It’s Not Rachel Dolezal Who’s “Crazy” But the Ridiculous, Racist and Contradictory Definitions of “African American”

It’s Not Rachel Dolezal Who’s “Crazy” But the Ridiculous, Racist and Contradictory Definitions of “African American”

A. D. Powell
A. D. Powell

Is Rachel Dolezal a war criminal? If she were, you can bet the farm that the outraged blacks, pretend blacks (mulattoes and quadroons) and white liberals who denounce her for “passing for black” would have forgotten about her and moved on by now. Instead, the former Spokane, Washington NAACP leader is a prime example of how rather unimportant actions by those who have a history of “white” identification or classification are redefined by racial pundits as the moral equivalent of Ku Klux Klan lynchings. Nearly all Dolezal’s attackers insist that there is a clearly defined and impenetrable barrier between the so-called white and black “races.” They rarely bother to clearly tell their readers who is and is not “white” or “black.” They presume that every member of their audience is just supposed to “know.” The denunciations of Rachel Dolezal fall into roughly three categories:

1. Dolezal has no right to call herself “black” because she does not (or did not) “look black” and can exercise the “privilege” of going back to being “white” at any time. So is everyone who looks white and identifies as black a fraud or crazy fool? Often the latter are declared heroes of the “black race.” There is a clear double standard here. You can google the term “passing for white” and be deluged with denunciations of part-black white people who dared to call themselves white because they actually looked white. Nearly all these denunciations come from people who identify themselves as “black” or the white liberal allies of blacks. The very fact that Rachel Dolezal felt compelled to physically change her “racial” appearance from “white” to “mulatto” in order to “pass” as someone who might be acceptable to middle-class blacks and white liberals as “black” supports the rational argument that the part-black whites who identify as white (Anatole Broyard, Captain Michael Healy, Eston Hemings Jefferson, Belle Da Costa Greene, Anita Hemmings and many others) are moral and rational in their choice — far more so that those of the same or similar racial makeup and phenotype who choose to call themselves “black” or pretend that they had no choice in the matter (Mat Johnson, Michael Sidney Fosberg, Soledad O’Brien etc.). Indeed, there is a long history of, especially with the rise of the post-Civil Rights “Black Power” movement, coercing mixed whites and light mulattoes to change their racial appearance in order to please or fit in with blacks:

Afros have “saved” many of the young light-skinned colored Creoles who choose now to identify themselves as black and disavow any connection with colored Creole society. The Afro has become symbol of their social and political affiliation. So keen was the criticism of Creoles by non-Creole blacks, especially in the early 1970s, that light-skinned teenage boys whose hair was straight began to put vinegar on their hair to make it kinky. A couple of young informants swear that several of their friends are beginning to grow bald, and they attribute this loss of hair to their frequent shampooing with vinegar. Afros may be the current hairstyle among black Americans, but among young male colored Creoles they are political symbols, too. It is no accident that seventy-eight of the eighty-five thirteen-, fourteen-, teen-, and fifteen-year-old boys who were confirmed at Corpus Christi parish in the heart of the colored Creole community on May 20, 1977, light- and dark-skinned alike, had Afros.

Virginia Dominguez. White By Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana (Kindle Locations 1919–1924). Kindle Edition.

The next question to ask ourselves is why, if Dolezal is wallowing in a supposedly immoral “white privilege” that can be assumed or jettisoned at any time, part-black folks with the same “white privilege” aren’t condemned for calling themselves “black” as well:

I was told the fourth interview I would be doing was going to air on MSNBC-BLK, which focused on Black issues and targeted millennials. I went in with the hopeful idea that it might be like having a conversation with my students, but it was just more of the same. As I took a seat on an uncomfortable stool, an animated light-skinned Black woman named Amber Payne started asking me questions. I noticed that we were nearly the same complexion and her hair wasn’t all that much different than mine, falling in a loose, wavy pattern with very little curl. If she’d run a flat-iron down her hair, she could have easily passed for Italian. Surely with her ethnically indeterminate appearance she would be a bit more understanding, I thought. After all, most of those who had reached out to me to express their support were people stuck somewhere in the middle of Black and white. Darker Black women, on the other hand, had become one of the primary voices of opposition against me, calling the way I identified “the ultimate white privilege.”

