of the child you are raising. Not many people could handle that and I have seen such adoptive parents bristle when someone saw the children and assumed they were also African American.
Many people, who have done such adopting, have not been able to get out of the ‘doing good for those poor minority folks’ syndrome. And I know many folks are going up in smoke when they read this – but take a look around. That doesn’t mean they have not loved, or cared for their adopted children. That just means it takes a lot to move out of your White Privilege into the Black Ghetto in which your adopted children live all of their lives. The White parents of such children have moments here and there where they can ‘escape’. The minority children don’t and won’t for their entire lifetime. What happens if those White parents gave up their White Privilege and lived with their children as minorities one and all? What a difference that would make in this society. What a statement that would make.
In mixed marriages in the 1940’s and 1950’s in the deep south the White partner generally left their White Privilege behind and lived as Black. Some knew they were Black, some thought they were simply light skinned African Americans.
With Rachel Dolezal’s family’s Native American ancestry, how does that fit into this conversation? Can one who is part Native American consider themselves Black? Some Native American tribes are trying to get all those with some African American ‘blood’ out of their tribes and deny them any advantages the tribe, with which they have identified for generations, could offer. Did the casino’s change the definition of who is Native American? What has changed the definition of who is Black? From everything I’ve seen and heard – Black is a culture – a way of talking, eating, playing, socializing, being. Lots of discussion has gone on around what it means to be Black and now with Rachel Dolezal all of that discussion has gone down the toilet. We are now in a mode of “protect the identity of White Privilege” – if the White Privileged person doesn’t have the smarts to protect their own identity then the rest of society must do it for them and is that what is happening with Rachel Dolezal? Hey kid, get back into your White tribe. In this case, the media has been charged with that duty. Drag her through everything so those other young people watching won’t try to do this. What a society this would be if hundreds, thousands of White children – wallowing in White Privilege would give it up and identify as Black. Would racism crack and break into pieces to be washed away in the next thunderstorm?
Rachel Dolezal did what Black Civil Rights groups have been ragging on Whites to do for decades. Don’t try to address the issues, problems, attempts at a solution for Blacks unless you give up your White Privilege and live the way racism forces ‘us’ to live. I’ve heard that so many times it got to be a bit disgusting – especially in the 1970’s. Generally brought up by a Black Male whose ego was wounded and felt White Women were taking his place and putting him down – out would come, “when you give up your White Privilege” then come and …………….. One reason to keep African American women out of the women’s movement was because they were ‘up against’ a group of White women who could run home to their White husbands or family and wash the pain and suffering of the people they were working with off their clothes and skin. They could run home and relax in their Whiteness and their White Privilege.
Who better to head the NAACP than a WOMAN who has given up the advantages and ability to oppress Blacks; than someone who has given up that White Privilege and whose life shows who she is, where she is comfortable, with whom she has decided to live her life and not for a week or a month or a year, but this has been for decades. AND, the only person who can determine if she is Black or not is Ms. Dolezal. It is her identity to put out there and our role is to respect how she defines herself. How many times have we heard – ‘who do you think you are defining me. Don’t you dare define me, you respect how I define myself.’
Everything but that has happened.
Honesty doesn’t even belong in this conversation. And neither do all the trappings – I know several women in my social circle who would not think of going out with having first used a spray tan. I know others who pay lots of money to have themselves “sprayed” before major events. If Ms. Dolezal uses spray tan – what’s the difference? One group uses it for frivolous cosmetic reasons – to make their skin darker. Ms. Dolezal uses it to be able to better fit in where she finds herself comfortable and is able to work on the issues and societal problems for which she has a passion. She is not working on them as a White Person – with all the privileges that screams. She is not patronizing anyone – in fact, to give up her Whiteness to work on these issues takes all of the inequality away from the groups she is working with and for.
