Rachel Dolezal’s life story was recently made known to us in bits and pieces of what I shall call newsworthy advantage clips. We are not introduced to Dolezal at an organic level, we are introduced to Rachel Dolezal at a political level, political for the fact that identity as a racial construct is thrust upon us obscuring the human being and thus politicizing her only because the subject of race is so alive in our global discourse.
Hers is not a biography in which we are gradually taken into confidence of her life, her times and her activities which may portend a summation of what I shall call natural progression and sharing.
What we read in the newspapers, and see on television is not the memoirs of Dolezal a life path, we read in snapshot version and blips of this ‘white’ person and female on top of it – who had the nerve to cheat her way around.
We are introduced to Dolezal as an identity cheat, we are made aware of Rachel Dolezal as a betrayer a fake – cum black and an angry person who could not even maintain good relations with her ‘white’ parents. Her story has as epicentre as relayed by the media personal aggrandizement, self-centredness and a crude sense of someone who attempted to beat the system for her own advantage.
Let us than attempt to understand those who in this season find it opportune to comment and vent their anger towards Dolezal. It is perhaps important to unpack the groups who have proven vocal in interpreting Dolezal even denigrating her.
It is important to appreciate Dolezal is not condemned from one corner; she is condemned from a variety of what I shall choose to call enclaves. Enclaves because as much as these articulate a position on Dolezal, very few honestly allow Dolezal to speak, their departure point is their personal anchored interpretation of identity ONLY understood from a race and confined to a political premise.
The question thus before us, as we engage those who flag the red card for a Dolezal, remains the departure point for identity appreciation as only limited in race theory context and only understood in political power.
It is a given that identity as a research theme and topic assumes various methodological interpretations. I will for the purpose of understanding Dolezal consciously apply my mind to the classic cultural studies interpretation and articulations of identity. Yet before we do that let us first hear Dolezal’s critics:
We will attempt to hear her critics, interpret what they say and conclude in summary on a paradigmatic reality they share.
Those who critique and even judge Dolezal are made up of essentially three distinct grounds.
White supremacist – secluded and open enclave
On the one hand we have those who fundamentally share a mind on ‘whiteness’ as a pristine distinctive superior notion. These castigate Rachel Dolezal for her betrayal of her ‘white’ identity for a subservient black identity. For them it is an insult for any born ‘white’ to ever reject the white identity in exchange for a far lesser ‘black’ identity.
These in 2015 reintroduce us to the out-dated eugenics model of racial identity which was declared defunct out of sink and dead by the end of World War 2. We therefore must understand that when they exact this judgment on Dolezal it is from a dead and buried reality of the racial superiority of white identity notion. We will consider this as their premise, which uses the argument of phenotype definition of race construction and identification.
The case against Dolezal for them is a betrayal, almost in a sense of high treason, for this her rejection of the denotation of white for her personal human agency is inconceivable for any ‘white’ anywhere to even consider.
Therefore, their case against Dolezal is one of high treason, she sold out to the enemy, that selling out to an enemy is her charge, the enemy is ‘black’ or the otherness if not the antithesis of a ‘white’ identity. These reject the fact that there exists no scientific evidence for a biological defence of race. They have ill regard for the fact that race is and remains a discredited enterprise at a scientific level.
This group consciously must hold on to race as means for identity description because their extinction and existence in supremacy warrants this paradigm to stand. The collapse of this paradigm will dictate a surrender of ownership when race the myth is now proven defunct.
Dolezal’s conscious choices for them spells shame, an utter embarrassment and it renders whiteness soluble as a make-belief reality that can be surrendered at any time by anyone.
Rachel Dolezal for them deserved an exacted worst penalty for this her betrayal, she is not human, she has no right to live, and is the scum of the earth. They will oil on her the worst of vile attacks. Until Dylann Roof can attempt to kill Rachel Dolezal.
Black Power / Consciousness enclave
The second group of people who in this season took it upon themselves to judge Dolezal’s choices are those who share in contradiction to the first group, the pure ‘black’ identity notion.
