The Surprising Story of Walter White and the NAACP

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-01 01:54Z by Steven

The Surprising Story of Walter White and the NAACP

Time
2015-07-01

Jennifer Latson

July 1, 1893: Walter Francis White, head of the NAACP for more than 20 years, is born

In the last few weeks, Rachel Dolezal—the Spokane, Wash., NAACP leader who recently left her post after being outed as white though saying that she identified as black—led many to examine the relationship between skin color and racial-justice activism. Writing for TIME, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar noted that, despite her ethnic background, Dolezal “has proven herself a fierce and unrelenting champion for African-Americans politically and culturally.”

Regardless of what one thinks of Dolezal, whose story only grew increasingly complicated, there’s plenty of historical evidence that looks aren’t the most important thing when it comes to championing equality. For proof, look no further than Walter Francis White, who was born on this day, July 1, in 1893. White ushered the NAACP into the Civil Rights era, serving as its leader more than 20 years, from 1931 until his death in 1955

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Original Rachel Dolezal Was a Jew Named Mezz Mezzrow

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-28 20:40Z by Steven

The Original Rachel Dolezal Was a Jew Named Mezz Mezzrow

Forward
2015-06-16

Seth Rogovoy

As we all know, Rachel Dolezal was by no means the first white American to take on aspects of African-Americanness in her persona — calling Elvis, is anybody home? — although she will go down in history as one of the all-time champions of the syndrome based on the sheer chutzpahdik of her transformation. But blackness has always been an integral part of American identity, and has only grown more so with the passage of time (think of white-rap pop star Eminem and black President of the United States Barack Obama for two recent mirror-image examples), so that for any American, it’s nearly impossible not to take on some degree of Afritude without even trying.

But for all her efforts at “crossing the line,” including attending Howard University, changing her name, and becoming an official of the NAACP, Dolezal might not merit the crown from the all-time champion of race-crossing. That honor still and forever may belong to jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow, born Milton Mesirow to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Chicago in 1899. We have yet to hear the full story from Dolezal herself, and to understand just what her motivations were in creating a new African-American identity for herself to such an extreme that her parents felt impelled to out her as a liar. But Mezzrow’s story may at least provide help in understanding or at least contextualizing the Dolezal phenomenon…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

“Fake Black?”

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-28 20:30Z by Steven

“Fake Black?”

brian bantum: theology, culture, and life in-between
2015-06-12

Brian Bantum, Associate Professor of Theology
Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington

Theorist Stuart Hall suggests identity is better understood as identification. That is, our identities are not fixed as essential realities whether gender, or race or nationality. We are always living into or out of the ideas and representations of what these things are.

Rachael Dolezal apparent presentation of herself as black shows this to an extent. She is living into a people with whom she has seemed to identify with. But this process requires point of departure and a point of entry. You identify from a particular place and a particular body, and this is part of the process of negotiating your identity.

To act as if you have no point of departure is to persist in a delusion and re-enact Americas fundamental racial sin – to pretend there was no history before you arrived, then co-opt the resources of the land for your benefit. Perhaps her life had deep resonances with aspects of the African American community. But to really understand that community, to understand their history also has to be an acknowledgement of what her white body signifies in that history. To even say that one is mixed must be to confess the complicated realities of mulatto identity and colorism in American racial history…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Rachel Dolezal Has Hijacked what It Means To Be Mixed-Race In America

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-27 02:54Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal Has Hijacked what It Means To Be Mixed-Race In America

ARMED
2015-07-05

Sophia Softky

Since the Rachel Dolezal trainwreck began unfolding, each day has brought ever-weirder allegations to light. From her upbringing, days at Howard University, involvement in the NAACP, and position as an Africana Studies professor – along with the predictable flood of hot takes and twitter memes. This week’s interviews with Matt Lauer and Melissa Harris-Perry have only compounded the public outrage. Dolezal’s claims that she “identifies as black” and that presenting herself as a Black woman is a matter of “survival” are breathtakingly audacious, obtuse, and bizarre.

I spent the last several years studying, thinking, and publishing opinions about race in America–even writing a thesis about racial performance and the history of “passing”. So, for me, this scandal should have been low-hanging fruit. Dolezal has been roundly condemned and ridiculed by progressives, and rightly so, but the more I learn, the more I have felt a deeply personal sense of discomfort and anxiety.

