Talib Kweli sees Rachel Dolezal is an “enemy,” not an “ally,” he says in an op-ed for RollingStone.com. Dolezal, the former president of an NAACP chapter in Washington state, resigned this week, amid controversy surrounding her racial background.
Dolezal was born white, although she says that she began identifying with Black culture, as early as five-years-old. While Kweli understands the “transracial” theory, he blasted Dolezal for lying, and wearing her assumed blackness like an article of clothing.
“When I heard about Rachel Dolezal on Twitter, my first reaction was, ‘Wow, I've seen this movie. It's Soul Man.’’ She even looks a little like C. Thomas Howell; same complexion,” Kweli writes. “I remember watching that movie when I was a little kid and thinking it was ridiculous. I thought, ‘Okay, clearly, if this was real, everybody would have been able to see through it.’ Now here we are.”
He continues,”She's said she identifies as black. Cool story, but that's not a real thing – because at any time, she could go back. That is a privilege that people of color do not have. You cannot just jump back and forth between those worlds. It's very disrespectful to the people of color that she claims to identify with to say something like that. When you say something like that, you are not identifying with us, at all, in any way, shape, or form.”
To support his point, Kweli mentioned Dolezal’s 2002 discrimination lawsuit against Howard University. Dolezal was living as a white woman when she accused her alma mater of passing her over for a post-graduate assistant teaching position, refusing to put up her artwork, and denying her financial aid. The court concluded that she had no evidence to prove the allegations.
“To me, that exemplifies the worst aspect of this story,” Kweli says. “She tried to take advantage of the university by suing them, and then later she advanced her career by playing black. She has a history of taking advantage of the situation.”
The Brooklyn emcee also takes aim at the NAACP — which was co-founded by Black and white activists — and its past affiliation with Donald Sterling. Since “anyone can start an NAACP chapter” Kweli feels that Dolezal’s work with the organization isn’t the best measure of her “character.” Furthermore, he points out that Dolezal could have done her job “without pretending” she was Black, and addresses the comparisons to Caitlyn Jenner’s story.
While Jenner is different in that she essentially exposed herself as transgender, and Dolezal was outted by her parents, there is no scientific evidence to prove “you can be born one race and identify as another,” says Kweli
“I’ve known white people who have said to me verbatim, ‘I feel black on the inside.’ There's nothing wrong with being honest about that,” he adds. “But she took it to the next level. When you lie; when you're saying your adopted brother is your son; when you're suing Howard one year for saying you're too white, then saying people hung nooses at your door the next year – that's crossing the line. You're not a friend or an ally to the movement. You're an enemy. Maybe you're not as dangerous an enemy as killer cops, but you're not down with us at all.”
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(Photos from Left: Roger Kisby/Getty Images, Anthony Quintano/NBC News via AP Photo)