There’s something uniquely disturbing on so many different levels about Rachel Dolezal and her masquerade as a Black woman. On the surface, of course, there is shock and disbelief, which is then quickly followed by laughter for many people. After all, the thought of a White woman pretending to be Black and serving as president of the local NAACP chapter is something that seems to be straight out of a Hollywood comedy. But it did happen and we ultimately come back to the question, “What makes a person Black?”
There is a school of thought that the concept of race, as we define it generally today, is an artificial social construct. We either choose our social identity or it is forced upon us; there is no genetic variation between the races. In Dolezal’s case, she feels that being Black is an option that can be easily taken. With a European heritage that clearly defines her as blonde haired, blue eyed and White; Dolezal rejects the social construct of race and darkens her skin. This is insulting. Dolezal has no connection to the historic tapestry of being Black. When asked if she was African American, Dolezal said “No. I am Black.”
That is where the delusional enters the picture. Dolezal made such a dramatic racial identity change that CNN has labeled her “transracial.” A White woman passing for Black and deceiving an entire community is now being celebrated for her racial transition. With the transitioning of Bruce Jenner to a woman named Caitlyn, and now a racial transition with Dolezal, transition is the new norm.
Dolezal by all accounts is a gifted artist and did well at Howard University, from which she graduated in 2002. But according to unnamed sources at Howard University, Dolezal did not attempt to portray herself as Black. She remained a controversial figure on campus because of her husband and her thesis. According to an unnamed source quoted in Jezebel.com, “Her thesis presented an inner journey of what goes on inside the mind of a Black male. This was 10 years ago but I still remember one was a three-dimensional piece of a man was being consumed by a fire all the way into the ground. The rest of her works were two-dimensional paintings.”
Dolezal was married to a Black man, but not much is known about the marriage other than that they were divorced in 2004. Her father has stated that after the divorce she started to identify herself as Black, which some may say was indicative of a psychological trauma. It cannot be denied that Dolezal has created a fantasy world in which she, despite her actual realities, is in her mind Black. She stated during an interview, “It’s more important for me to clarify that with the Black community and with my executive board than it really is to explain it to a community that, quite frankly, don’t [sic] really understand the definitions of race and ethnicity.”
Dolezal is entrenched in her mindset and is willing to play her story out for all that it is worth. Unfortunately in today’s media environment, she will now be the new poster child for defining race.