Stealth sisterhood: I look white, but I’m also black. And I don’t hate Rachel Dolezal

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-04-24 03:08Z by Steven

Stealth sisterhood: I look white, but I’m also black. And I don’t hate Rachel Dolezal


Alli Joseph

A photo of the author with her mother.

I am white, I am black, I am Native American. And I know what it’s like for people not to see all of who I am

On a hot, humid New York City morning in 1980, I stood with my mother in the checkout line of an A&P supermarket near our home. As she pushed our groceries along the cashier’s belt with me trailing behind, mom realized she had forgotten her wallet at home, but she had her checkbook. Leaving me standing alone in the line for a moment while she saw the manager to have her check approved, the clerk refused to bag our groceries and hand them to me. She was black, and I was white. “These groceries belong to that woman over there,” the woman nodded towards my mother. “They ain’t yours.” Confused, I said, “But that’s my mother. I’ll take them for her.” She looked me up and down. “No,” she said, her voice cold.

The clerk refused to believe that indeed I belonged to, and came from, my black mother, until mom returned to find me choking back tears. She gave the clerk a tongue lashing, which was not her style, and we left the market. Later, mixed Native American and black children threw stones at me near my home on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation as I rode my bike. They yelled, “Get off our land, white girl!” These painful and strange experiences gave me my first taste of racial prejudice, and they have stayed with me all these years.

I am a child of many nations. I am white, I am black, I am Native American. I am West Indian, German, Irish. Brown and light together — integrated, not inter-racial, because race means nothing when you come from everywhere…

Read the entire article here.

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I couldn’t escape Rachel Dolezal because I can’t escape white supremacy.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-04-20 03:16Z by Steven

I couldn’t escape Rachel Dolezal because I can’t escape white supremacy. And it is white supremacy that told an unhappy and outcast white woman that black identity was hers for the taking. It is white supremacy that told her that any black people who questioned her were obviously uneducated and unmotivated to rise to her level of wokeness. It is white supremacy that then elevated this display of privilege into the dominating conversation on black female identity in America. It is white supremacy that decided that it was worth a book deal, national news coverage, and yes—even this interview.

Ijeoma Oluo, “The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black,” The Stranger, April 19, 2017.

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The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-04-19 16:37Z by Steven

The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black

The Stranger

Ijeoma Oluo

Rajah Bose

I’m sitting across from Rachel Dolezal, and she looks… white. Not a little white, not racially ambiguous. Dolezal looks really, really white. She looks like a white woman with a mild suntan, in box braids—like perhaps she’d just gotten back from a Caribbean vacation and decided to keep the hairstyle for a few days “for fun.”

She is also smaller than I expected, tiny even—even in her wedge heels and jeans. I’m six feet tall and fat. I wonder for a moment what this conversation might look like to bystanders if things were to get heated—a giant black woman interrogating a tiny white woman. Everything about Dolezal is smaller than expected—the tiny house she rents, the limited and very used furniture. Her 1-year-old son toddles in front of cartoons playing on a small television. The only thing of real size in the house seems to be a painting of her adopted brother, and now adopted son, Izaiah, from when he was a young child. The painting looms over Dolezal on the living-room wall as she begins to talk. I try to get my bearings and listen to what she’s trying to say, but for the first few moments, my mind keeps repeating: “How in the hell did I get here?”

I did not want to think about, talk about, or write about Rachel Dolezal ever again. While many people have been highly entertained by the story of a woman who passed herself off for almost a decade as a black woman, even rising to the head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, before being “outed” during a TV interview by KXLY reporter Jeff Humphrey as white, as later confirmed by her white parents, I found little amusement in her continued spotlight. When the story first broke in June 2015, I was approached by more editors in a week than I had heard from in two months. They were all looking for “fresh takes” on the Dolezal scandal from the very people whose identity had now been put up for debate—black women. I wrote two pieces on Dolezal for two different websites, mostly focused not on her, but on the lack of understanding of black women’s identity that was causing the conversation about Dolezal to become more and more painful for so many black women.

After a few weeks of media obsession, I—and most of the other black women I knew—was completely done with Rachel Dolezal.

Or, at least I hoped to be…

Read the entire interview here.

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The contradiction at the heart of Rachel Dolezal’s ‘transracialism’

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2017-04-12 02:16Z by Steven

The contradiction at the heart of Rachel Dolezal’s ‘transracialism’

The Conversation

Victoria Anderson, Researcher/Teacher in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
Cardiff University

Rachel Dolezal speaking at Spokane rally, May 2015. Arkathman/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Rachel Dolezal, the former branch president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who gained global notoriety in 2015 after being “outed” as a white woman pretending to be black, is back with a new book on race. Dolezal, who is ethnically German, now claims that she is “transracial”, a condition she compares to transgenderism. By this she means that although she was born white, she identifies with being black, arguing that race is a social construct.