Their attacks on Dolezal are also anchored in the betrayal – cheat notion. They accuse her for having played the fool with their supreme ‘black’ identity.
These argue that Dolezal became black out of convenience, in a sense of latitude to be black without accepting the deep scars of blackness as wrought by the hands of white slave masters, a colonial system and a segregated state as system.
Their epistemology has Dolezal accused for cheapening their identity of black. She simply don’t have the black experience and can never share in that.
In attempt of locating this particular group, we must prove cognizant of the Black Nationalist historical trajectory as a USA-based reality, yet they essentially are located in the important but historic Black Power-Black Consciousness epoch of the mid to late 60’s. A time when those with the denotation for the human agency black rose in academic and literature and philosophical if not psychological revolt in responding to how black was interpreted by white supremacists and even those who comfortably enjoyed white privilege.
Their case against Dolezal is she violated their identity – that which proudly belongs to them informed by an accepted notion of race classification in which white and black stands paramount wherein one has earned the right to judge the other in accusation of entitlement.
They judge her for having infiltrated reserved space, space reserved for only blacks, thus to the exclusion of white. Therefore when this group exacts a judgement on Dolezal it is because they consider themselves the uncontested repository of the black identity, blackness and they therefore alone have carte-blanche on the black experience at the hand of an acknowledged white supremacy.
It is thus inconceivable for those denoted as white to even come across the proverbial railway line of divide and naturally if not consciously become black. As in the case of the first group they come from a clear paradigm, theirs however is not eugenics but black consciousness era.
The challenge with this group is their failure to contend with the fact that Rachel Dolezal lived out her blackness as her choice of institutions attests. Secondly they cannot question her authenticity as an activist the programmes she ran and the sterling work she did under the NAACP an institution of veneration and unassailable prestige.
Their castigation of Dolezal is that she proved blackness as penetrable by anyone, the black identity as susceptible and the claim of a repository as questionable. At perhaps a narrow level they ask ‘how could we have been so naïve?’ yet that is perhaps a wrong question, a better one should be, are we not getting it wrong on this black identity?
White liberal– even conservatives’ enclave
As if these two groups were not enough we soon discovered a third group entering the fray of dissecting and accusing Rachel Dolezal.
This group on close examination includes the liberal notion. Yet their claim of liberalism is not without contest. As we know the South African liberal tradition has an undeniable element of embedded conservativism because it is located in a colonized space.
The English ‘liberals, are in some instances as conservative as the Afrikaners. They are separated from their land mass and have become the custodians of this society.
I have identified these as ‘whites’ who are equally experimenting on different levels at a theoretical and practical level on the idea of non-racial identity. They make up a cross – breed of those constituting people who share a denotation of white for their human agency. Yet their foothold is a liberal, feminist egalitarian ideological parenthesis in which they do not deny their white privilege, and claim to work for a better society.
This group however do not forego their accepted if not entrenched ‘white’ identity; they equally do not nay-say a ‘black’ identity. Thus they really share a multi-racial diaphragm for their interpretation of identity.
Unto theirs is given the almost inalienable right to analyse the trajectory of whiteness and its complicity to the destruction of others. They enjoy the privilege to educate others out of a history of European – first democratic systems of government frame, although they are the colonialist in a foreign land, where they feel duty-bound to give meaning to the governance system they left behind in England.
It is important to understand that the epistemology of race for this group is uncontested. They intellectually engage on the mythical aspect of the race notion, yet they comfortably identify themselves as ‘white’, whiteness not in perceptible equal narrow claim of superiority but a claim out of the guilt of white privilege they share.
This group thus represents the liberal enclave, who purportedly engage intellectually on the subject matter of a flawed and untested fulcrum of race as a means to define humanity, however that does not translate into a complete and utter rejection of race with whiteness as its base, but they regard the acknowledgment of race as a means to emphasize the contradictions of class and economic disparities.
