Rachel Dolezal is a professor of Africana Studies and president of the NAACP in Washington State was recently ousted by her parents for actually being white. This is historically upsetting and ironic because for many years, black women who “passed” for white lived in the fear of being ousted for being black. I’m all for making your life into an odd social experiment; I’m all for advocating for a culture that is often misrepresented and misunderstood; I’m also all for white advocates in the struggle against black oppression; interracial marriage hurray, let’s muddy the waters; but this particular instance of cultural appropriation felt like a cultural rape. It went beyond stealing to a point of unforgiveness.
Rachel lied about being a black woman- a human experience in our societal caste system that is defiled and revered, picked apart and scrutinized, made fun of and abused by all- not just whites, but all races, and sometimes most severely by black men. Mix this with the weird color caste system within black society and you have a mess of a disaster. As a professor of Africana Studies, Rachel must’ve known all this. So as a bright shining light of liberation, she took on the voice of a people and of a group of women who continually go through life’s boot camp. And like a gentrified hipster at a farmer’s market, she picked over the ripe fruits of that caste and that societal position for her own personal edification. It’s a one-sided game that many of us are forced to lose....
My daughter came home and informed me that a group of white girls have called her “Puff” all year. They have a club and they have “Puff” meetings (what I assume are meetings to talk about her). They call her “Puff” because one day I let her rock a twist out. I thought that being in a predominantly white environment where the school indoctrinates the kids with the “everyone is friends” kool-aid, meant that black girl hair issues would not be a problem until maybe middle school. I was wrong. My daughter has begun to earn her black girl bootcamp badges.
The more she divulged to me, the sicker I got. How dare they attempt to destroy my child? Then I said to myself, do they realize in about 10 years when the black boy quarterback or basketball center leads the team to x,y,z they’ll be asking my daughter for intel? Do they realize in a couple years when they can listen to radio music, they’ll be singing songs by artist that look like my kid? Do they realize that when they go to college and sit in some of their liberal arts classes with blonde dreads and a nose ring, talking about “the struggle” and how all of us need to become one that they’re misappropriation will be seen as an opportunistic way to gain favor with their professor? Don’t they see that the same little girl they make fun of for having awesome hair is capable of being the same woman that in some ways they’ll wish they were?
To me it goes beyond cultural appropriation. It goes beyond protecting culture, because in my mind, we should all be seen as one organism living, thinking, growing, learning together on this planet like mold on bread. But unfortunately it’s our tiny differences that define us, embitter us and therefore strengthen us. I’m always thinking that in the struggle for “liberation” in our male dominant society, white women are allies, but in many sad ways, like the one my daughter experienced and in Rachel Dolezal’s case, it’s every (wo)man for herself. It’s a one-sided game that many of us are forced to lose....
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.