Rachel Dolezal: Her label is too complicated…
I have a label for her: delusional.
From MyNorthwest.com: Nearly two years after the world discovered that the head of Spokane’s NAACP was not a black woman, but a white woman passing as African-American, Rachel Dolezal maintains she is not a fraud.
“I have an authentic identity,” Dolezal told KIRO Radio’s Jason and Burns Show. “Even though I was born to white parents, I have an authentic cultural and philosophical, political identity, and that is described as ‘black’ within the terms we have in our society right now.”
“If there was a more complex label allowed, I would describe myself as trans black … born into a white category and identifying as black, maybe even Pan-African, pro black, bisexual, activist, artist, other,” she said. “I really am a human being. I am a mom. I am a woman. The last thing that describes or defines me is a fraud.”
That’s a sentiment delivered in Dolezal’s recently-released book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” What readers will likely find is that there is more to the story behind Dolezal than reported. For example, Gerald Hankerson, NAACP president of the Alaska Oregon Washington state area is quoted on the back cover:
The storm of vitriol Rachel received in the national spotlight was as cruel as it was undeserved. Her deep compassion for others shines through every chapter of her life and has clearly motivated her truly outstanding advocacy work.
Albert Wilkerson Jr., the man who Dolezal describes as her non-biological father, wrote the forward. He describes how her “vibe felt black” and how he was unaware of Dolezal’s white parents, but it didn’t matter to him. He cared more about her social justice work.
But not everyone is as accepting as Hankerson and Wilkerson, as Jason and Burns found out when they interviewed Dolezal, pressing her on issues of fraud and comparing trans-racial experiences to that of the transgender community.
Rachel Dolezal: Early life
Dolezal briefed Jason and Burns on her life story, starting when she was very young and she did not feel white. By the time she was 8 years old, she learned to repress her non-white feelings.
“I felt like I had been born wrong,” she said. “I had something wrong with me and I had to atone for that whether it was in the religious sphere I was in; sometimes it was labeled as being demon possessed, or just even dancing to music was not OK as a girl. I really repressed my entire childhood. When I got to college I was still, in many ways, repressed and heavily socially conditioned and brainwashed into believing race was biological.”
Things began to change when she attended college in Mississippi, she said. She thinks it was then that many people began to feel as if she was light-skinned, but African American.
“The way that I moved in the very racially polarized Mississippi culture, people were, ‘Well, she can’t be white if she is comfortable in this environment,’ or is doing with x, y, z; fighting for civil rights,” Dolezal said. “…so people started assuming that I was black. And I let that assumption be and carry. But I didn’t assert or feel personal agency to name my identity until after my divorce.”
Her identity was put on hold again, Dolezal explained, when she was married after college. Her husband had no interest in black culture. Her religious upbringing kicked in and she submitted to her husband. But at 26, she was divorced. She took on four jobs, raised her kids, started therapy to deal with sexual and childhood abuses, and the PTSD it left behind. She continued on as a black woman and met her non-biological father. And eventually she became involved in the Spokane NAACP.
Some of her community has faded away, and others close to her have stuck around through the hard times. “When this all happened they had whatever reaction they felt,” Dolezal recalled. “Some people were bothered and felt a sense of betrayal that I hadn’t disclosed everything to them. Those relationships I lost. Other people were not bothered by it … Those relationships with people who knew me better than the surface, who knew me more than a casual relationship, they lasted.”
And since the fallout in 2015, Dolezal has found support in other corners of the world. People have reached out to her.
“In the public eye, I think I am on a little bit of an island, but I hear from people every day who feel the way I feel; in the same direction, in the opposite direction across the color line,” she said. “An Asian man who feels white and has done surgery to his eyes to transition; a white man who feels Mexican and has done surgery to his nose and has altered his appearance and is living in Mexico; a black woman who feels white and has altered her appearance. I hear from people all the time who have a sense of plural identity, but are handling it in a very private way … I think people are scared. They don’t want to be mocked and shamed or ridiculed into isolation or be treated the way I have been treated.”
“I don’t see myself as a victim,” Dolezal said. “I do feel like I’m a survivor … I’ve survived a number of things throughout life and I’m doing my best to make it through another round of challenges right now.”