As we’ve seen these past few days, there are levels to this Rachel Dolezal story. Many know by now that the former president of the Spokane, Wash. NAACP has gone on a media tour insisting that she identifies as Black, even though her biological Caucasian parents say she has been lying about her race.
Supporters say she has done “so much” for Black people as a human rights and community activist and Black studies professor and loves the culture, so leave her be. But critics say she is walking in blackface by adopting Black family members, tanning her skin and wearing curly “natural” hair. She denied being in blackface, saying her “connection” to African-Americans was too strong during a Today Show interview Tuesday morning.
Opinions aside, let’s be clear of one fact: Dolezal is not “transracial,” a term she has casually chosen to describe her poorly played act of impersonating a Black woman. She is also attempting to compare her struggle to transgender people. But many are not letting her run with it.
Janet Mock, a widely known transgender activist, hit it home in a series of tweets recently.
“Stop using 'trans racial' in regards to Dolezal. There is no such thing unless we're discussing trans racial adoptions, adoptees & families,” she wrote.
Others have written commentaries further denouncing Dolezal's transracial explanation.
Lisa Marie Rollins, a Black woman who was adopted as a child, broke this down further in a piece on TheLostDaughters.com. "The 'trans' in transracial for me, never meant my race changed," Rollins writes. "It meant I was a multiracial black girl, adopted into a white family. It meant I was taken without my consent from one home, one place of origin and put inside another family, another culture, another race, one that didn’t belong to me," she continued.
Samantha Allen of The Daily Beast writes, "Transgender people transition out of medical necessity. Dolezal’s 'transition' to Black, on the other hand, is surrounded by layers of deception — the Howard lawsuit, the false claim to an African-American father, the refusal to correct newspapers that misidentified her as 'biracial' — that she was unwilling to fully unravel in her conversation with Lauer."
So yes, even though many are probably tired of Rachel Dolezal being in the news, it must be made known that she has used her platform to embark on dangerous terrority when it comes to identity. If experts and critics don't check her, she will continue to take part in the erasure of communities that are already marginalized and silenced in society.
Follow Natelege Whaley on Twitter: @Natelege_
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