BLACK LIKE ME
In the unlikely event you have been on vacation on a remote island somewhere, you may have missed one of the top media stories that have occupied front pages in this country. Just in case, Rachel Dolezal is the subject at hand. She is accused of denying her white heritage while claiming to be Black. That, in itself, may cause eyebrows to raise, but the realization she presided as president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP for several years and maintained a part-time position as an African studies instructor has resulted in seismic readings on the Rector Scale. Be that as it may, Rachel has resigned her position as president and has lost her position as instructor. In addition, she is being investigated by the city Ethics Commission to determine if she lied about her race on her application to Spokane’s police oversight board. OVER THE TOP? Stay with me on this.
Rachel’s coming out party was initiated by her parents, who after several years of estrangement decided it time to expose their daughter. Obviously, things were not comfortable at home. The “why” to that question remains unanswered. But Rachel Dolezar must face the challenges that await her. “The furor has touched off national debate over racial identity and divided the NAACP,” as reported by Newsday. In addendum, a spokesman for the NAACP has admitted leadership positions within the organization do not require a person be Black. The drama continues.
When quizzed on NBC’s “Today” show, Rachel described the discussion about her as “viciously inhumane.” When asked about her race, she said, “I identify as Black.” Case closed? Not yet. Kitara Johnson, a NAACP member who presents herself as a dissenter of Dolezar, successfully organized a petition asking for the resignation. Apparently, things are not that comfortable within the NAACP.
Oddly enough, how one defines their place on earth, gender, race or otherwise, has become the object of public opinion. In an amazing coincidence, the timing of this episode could not have been more appropriate. Caitlyn Jenner? Simultaneously, the international community is confronted with a decision that’s not theirs to make. Upon further observation, trans-racial episodes are not unique. The more common agenda is known as “passing,” when a person of color passes himself/herself off as White. When exposed, this condition is usually looked upon as unacceptable by both Blacks and Whites. However, the motivation is usually not questioned. Quality of life historically favors White. It was precisely this imbalance that motivated the journalist, John Howard Griffin, to experiment in the 1950’s. His book, Black Like Me, became a riveting example of black life in the deep South as experienced by a white man who chemically changed his complexion and became Black. As might be expected, his work received mixed reviews despite a NY Times Best Seller listing.
Perhaps the case of Rachel Dolezar does create a dilemma when compared with the American posture. This may be the source of her parents’ discomfort. They suggest she suffers a sort of mental imbalance to pursue her life in this manner. After all, what white person would normally trade their Caucasian heritage to become Black? The greater question is: Where do we go from here?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar does an excellent tongue in cheek analogue by making his confession. “I’ve decided to come out with the truth … Although I’ve been claiming to be 7’2” for many decades; the truth is that I’m really 5’8”.” He then proceeds to suggest Rachel get a pass for her “white lie” in light of the positive advocacy she is credited for. Bottom line: Has this ‘white lie” damaged your quality of life?