All Day, Commentary -

Don’t buy what Rachel Dolezal is selling The newly named Nkechi Amare Diallo’s mindset is misguided and dangerous

All Day, Commentary -

Don’t buy what Rachel Dolezal is selling The newly named Nkechi Amare Diallo’s mindset is misguided and dangerous

“I was born to two white parents, but I do have an authentic black identity.”

That’s what Rachel Dolezal told Dr. Phil in an episode that aired as part of the promotional tour for her new book In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.

By this point, we all know who this woman is. After she was outed as a white person heading up an NAACP chapter in Washington state, her stature rose to prominence in the U.S. when she deservedly became a target of ridicule. At this point, in trying to sell product and art to make a living, she was staring homelessness straight in the face. She’s gotten multiple platforms to spew this nonsense. England’s BBC Newsnight sat her down for an interview. She put her harmful rhetoric on full display, saying, “The idea of race is a lie.” First off, no it’s not. It might not have scientific merit at the core of its existence as anything more than phenotypical differences in humans, but that doesn’t make the effects of said construct any less real. Secondly, if that were the case, you wouldn’t be claiming to be black. Obviously.

Then, The New York Times decided to allow her to reply to reader questions on Facebook Live, for reasons that are still unclear. There, she dropped the word transracial, claiming to be such. In short order, here’s why that doesn’t make sense. When it comes to said matter, it is not a choice.

“The fundamental difference between Dolezal’s actions and trans people is that her decision to identify as black was an active choice, whereas transgender people’s decision to transition is almost always involuntary,” Meredith Talusan wrote for The Guardian in 2015. “Transitioning is the product of a fundamental aspect of our humanity – gender – being foisted upon us over and over again from the time of our birth in a manner inconsistent with our own experience of our genders. Doctors don’t announce our race or color when we are born; they announce our gender. People who are alienated from their presumed gender and define themselves according to another gender have existed since earliest recorded history; race is a medieval European invention.”

Or, in short, there’s no going both ways. Black folks cannot just declare themselves white because they make some cosmetic changes and start listening to Dave Matthews. Not to mention that if she were actually black, she would never have gotten this many chances to plead her mediocre case to various outlets around the world. Even the most respected of our women are routinely denigrated and insulted in public spaces, no matter what.

We’re not even going to get into the absurdity of her changing her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo (but not as her pen name. Yay, whiteness!). The most fundamental portion of her argument is demeaning when it comes to the African-American experience. What she’s essentially asserting is that all blackness is an act. On a basic level, this is where people’s issues with blackface come in. But in reality, it’s far more insidious than college kids painting their faces and saying “n—a” when they sing songs.

Her entire concept of transracialism is closer to what the white family is trying to achieve in the movie Get Out. The idea that blackness is just something you can wake up and feel and thus become is frightening. How little do you have to think of black people to feel like you can just decide it’s something you want to do? It’s the height of a supremacist’s logic. By deleting the experience of actual black people and erasing the years of societal abuse, conditioning and dehumanization we have endured, what you’re saying is being black is so easy that any white person could do it. It’s not just a ridiculous punchline to say you identify as black. It actively reinforces the idea that black people are lesser beings than others.

For her, it’s not enough to love, respect, nurture and support black culture. She’s got to steal it. In the film, the blind man who wants to steal the main character’s brain doesn’t even view himself as racist. Yet, the fact that they keep choosing black people to body-snatch is a clear sign of his ignorance to his own bigotry. Dolezal is no different. Blackness is thus presented as something that exists for the purposes of white taking.

In an interview with VICE News, which traveled to her home in Spokane, Washington, she lays out this terrifying vision while reminding the audience that a lawsuit alleging that one of her family members was sexually abused by another is how this whole situation blew up to begin with.

“What is whiteness or blackness? Or, you know, what does it mean to fall in between,” she says. “In what ways are we who we are? I’m not part of that. Owning, praising, living whiteness. That’s not me.” You could posit that by trying to help black people through her work, her lifestyle and her passion, she was actively making a choice to move away from whiteness as a power structure. But, frankly, she could have likely done a lot more to help others as an actual white person. That’s how privilege works.

At this point, it’s not enough to just say, “Don’t give her a platform” and expect her to go away. While she might be an extreme example, the root logic of her thinking is nothing short of dangerous. Black people have had enough stolen from them in this nation over centuries, so if someone is legitimately trying to rationalize a fake race through some level of science, that’s scary.

Killing, raping, jailing and trying to dishonor black folks is a tradition as old as America itself. But trying to steal our existence from the inside out is quite another. If the idea becomes accepted that somehow people can declare themselves black without connectivity to the problems that come with it, we’ll be setting ourselves up to be wiped out in plain sight, without even having to be removed.

We wouldn’t be the first group in America to suffer that fate, either.


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