Wednesday, 17 June 2015

On Rachel Dolezal

It is often difficult for me to shut my white mouth. I specify "white" because white voices, including mine, are automatically amplified in our society. In this space, however, I am sitting down and shutting up, because I could never represent black people and their opinions on Rachel Dolezal.

Black Like Who? Rachel Dolezal’s Harmful Masquerade
Tamara Winfrey Harris, New York Times
16 June 2015
Tamara Winfrey Harris is the author of "The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America."
Racial identity cannot be fluid as long as the definition of whiteness is fixed. And historically, the path to whiteness has been extremely narrow. ... The original intent of [the one-drop rule] was to protect racial privilege. Sometimes, if their appearance borrowed enough from white ancestors, black Americans could “pass” in white society. But that social sleight of hand came with many dangers, such as the chance that black lineage would be outed in the skin or hair of one’s progeny. Segregation simply would not work if society was fuzzy on who got the nice drinking fountain, the front seat on the bus and the right to vote.
Ms. Dolezal may not be able to claim even a drop of African-American ancestry, but the way blackness has long been determined means that few would question a woman who presents as white but claims to be black. She was able to trade on a racist element of history to pass believably as a black woman.
In the days since this story broke, many people have been quick to point out that race is merely a social construct — as if that fact changes the very real impact of race on the lives of minorities. The persistence of systemic racism means there are penalties for blackness in America.
Being able to shift one’s race is a privilege. Ms. Dolezal’s masquerade illustrates that however much she may empathize with African-Americans, she is not one, because black people in America cannot shed their race. We cannot proclaim the black race a nebulous concept, while strictly policing whiteness and the privileges of that identity. I will accept Ms. Dolezal as black like me only when society can accept me as white like her.

The Rachel Dolezal Situation: Blackface, Appropriation and F*ckery, Oh My!
Mia McKenzie, Black Girl Dangerous
15 June 2015
Mia is a writer and queer black feminist who studied writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Mia's work has earned her the 2013 Lambda Literary Award.
I've heard some people saying that Rachel Dolezal didn't do any harm; and this isn't true. Black face is harm. To put blackness on as a costume and parade it around does harm to black people. In particular, what Rachel Dolezal has done is harmful to black women. We're not a costume. We are people, and our experiences ought to be respected - not put on like it's Halloween. ... Black face once is terrible. This woman made a life out of blackface.
No matter what white people do, we still humanise them. ... [W]e're supposed to make room for how they felt and what mental illness they may have had, even though we have no evidence of this. We're always humanising white people, whether they're going in blackface and pretending to be black women [or] they're shooting up a school, they always get to be human. They always get to be individuals; and we're always supposed to make room for that. ... No! Whereas black people never get to be human.

Link to Black Girl Dangerous article with embedded YouTube.

Mia rants a little on this whole Rachel Dolezal situation.
Posted by Black Girl Dangerous on Monday, June 15, 2015

Let's Not Question Blackness Because a White Woman Says So
Kirsten West Savali, Ebony
15 June 2015
Kirsten West Savali is a cultural critic and senior writer for The Root.
Most people who are entertaining this farce aren’t questioning Rachel Dolezal’s so-called blackness. Oh, no, her blackness is somehow deemed self-determination. Dolezal’s choice to be black has, instead, forced some black people to work through their own concept of blackness and how it should be defined. Because the white woman said so. ... In a society ravaged by colorism—where the aesthetic in closest proximity to whiteness is privileged over darker skin and kinkier hair—she hasn’t abandoned anything. Maybe she feels more privileged posing as what this racist society deems to be a superior black woman rather than living as a mediocre white one; she’s still benefiting from white supremacy either way. You can’t position yourself as a leader and lover of black people while exploiting our emotionally charged fractures at the same time. That’s not how this works.

The Infallibility of Miss Ann
(Or, the Last Rachel Dolezal Thinkpiece Ever)

Jamilah Lemieux, Ebony
15 June 2015
Jamilah Lemieux is an award-winning writer/editor and speaker who explores issues of race, gender and sexuality.
Dolezal's deception, which should be credited to both decent quality hair weaves and the privilege Black folks often afford to light-skinned women (even those that are intellectually and physically mediocre,) is at once an insult to Black women everywhere and a gift to the comedy gods.
Worse than Chappelle's "gotta hear both sides"-esque commentary, however, have been comments from folks on social media who think that “the work” Dolezal has done affords her some sort of pass or greater consideration. This is despite the fact that she has allegedly lived in Blackface for years and has occupied some of the few spaces of leadership afforded to Black people (NAACP chapter president, Africana studies professor.) I do not believe for a minute that this sort of consideration would be afforded to a White man who did what this woman has.
Rachel Dolezal is not an ally; she is not a champion of Blackness. And, reinvented as a light-skinned, light-eyed Black woman with a Howard degree, she was able to gain more access to Black cultural spaces than she would as a White lady who simply likes Black culture and Black men—and those women get a LOT of access.
Dolezal parodied Black womanhood for her own benefit, while allegedly telling other Whites they didn’t have space in the Black Lives Matter movement and, according a few folks claiming to be former students, had a curious way of addressing Black females and pale-skinned Latinos in her classes. Pretending to have our experiences and using them for her personal/professional gain is not “doing the work” and as far as I am concerned, it is unforgiveable anti-Blackness.

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