Dolezal, Rachel. In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World(pp. 238–239). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

2. Dolezal has no “black experience” or has never experienced “racism.” The terms “black experience” and “racism” are not defined and seem to mean whatever each accuser wants them to mean. I have often heard the argument from black-identified “one drop” advocates and their allies that if one is “raised black” (undefined), one has some kind of moral and/or legal obligation to identify as “black.” This makes as much sense, to me, as saying that if you were raised with child abuse, you have an obligation to pass along the abuse to your own children. Despite, Dolezal’s “pure white” parents, she was reared with adopted black and mulatto siblings, married a black man and bore mulatto children. She’s been living a far “blacker” life than Soledad O’Brien (rich white husband and very white children), Lacey Schwartz (reared as white and Jewish), or Michael Sidney Fosberg (reared as white and Armenian-American until discovering his “black blood” in adulthood) and so many more. What is even more ludicrous is the accusation that Dolezal only identifies with blacks in order to reap financial benefits. Hell, people like Lacey Schwartz, Michael Sidney Fosberg, Mat Johnson, Soledad O’Brien, Sil Lai Abrams and many more have capitalized on presenting themselves as exotic, passable or born-again “blacks.” Dolezal hasn’t yet come close to them in terms of reaping the black gold of hypodescent:

Many people simply couldn’t fathom how someone who was born into the racial category known as white could ever feel Black or why that person would want to be viewed that way. They presumed I identified as Black to advance my career or make more money, and the press seemed happy to play along. There was never any mention of the fact that two of the four jobs I’d had were unpaid, that one of the paid ones barely covered the electric bill, and that the other provided only enough income to pay the rent and buy groceries. My income had always hovered around the poverty line, and in that regard I was not unlike many other Black women in the United States, who, studies have shown, make 16 percent less in the workplace than white women do.

Dolezal, (p. 245).

Morever, Dolezal’s sanity has been questioned. Who would be crazy enough to identify with blacks if they don’t have to? Well, why aren’t black-identified whites like Mat Johnson or Michael Sidney Fosberg condemned as equally insane since their claim to blackness can be easily shed?

Same opinion shares The Huffington Post’s culture writer, Zeba Blay. According to her, Dolezal’s life in comparison to Caitlyn Jenner is “an insult to Jenner’s personal struggle” (Blay, 2015). She also notes that Dolezal’s lies and “pretending” to be black “hijacked the conversation about race, during a week where the nation was focusing on police brutality in McKinney, Texas” — when white policeman “violently restrains, then sits on top of an unarmed, 15-year-old, bikini-clad black girl” (Blay, 2015). Blay also suggests that Dolezal is delusional and mentally ill. Moreover, she points out that Dolezal retains her privilege; “she can take out the box braids and strip off the self-tanner and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being black” (Blay, 2015). Blay same as Kinouani (2015) states that Rachel Dolezal’s blackness is a costume that she can put on anytime she wants, meanwhile Bruce Jenner transformed into Caitlyn in order “to live” and not being interesting, which may suggest that Dolezal transracial affair could be caused by her need to get attention.

Borawska, Sonia. Rachel Dolezal Affair: race, identity and representation of women in the news. : Comperative analysis between media coverage of Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner (Kindle Locations 105–113). Kindle Edition.

3. Dolezal is not “genetically African American” or has no known or traceable “black” or sub-Saharan African ancestry. Of course, the world has an abundance of people with African ancestry who DON’T identify with blacks at all. Latinos fall into this category, especially nationalities like Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Arabs, especially North Africans, also fall into this “black ancestry” category, yet the U.S. Government has taken great pains to have them officially classified as “white” for census and affirmative action purposes. Dolezal’s accusers are clearly trying to imply that (minus Latinos and Arabs) there is a “one drop rule” for defining “African American” and that Dolezal lacks the fatal “drop.” This alone is supposed to make her “white.” Now suppose Dolezal had the fatal “drop” but wanted to identify as “white.” The same pundits who ridicule her for darkening her skin and kinking up her hair would praise her for it. Indeed, while Dolezal is promoting the popular academic idea that “race” is a “social construct,” her detractors are openly claiming that “race” is biological, no ifs, ands, or buts. I have studied this issue of “black blood” and white racial identity for decades, and it is clear to me that the excuses made for separating the so-called “pure” or black-blood-free white from the “tarbrushed” while is based on nothing more than a fight to keep alive the old stigma of “Negro blood.” Culture, looks, etc. are all excuses to fool the gullible. Furthermore, the people who want the stigma of “black blood” and its twin “white purity” to continue, are more likely to be black-identified and middle-class:

