Andrea Smith, Rachel Dolezal and Reading Realness

(from l. to r.) Rachel Dolezal, Dorian Corey and Andrea Smith

(from l. to r.) Rachel Dolezal, Dorian Corey and Andrea Smith

I am, in the words of Black twitter, #ActualBlack.  I say this not to endorse “identity policing” but to point out:

  1. I have parents, grandparents and great grandparents who were forced to cope with the following forms of White supremacy (in chronological order): the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, lynching, segregation, mass incarceration, and microaggressions.
  2. My body, skin, hair, voice, accent (or lack of accent), sashay, and personal aesthetics are to some degree disturbing in all public and private institutions (except for prisons and the morgue).
  3. I did not sign up for this club, but I am proud to be a member.

In all seriousness,  I have been thinking a lot about  the question: Why has the outing of Rachel Dolezal and Andrea Smith as  White – allegedly – caused such a sensation?

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  1. Savanna Kustra

     /  September 28, 2015

    The act of ‘outing’ an individual in any sense of the term somehow feels violating. I have always felt this way, but somehow hearing about these individuals who have passed as another race for personal gain, it feels wrong; it does not sit well with me.

    While I cannot say exactly why this does not feel right, perhaps it is because ( speaking specifically to Rachel Dolezal) she had in fact identified as white with such passion that in her youth, she felt comfortable enough to peruse legal action against those who were being unfair to white students.

    Is race something that you can choose, or is this again white privilege peaking its head out. A white woman can decide to be black, tan her skin and tell tall tales of her past. A white woman could decide to appropriate a culture that is not her own without question, but a black woman certainly cannot decide to be white. She cannot wake up one day and erase the prejudice that she faces, it is not believable.

    Perhaps the uproar about Rachel D. is not just about the fact that she has decided to manipulate the system and an organization devoted to help people who have been systematically targeted for hundreds of years, maybe it is that she was accepted without question speaking to racism that she experienced willingly. Rachel D. decided to become black, and while I cannot speak to her true intent, I think that we can all agree it just does not feel fair.


  2. Ksenia Voropaeva

     /  September 28, 2015

    I think it is a very good question, and anyone of any race or ethnicity is wondering the same when someone from another race claims a race that’s not theirs. Perhaps it has caused a sensation because we all, to various degrees, desire a just and honest society. Or at least one that attempts to fall in that spectrum. Rachel Dolezal, and others claiming to be something they are not, be it for personal reasons – still registers to the public as falsehood and misrepresentation. Society takes stances against lies and inaccuracies consistently, it is at times conscious and at times subconscious, but it is a learned and accepted practice. Consequently, when something is reported as being misrepresented and perhaps false, society must intervene and demand the truth.


  3. Azra S

     /  November 9, 2015

    I think the outing of specifically Rachel Dolezal and the sensation that ensued really has to do with the time we are in as a society. Both that we love the opportunity to call someone out on their fabrications, but we also are in a time where there is a lot more conversation about racism faced by black individuals due to police brutality, racial profiling, aggression and ongoing injustice.

    In the case of Dolezal it’s more than cultural appropriation it’s a women identifying as another race without truly living the authentic life of a black woman. She has the privilege to alter her appearance in order to appear less like her biological race. The injustices faced by people of color are not realities faced by white people not things they can choose not to experience one day. Rachel Dolezal’s experience as a White women until the point she decided to identify as Black woman afforded her so many more opportunities that she may not have had otherwise.

    The fact is we can choose to identify with whatever we want, we can proclaim our appreciation for a culture or a race but that doesn’t mean a person knows the authentic experience, the history, the challenges faced by that race or culture. It’s undermining, its offensive and it doesn’t create progress.



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