They therefore act as custodians of the cause of the suffering black in which they perhaps unconsciously have become the surrogate wombs for owning up to what white privilege did. They consider it their fiduciary responsibility to keep whiteness accountable on behalf of black pain. Meaning they gatekeepers and almost in a strange sense feel dutybound to defend helpless blacks against whites.
Fundamentally this group will tell you they white, their whiteness is phenotype informed, equally they will tell you others are black and that has phenotype reality too. They will tell you they white because they share white privilege and can never fully identify with the black experience. Critical for this group is their conscious awareness that any attempt to identify with blackness on their part would prove fallacious for only ‘blacks’ can truly know what it is to be black.
Their fundamental case against Dolezal is that Dolezal betrayed blacks, by cheating on her identity. Their secondary case if my analysis bears out is they consider Dolezal as having betrayed a white identity, though they will not state this in a categorical sense depending how conservative the so called liberals prove. They will lament how Dolezal stole the jobs and opportunities of blacks. Clearly a vacuous claim but in their self-righteous crusader mind they will invoke this claim.
They furthermore assert Dolezal did so because white privilege afforded her the right to do so. Dolezal is for them a shame, because she cheated with make- up and altering her appearances. Nowhere in their minds do they leave room for a plausible genuine claim of it was Rachel Dolezal’s conscious choice.
At best this group is known for attempting to straddle the divide of race reality for they accept race as a practical reality that should not be obliterated whilst they comfortably enjoy over the proverbial cup-of-tea quotes on race theories as a myth.
I think the true challenge for this group is Rachel Dolezal’s choice to cross her personal and their collective Rubicon in which she rejected a white identity for a black identity, this is very inconceivable and practically impossible for any white to do, unless they not real, summarises this group in epoch definition.
It is difficult to pen a specific epoch for the group, yet they share lost colonial power, lost in economic power to Afrikaners yet they have their hands still firmly on white capital, and has to negotiate in a new world where political power is defined as black.
They feel upstaged by Rachel Dolezal, because their theoretical experimenting with non-racial identity as often evidenced in the adoption of children denoted as black, even marrying men denoted as black could never see them becoming black, this when Dalozal was raised with four younger siblings that share the denotation of black for their human agency, and confirms in pride that her heritage is black.
Of all the groups the latter is perhaps the angriest at Rachel Dolezal for the reasons I had attempted to advance.
It is perhaps time to ask what it is we can learn from these specific groups for our discourse on readiness for acceptance of a non-racial identity, both in South Africa and in the USA who equally wrestle on this subject.
We will conclude and look at what these groups agree on in regards to Rachel Dolezal
We found that these groups in collective sense have more in common than whatever they will ever claim or even want to be reminded:
We therefore conclude:
- Rachel Dolezal is attacked and dissected by the ruling elites across the racial divide. They share the benefits of the ruling class as meted out in education and economic class definition and therefore are benefactors of this class definition embedded in race.
- The stated groups herein contained consciously depersonalize Rachel Dolezal denying her, her rightful personhood and choose to reduce her to a phenomenon.
- All three groups fundamentally embrace and acknowledge the presence of racial identity as departure and arrival points for their castigation of Rachel Dolezal.
- Equally they struggle to free Rachel Dolezal from their own trapped prisms, thus keeping her accountable for their incarceration to race, racialized language and race confinement.
- They embrace race not as mythical, though some will theorise on it they are trapped in it and cannot see modalities for non-racial reality of race freedness.
- All three groups represent a specific epoch in historical time, which defines the bedrock of their analysis of Dolezal and attest a trapped state of that particular epoch.
- Those who seek to judge Dolezal do so from a morality that argues honesty, yet they have determined the content, meaning and efficacy of the honesty claim and prove less willing for the questioning of that morality.
- They collectively critique and butcher Rachel Dolezal ONLY because she in my assessment successfully transitioned race, a stuck reality for them, and inconceivable only because it is believed it is not possible, if not an unpardonable sin.
- Thus, we can conclude they are envious of Rachel Dolezal that she becomes the evidence of the myth of race.