Dolezal complains of further victimisation because “transracialism” is not recognised in the same way as transgenderism. And Dolezal sees herself as triply stigmatised; because of her race, because of her trans status and also because of the perceived illegitimacy of this status.

For someone like me, concerned both with race and with the role of narrative in culture, the narrative spun by Dolezal is both confounding and uniquely fascinating. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, she announced – not incorrectly, in my view – that “race is a lie”. At the same time, she laid claim to the transracialism that she demands to be accepted as a truth…

…Blanket categories of “black” and “white” are an entirely modern phenomenon. In the 17th and 18th centuries, those Europeans who were actively involved in the slave trade made a point of distinguishing between different African ethnic groups; some were considered to be better house slaves, others better field slaves. The Igbo people, for instance, were considered prone to suicidal ideation, which posed problems for the incipient slaver. In the early days of “race” as we know it, there really was no sense of the generic catch-all blackness to which Dolezal lays claim.

As generations passed, ideas of “black” and “white” were further complicated by the complex striations of racial coding that were implemented both during and after slavery, across the Americas, as a consequence of voluntary and involuntary coupling between Europeans and Africans.

This led to a dizzying taxonomy of racial mixes, including (but not confined to) so-called mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons, tercerons, quintroons and beyond, depending on how many generations back a person’s African ancestry was traced. A person might be able to pass as white if their direct African ancestry was three or four generations removed – although if their relative “blackness” was discovered, it was a source not only of shame but was a precondition of legal slavery…

Read the entire article here.

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Black and Proud. Even if Strangers Can’t Tell.

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2017-04-02 16:20Z by Steven

Black and Proud. Even if Strangers Can’t Tell.

The New York Times

Rebecca Carroll, Editor of Special Projects
WNYC, New York, New York

Rachel Levit

My 11-year-old is understated, but not shy. He likes to bake, loves video games, is loyal to his friends and, biased as I may be, is a pretty good-looking kid. He gets mad sometimes, though, that people don’t immediately register him as black. “You’re so lucky,” he said to me a few months ago. “People look at you and know that you are black.”

Being black in America has historically been determined by whether or not you look black to nonblack people. This keeps racism operational. Brown and black skin in this country can invite a broad and freewheeling range of bad behavior — from job discrimination to a child being shot dead in the street. For my son, though, being black in America is about more than his skin color. It’s about power, confidence, culture and belonging.

You inherit race, though. You don’t steal it. We’re reminded of this once again by Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who made national headlines in 2015 for claiming a black identity because she felt like it. She released a memoir last week…

…My son is not the only light-skinned, mixed or biracial person I know who identifies primarily as black. Increasingly, I have observed my adult peers and colleagues who fall into this category not merely identifying as black, but routinely pulling out the receipts to prove their blackness.

Some of this may have to do with what the brilliant Jordan Peele, who is also biracial and black, tapped into for the plot of his genre-redefining box office hit, “Get Out” — that it’s cool to be black right now, that we are trending…

Read the entire article here.

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Ironically, then, in manifesting her blackness she most flagrantly manifests her whiteness.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-03-30 02:12Z by Steven

Just as [Donald] Trump cannot seem to utter “the African Americans” sans “inner city,” [Rachel] Dolezal’s conception of blackness is steeped in a fetishizing of struggle, pain and oppression. Opting into the struggle is yet another place where her whiteness acutely rears its head. The choice to take on a racial mantle at will is a mark of white privilege; so, too, is the choice to take it off when it suits. Ironically, then, in manifesting her blackness she most flagrantly manifests her whiteness.

Baz Dreisinger, “When saying you’re black and being black are two different things,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2017.

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Race and Rachel Doležal: An Interview

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2017-03-29 18:55Z by Steven

Race and Rachel Doležal: An Interview

Contexts: understanding people in their social world

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

In June 2015, I got an email from a California radio station asking me for an interview about a person I had never heard of: Rachel Doležal. I quickly Googled her, and based on a brief news item, agreed to the interview. She seemed to be a White woman passing as Black, working as the president of the Spokane NAACP chapter to boot. I didn’t really see why this was national news, but I figured even a fluff piece could be an opportunity to foster public conversation about the fluidity of racial identities and the constructed nature of racial categories.

The slow summer news day turned into a weeklong media frenzy, with shockingly intense public attention focused on Ms. Doležal’s racial self-identification. My Soc 101 lesson about racial construction turned into a dozen interviews with incredulous reporters, fascinated by the notion of “transracial” people. And based on Ms. Doležal’s comments at the time as well as her new book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World, the term “passing”—with its connotation of masquerading—couldn’t quite capture the gradual and deeply-felt process of Black affiliation that she underwent. In my view, she is not a passer—someone who seeks to turn existing racial categories to their advantage—so much as a person who rejects widespread beliefs about the criteria for racial categorization.