In 1999 The Washington Post published an emotional article by one of its so-called “black” reporters, Lonnae O’Neal Parker, in which the author described her trauma when she discovered that her first cousin, Kim, was white-identified. This shouldn’t have been too surprising since Kim was born to and reared by a “pure” white mother, looks totally white, and has a “light-skinned” mulatto father who was not keen to identify with blacks. O’Neal Parker’s article became a nationwide sensation. The Seattle Times and other papers reprinted it and ABC Television’s Nightline devoted an entire episode to it. O’Neal parker’s highly irrational thesis was that Cousin Kim and all others in a similar situation have an obligation to repudiate their white ancestry and identify with blacks in order to make up for any wrongs done to blacks and black-identified mulattoes by whites in both the present and the distant past. In other words, the “one drop rule” is presented to the public as a sign of black moral superiority instead of black biological inferiority. Cousin Kim supposedly chose the evil, racist whites over the innocent, pure-hearted blacks. This is also the way the “one drop” myth was justified in The Human Stain and the attacks on Anatole Broyard. O’Neal Parker, who is herself mulatto elite — not physically black but not as white as Kim — has no problem incorporating white genes into her family, but she does not want whites in it since whites are defined as the enemy.

Powell, A.D., Passing For Who You Really Are: Essays in Support of Multiracial Whiteness (Kindle Locations 303–315). Backintyme. Kindle Edition.

The black-identified elite’s insistence on promoting the “one drop rule” and demonizing all who oppose it has permeated white liberalism. Indeed, many white liberals have therefore become more racist than the more conservative whites they love to despise. The “one drop rule” allows them a chance to be “liberal” and white purity-loving racists at the same time — all with the permission of “blacks.”

In the magazine American Heritage, a white woman named Jillian Sim announced that she had discovered that her great-grandmother was Anita Hemmings, a white mulatto or mixed white who graduated from Vassar College in the late 19th century was almost expelled for being “colored” when a wealthy and envious classmate decided to have her background investigated. Now Vassar proudly claims that Anita, who lived as white for the rest of her life, was their first “black” graduate. Jillian Sim accepts the myth that Anita was a “black” who “passed for white” and she condemns both her paternal grandmother and great-grandparents as “blacks” who “passed for white.” Sim, her father, and her son, however, are still white. The dead are “black” and the living are “white.” After Broadway star Carol Channing’s recent disclosure that her father was partially black but lived all his life as a white man, you’ll notice that Channing is not described as “black” in the media but her father is described that way without qualification. Moreover, if you look at the Amazon.com comments on Channing’s autobiography, Just Lucky, I Guess, you’ll note that commentators who are black-identified insist on calling her “black” as well. People as diverse as the actress Mae West, former U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower and former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, etc. have been labeled “black” (usually by blacks and black-identified mulattoes) on the basis of the one-drop myth.

Powell, A.D..(Kindle Locations 388–400).

It is no wonder that liberals are having a field day crucifying Rachel Dolezal. She is the great white sacrificial lamb, proving that they are not “racist” because they are following the lead of blacks. Black condemnation of Dolezal also reassures white liberals that they are fundamentally different from (and therefore superior to) the “race” they claim to champion. Indeed, they exercise the ultimate “white privilege” by acting as if they have no obligation to think for themselves on racial issues but need only follow the lead of certain blacks:

Liberal white folks who were happy to repudiate their white privilege were just as happy to throw me under the bus. From what I’ve observed, white liberals tend to believe that whatever they read in The Root or Huffington Post’s “Black Voices” section represents the perspective of the entire Black population and that to hold any other view would be racist. For them, being called racist is the ultimate taboo, and mimicking the viewpoints espoused by these mainstream Black news sources presents a safe and defensible path for someone who hasn’t experienced racism as a lived experience. By accusing me of being a cultural appropriator and a fraud, countless white liberals, including the “antiracist essayist” Tim Wise, were hoping to prove they weren’t racists but rather white allies.

Dolezal, Rachel.(p. 248).

I personally don’t care what Rachel Dolezal calls herself. What I do care about is that the “one drop rule,” which has no basis in law and is mainly enforced by the inflated moral authority of the black and black-identified elites, be recognized as the immoral and racist monstrosity that it is. I want an end to the demonization of fellow mixed whites as “passing for white” when we are really “passing” for what we truly are. Dolezal accidentally became a target of hypocritical and near-universal scorn because the advocates of the “one drop rule” feared that her alleged blackness minus the fatal “one drop of black blood” would be a further nail in the coffin of extreme hypodescent. Call Rachel Dolezal “black” if that’s what she wants, but call Anatole Broyard“white.” Do you get the picture?


A.D. Powell, former columnist for the web sites “Interracial Voice” and “The Multiracial Activist,” is the author of “Passing” for Who You Really Are: Essays in Support of Multiracial Whiteness and a self-taught historian of “mixed race” issues.

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