Of course, whatever her self-justifications, a white woman deliberately misrepresenting her racial background for personal and professional gain is indefensible, and plenty of ink has already been spilled on dismantling the absurd notion of “transracial”. But I have not been able to avoid drawing uncomfortable parallels between Rachel’s situation and my own life. The Dolezal scandal erases experiences of those who actually experience not ‘feeling’ like the race people assume, and I worry that the public outcry threatens to drown out and delegitimize the voices of people like myself, who exist in complicated racial borderlands and who struggle with social scrutiny and suspicion of our identities…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Meet the black woman raised to believe she was white

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-07-27 00:28Z by Steven

Meet the black woman raised to believe she was white

The Telegraph
2015-07-12

Jane Mulkerrins


Schwartz believes that racial identity is “fluid and contextual” Photo: Nicholas Calcott

Growing up, Lacey Schwartz always felt different. It wasn’t until her late teens that she discovered the truth about her parentage – and her race

“Throughout my life, people have asked me why I look the way I do,” says Lacey Schwartz. “I would tell them that my parents were white, which was true. I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t. I grew up being told, and believing, that I was the nice, white, Jewish daughter of two nice, white, Jewish parents.”

But Schwartz, a 38-year-old film-maker, has brown skin, curly hair and full lips. It was only when she was 18 that her mother admitted the truth: that she had had an affair with a friend and former colleague who was black. And that, in all likelihood, he was Lacey’s biological father.

The revelation not only shook her relationship with her mother to the core, but also led Schwartz to question everything she had believed about who she was, and eventually inspired her to make a documentary about the experience, called Little White Lie.

“I started out wanting to make a film about being black and Jewish, because I was really struggling with my dual identity,” she says. “But I was living in a racial closet at the time that was all about my family secret. So I decided to use the film as a way to fully uncover the secret.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

It’s Impossible to Lie About Your Race

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science on 2015-07-26 15:13Z by Steven

It’s Impossible to Lie About Your Race

The Huffington Post
2015-07-01

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

There’s an important question being left out of the furor over charges that Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter, has been “lying” about her race: How can you lie about something that doesn’t have any objective truth to it in the first place?

The frenzy over Dolezal has erupted because her claim to black identity defies a longstanding American belief that human beings come in three or four or five flavors called “races,” which are linked to the geographical areas from which our ancestors came, and which are characterized by physical characteristics that are passed down from one generation to the next. According to this dominant view, Dolezal is objectively white because her parents are white Americans whose recent ancestors were from Europe.

But instead of being a matter of natural, objective facts, race is more like astrology. It’s a way of dividing human beings up into different categories, and we are the ones who invent those categories, not Mother Nature. The idea that there are “black” people and “white” people is no different than the belief that there are Geminis and Scorpios. Indeed, astrology and racial classification both claim to be grounded in nature. Race ostensibly reflects our biological constitution, while sun signs are meant to capture planetary forces that imprinted us at birth. But it’s not too hard to see that a whole lot of human cultural thinking has gone into both. The reality is that scientists are far from any agreement on what race has to do with genes. And the racial classifications so familiar to Americans today are actually products of the 1700s, when they were forged by Europeans who were trying to explain the physical, social and moral qualities of peoples they had come to colonize across the world.

So when Rachel Dolezal says she is black when we consider her white, it’s akin to her claiming to be a Virgo when by our lights she’s a Leo. Would it really be a lie to say you’re a Virgo instead of a Leo when both of those categories are made up in the first place?…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Cosmopolitanism, Black Culture and the Case of Rachel Dolezal