The concept of race as a social construct is one that Rachel Doležal invokes repeatedly as she explains and defends her self-identification with a race different from the one claimed by her biological parents. Is she wrong? Has she misinterpreted something fundamental to our discipline’s contemporary teaching on race? And can her case shed any light on the millions of people who alter their racial self-reporting from one decennial census to the next, according to research by sociologist Carolyn Liebler and colleagues at the U.S. Census Bureau? I expect sociologists will vary in their answers to these questions, but I also suspect that many of us have found a teaching opportunity in what Rogers Brubaker calls “the Doležal affair.” I’m grateful that Doležal agreed to share an advance copy of In Full Color and answer a series of questions for the Contexts audience…

AM [Ann Morning]: In the press and in your new book, you really double down on claiming a Black identity. In the very first pages of In Full Color, for example, you write about your “identity as a Black woman.” But if you could create a longer, more complex label that more fully captured your experience or viewpoint, what might that look like?

RD [Rachel Doležal]: I get fatigued by the overly simplistic race labels, as if people are only one aspect of who they are at a time and not able to be simultaneously a person with a gender/race/age/class/religion/sexual orientation/nationality/disability/language. Yes, Black is the closest descriptive race or culture category that represents the essential essence of who I am, and I stand unapologetically on the “Black side” of the racially constructed Black/White divide. But, if I could choose a more complex label with my own terms, it might be “A pro-Black, Pan-African, bisexual artist, activist, and mother.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Rachel Dolezal’s TEDx Talk

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2017-03-29 01:17Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal’s TEDx Talk

TED Blog
TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design)

The TED Editors

In April 2016, Rachel Dolezal spoke at an independently organized TEDx event held at a university. As you may know, Ms. Dolezal is a former president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter who sparked a national debate and resigned after the public discovered that she was a white woman identifying herself as a black woman.

Recently she announced on TV that she had recorded “a TED Talk.” Some of you were upset by this. Indeed, the news surprised us too, because we knew she hadn’t spoken at a TED event. But it turned out she had spoken at one of the thousands of TEDx events that are held around the world.

TEDx organizers host events independent of TED, and they have the freedom to invite speakers they feel are relevant to their communities. These volunteers find thousands of new voices all over the world — many of which would not otherwise be heard — including some of our most beloved, well-known speakers, people like Brene Brown and Simon Sinek.

What TEDx organizers have achieved collectively is remarkable. But, yes, some of them occasionally share ideas we don’t stand behind…

Read the entire letter and watch the talk here.

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When saying you’re black and being black are two different things

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2017-03-28 18:45Z by Steven

When saying you’re black and being black are two different things

The Washington Post

Baz Dreisinger, Associate Professor of English
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Rachel Dolezal faced a backlash when it was revealed in 2015 that the NAACP and Black Lives Matter activist was not black, as she presented herself to be, but in fact white. (Colin Mulvany/Associated Press)

Baz Dreisinger, a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is the author of “Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture” and “Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World.”

Back in 2015, I was fascinated by the scandal that swirled around Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter activist who turned out to be a once-blonde white woman from Montana passing herself off as black. Dolezal went further than that: She said she wasn’t posing as black but actually was black — because she feels black. I made the rounds on the talk shows at the time, having published a book about the cultural history of such reverse racial passing, and avidly tried to explain notions of transraciality.

Now Dolezal has published a memoir, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” I hesitated to review it. Expending intellectual energy on one woman’s racial hoax seems a luxury of the pre-Trump era. And Dolezal’s increasingly bizarre story seems more tabloid fodder than a subject for serious analysis. But then I read her book, and the educator in me felt compelled to speak out. Dolezal has written an important book, one that belongs on syllabi as a case study in the mechanisms of white liberal racism. She has provided a teachable moment to expose the dodgy ideologies she may not even realize she’s espousing…

Read the entire article here.

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Imagine the world classifying Barack Obama as a white man as a result of his white heritage? It would never happen.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-03-28 15:30Z by Steven

America’s “one-drop rule” historically identified any individual with a single black ancestor as black, and therefore inferior. And while most of us these days know that “racial purity” is as grounded in reality as mermaids and unicorns, the “one-drop” idea continues. Harvard University psychologists found that mixed-race individuals are still perceived as belonging to the racial group of their “lower-status” parent. Imagine the world classifying Barack Obama as a white man as a result of his white heritage? It would never happen.

Claire Hynes, “Rachel Dolezal’s pick-your-race policy works brilliantly – as long as you’re white,” The Guardian, March 27, 2017.

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