Should We Have a Problem With Rachel Dolezal?

Kendl GordyBy now I’m sure we have all heard the name Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who has been perpetrating as a black woman for the past decade.  According to Dolezal’s parents, they noticed a shift in her image after her divorce in 2004.  The effort she put into this farce is astounding: her appearance has been completely altered from her childhood, she posted a photo standing next to a black man who she claimed was her father and she even told her adopted brothers, who are black, not to mention her past life as a white woman to anyone.  Ezra Dolezal, one of the four adopted siblings, went to live with Rachel and said he began to notice her physical alterations around 2011.  Her skin was suffused with color and she even modified her hairstyle.

Clearly she was suffering from an identity crisis and maybe she was dealing with demons internally that we cannot begin to fathom, however, should we disregard all of the work that she has done for the black community because of this one mistake?

Her profile on the Eastern Washington University website, where she is a professor in the Africana Studies program, details the work that she has done advocating for the African-American community.  She spent years in Mississippi advocating for equal rights while simultaneously participating in community development projects.   She was the director of the Human Rights Education Institute in which she developed programs that expanded the national audience from 3,000 per year to 23,000 annually.  She orchestrated a myriad of exhibits and panel discussions, scheduled keynote speakers and commenced the Young Advocates for Human Rights program among a multitude of other projects.  All of her aforementioned accomplishments shared the common goals of garnering attention to the plight of blacks and empowering our youth to help continue the evolution of the black community.

Rachel’s work was met with opposition by the Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis and the Aryan Brotherhood.  Multiple threats have been made against her and her family, although the legitimacy of those allegations has come into question over the past few days.

Twitter has emerged as a popular apparatus to lampoon Dolezal via the hashtag #AskRachel, while others feel that her actions should be dealt with on a serious platform.  She resigned her position on June 15th amid pressure from the public and possibly her colleagues at the NAACP.

So, again I ask should we disregard all of the tremendous work that she has done advocating for blacks because of this one mistake?  Sure she shouldn’t have lied about her race.  She could have successfully advocated for blacks and accomplished the same goals within the confines of her white pigment.  Yet, she made a mistake and opted for the alternative, which many juxtapose with blackface.  What she did should not be ignored; in fact her actions do deserve some scrutiny.   However, it should not erase all of the amazing work that she has done to help the black community prosper.

Kendl Gordy graduated from St. John’s University with a B.S. in journalism.  He has covered multiple Division I sporting events, the U.S. Open and the New York City Marathon.  The relationship between Kendl and MCSR manifested itself during his time at Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington D.C.  as a MOST Club member. He is now continuing his writing career with our organization as a contributing writer on current events and cultural issues.

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One thought on “Should We Have a Problem With Rachel Dolezal?

  1. In this case, I think we need to separate her from the work. And separate her intentions from her motivation. I do believe her intent was to help the community. And she did create change from what I’ve read. But it was her rejection of her own ethnicity that motivated her. And I think what is raising such anger and resentment from African-Americans is her deception. She never corrected anyone when she was described as transracial, biracial or even Black. And she did so because she felt justified in identifying as Black. But from the perception of those who are truly Black, not just by description, but by ethnicity, this is a deception. And that’s what bothers us. Also, because of her recent notoriety, previously reported incidents of discrimination and harassment have been called into question.
    I heard someone say this morning that her actions are an affront to all of the hard work of Dorothy Height, Sojourner Truth and many other truly Black female heroines. To me, that’s giving this one woman too much power. However, I do believe her actions have broadened the spectrum in the dialogue about race vs. ethnicity.

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