The media has set the conversation and has determined which questions need to be asked and what the answers should be for Ms. Dolezal to pass their ‘examination’. Their questions are racist and sexist and the tone they set for this conversation is one to maintain the status quo. For heavens sake lets get out in front of this before more of ‘our’ children start using spray tan and working in the civil rights movements after having given up their White Privilege. WELL – here is someone who has chosen not to be able to wash off all of that and to live a Black life. And here we are taking her down from the NAACP and goodness knows what else.
All of us – in theory – are against prejudice based on race. Most of us can not sustain that when it comes to one on one interactions. We substitute ‘personality disorder’, ‘crazy’, ‘not the right kind of person to take this issue forward’, and I could go on and on and on with these excuses.
Now – someone who was effective in dealing with a part of racism and sexism in her part of the world has been “outed” and made to resign the posts for which she has moved the conversation and the society forward. There are no qualifications within the NAACP that one be Black or White or African American or Chinese or whatever to work within that organization or as one of its officers. In many organizations there have been people who were gay who masqueraded as straight. There have been people who were Black who passed for White. I have Chinese friends who have had their eyes widened and who then look European. Is this dishonest?
This is not a big deal in a racist society. This is not a question of honesty or dishonesty, because this is not a society which is color blind. It is a racist, sexist society and honesty has a value which does not belong nor fit into this issue. We are throwing it around and using it in ways to maintain our status quo. How ‘hones’t is a person who felt called to the ordained ministry and masquerades as a straight man to become ordained – then masquerades as a straight man to be elected bishop. He was not “outed” for his “dishonesty”. That was never an issue. Why not – given this Rachel incident. We have held up and honored such a person – looking at their achievements in the area of their choice rather than the “dishonesty” of what they had to do to be able to do the work we raise up and cherish. But then, he was a White man.
What is dishonest is using biology to define race where that is a ridiculous argument. What is dishonest is to claim physicality to define race and use it to distinguish and defines one person as better than another because of their race – no matter how veiled the argument may be. It is only a question of time before someone decides she is mentally unstable and should see a psychiatrist. That is usually said by the people who are in actual need of serious therapy.
What is needed to bring about major change is to require that anyone working on the issues of race give up their White Privilege and become Black. Then, you can know the issues on which you are working a lot better; you can focus knowing you are not going home to that White Suburban existence from which you came to do this ‘nobles oblige’ work. Then Blacks can know you are serious about what you claim to believe about racism and how to address this problem.
Ms. Dolezal needs to be a role model – a requirement for those in society who want to see race/skin color/and more eliminated from society.
There is no biological separation of someone who is Black from the rest of society – this conversation is putting all of those requirements in place without actually taking on such an overt discussion. Bo Derek broke the White/Black hair thing decades ago when she was declared a “10” with all of her Rostifarian hair braids. Blacks declared the hair line broken when Madam Walker developed the cosmetic that straightened African Americans hair – and the hair of Whites with curly hair who wanted it to look less curly and more straight. But now we have this uproar also over Ms. Dolezals hair. Is it acceptable in some contexts to have an Afro or African American hair style, but in other contexts it is ‘not honest’. Interesting is how we held up a woman with a “Black” hair style when it was a decorative thing, frivolous, girlish thing to do and it didn’t mean anything except women were experimenting with their bodies again and their value is in their bodies in this society. So Bo Derek was experimenting with her “image” on a very superficial level so the furor over that was very low level and very short lived – in fact, many White women took up her style after she came out with those braids. The same thing with ‘spray tan’. It is fine when used as a cosmetic, frivolous thing to enhance the physical beauty of a woman, but not when it is used to allow someone to follow their passion to work to change the society in which we all live. A woman’s value, after all is in her physical beauty, her physical appearance.
What is not honest is the racism running rife through this discussion without anyone calling the media-people who have introduced their racism into this discussion and having them answer for the direction in which this discussion is going and the damage they are trying to do to Rachel Dolezal so others won’t follow her example. Something slightly akin to a witch hunt and what happens to the witch when she has been exposed. Delicious here is the fact that this witch was exposed by her mother. That must warm the cockles of some New Englanders’ hearts.
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