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2015-07-22 16:07Z by Steven

Cosmopolitanism, Black Culture and the Case of Rachel Dolezal

Rooted In Magazine
2015-06-16

Annina Chirade

In this past week the internet has been captivated by the unfolding tale of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who reportedly has been passing for black since 2007. She was, until recently, the President of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington and a very vocal proponent of black issues within that community. Her construction of a ‘black’ identity is both intricate and mystifying, it’s a deceit that forces us to ask – how did no one know she was white? Rachel’s performance of black womanhood has thrust global scrutiny onto debates about the constructions of blackness. In the book ‘The Conservation of Races’, W.E.B. Du Bois argues that race is a ‘socio-historical construct’: a construct defined as much by the emotional, spiritual and psychological, as it is by the societal. The historical context comes from inheritance of a struggle, black culture has been defined by its resistance – a place where we can explore and celebrate our complexity. The resistance is also coupled with a struggle for autonomy, and as black culture is continually absorbed into popular culture, one must ask: Is Rachel a signal for what’s to come?…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-21 02:29Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies

Vanity Fair
2015-07-19

Allison Samuels

Justin Bishop, Photography


Photograph by Justin Bishop.

For a time this summer, it seemed all anyone could talk about was the N.A.A.C.P. chapter president whose parents had “outed” her as white. The tornado of public attention has since moved on, but Rachel Dolezal still has to live with her choices—and still refuses to back down.

It’s safe to say that Rachel Dolezal never thought much about the endgame. You can see it on her face in the local-TV news video—the one so potently viral it transformed her from regional curiosity to global punch line in the span of 48 hours in mid-June. It is precisely the look of a white woman who tanned for a darker hue, who showcased a constant rotation of elaborately designed African American hairstyles, and who otherwise lived her life as a black woman, being asked if she is indeed African American.

It is the look of a cover blown…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Faking Black identity: An American tradition

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-14 01:24Z by Steven

Faking Black identity: An American tradition

The New Pittsburgh Courier
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2015-06-27

Robert Fikes Jr., Reference Librarian
San Diego State University, San Diego, California

The recent case of Rachel Dolezal, the White woman who reinvented herself as African American and headed the Spokane, Washington NAACP, is just the latest sensationalized instance of “passing.”  Though reports of Black and mixed-race individuals pretending to be White far outnumber reports of Whites masquerading as Black, curiously, this rare but persistent case has attracted considerable attention.

In the 1800s there were documented cases involving poor Whites kidnapped, declared mulatto, and sold into slavery. In the 1900s the typical scenario presented Whites as intimate partners of Blacks or Whites who lived among them and found it convenient to either manufacture Black ancestry or did nothing to rectify the misconception folks had that they were part Black. A well-researched example, detailed in the acclaimed biography Passing Strange in 2009 by Martha Sandweiss, is that of blue-eyed Clarence King who in the late 1800s was a renowned white scientist by day but by evening resumed his fake identity as James Todd, a Black Pullman porter who lived with his Black wife and their two biracial children in Brooklyn, New York.

More widely publicized was journalist John Howard Griffin who in the late 1950s managed to darken his skin sufficiently to pass as Black in order to report on the ordinary treatment of Blacks in the Deep South.  His experiences resulted in the both a bestselling book and movie of the same title:  John Howard Griffin “Black Like Me.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Dolezal and the Defense of the Community

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-07-13 01:40Z by Steven

Dolezal and the Defense of the Community

Public Seminar
2015-07-09

Richard Kaplan

Reflections on the unique difficulties of passing from white to black in America

It strikes me that an incredible amount of media attention and denunciation has focused on a poor, perhaps deluded woman in Spokane, Washington. Rachel Dolezal’s crime was to lie and try and pass as black. While the media have seen fit to celebrate Caitlyn Jenner and her exceedingly forthright bursting of the boundaries dividing male from female, in the Dolezal case, commentators seem intent on reinforcing the walls dividing black from white, creating an effective DMZ one cannot pass. Perhaps Dolezal failed to pay the adequate dues and penance in trespassing the racial boundaries — unlike Jenner she didn’t lay under the bright lights of the surgery chamber and submit to the cuts of the surgeon’s scalpel nor withstand the prolonged glare of prior media dissection.

Nevertheless, it’s remarkable how much media commentary seems to revolve around reinforcing the racial boundary. All the more strange since every commentator at the same time is obliged to note that race has no biological underpinnings but is culturally constructed, as evidenced by the uniquely American rule of racial classification of “one drop.” Unlike the seemingly more biologically based binary of gender, indeed, we should recognize that America’s bizarre rule, where even slightest trace of “African” blood confines you in the black camp, is what allowed the very white Dolezal to pass as a very light-skinned black…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,