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    Rachael Dolezal

    I recently saw a Netflix documentary on Rachel Dolezal.  You remember her.  For a while, she was a controversial semi-news celebrity and a comic’s goldmine.    A woman born of white parents who has tried most of her life to be considered as black until it was discovered that she was white, white white.  While “black” she was president of the Spokane NAACP and an ombudsman for the Spokane City Council, among other good community works she participated in.

    This duplicity was wonderful fodder for any comic’s funny appetite. They ate up and spit out the fraudulence and personal jokes for as long as these fleeting events last on their bumpy journey from what many people call “news” to the scrap heap of forgotten stories.  (Somebody should write a short story about that scrap heap and join the long book list of forgotten  stuff.)  It ended pretty quickly because contemporary comedians and comedy writers can’t write the genre anymore.

    Why would she do this?  Why would anybody do this?

    Here we enter a new chapter of racial identity that is more complex than what most of us grew up understanding — a baby born of white parents, is white.  A baby born of black parents is black.  A baby born of mixed parents is … what?  White/black?  Black/white?

    Certain states have laws that legally determine the racial identity of such a baby, whatever the parents feel or think.  Or, whatever the baby WILL think as she grows up.  We’re here to talk about that baby.  About Rachel Dolezal.

    She was born of white parents, who also had a son.  They eventually adopted four children, three black, one Haitian.  Why the Haitian isn’t considered black is a puzzle to me.  Just another big wrinkle in the discussion of race in this country.

    Growing up with these brothers and sisters, I find it more than likely that she picked up on the language, references, attitudes, joys and fears that black kids knew and experienced at that very young age.  And living with them for so many years, I think it’s very easy to become part of that particular brother-and-sister emotional connection.  I find it would be very easy to grow up with three black children and consider oneself a part of them, a part of their attitudes, their culture, perceptions, loves, biases, fears, affections and part of their unique sibling emotional bumps and bruises.

    It’s what happens to us all.  For example, I’ve adopted the qualities of my Italian heritage from my big Italian family and the Italian neighborhood in which I grew up.  I still carry most of those qualities with me, even at eighty-one years of age.  They’ve changed over the years, some stronger, some weaker, some irrelevant, some shameful, some proud accomplishments and satisfactions, but most of it can be traced back to how I was first influenced and sustained by it all.

    It’s a social osmosis that knows few, if any, barriers.   The documentary tells us what she’s been going through since her deception was discovered.  Loss of jobs, work and an opportunity to some good for the black community, who are suspicious of her or simply don’t like her because of her deception.  It’s not been good, but she is sustaining, surviving despite the many personal and social setbacks.  Her son is struggling to survive his own feelings about himself, life, school and the burden of her mother’s actions, a struggle Dolezal is well aware of and doing her best to help him cope.

    She demonstrated great love and affection for him and I couldn’t help but wonder if she had any inkling of what her deception could do any of her yet unborn children.  I think her need was so great that negative consequences,  never crossed her radar.

    As for the reaction of the black community they have their own view of her deception and are basically offended that she’s hijacked all their history and suffering without ever having to endure THOSE consequences.  Simply, they feel that she’s tainted their heritage and gained whatever perks were there for the taking without experiencing a life history filled with whatever racial setbacks, insults, and hardships they’ve endured.

    I think I understand that feeling, but I can’t help thinking that before this debacle took place, she was a hard-working, solid member of the “black” community and doing work that was beneficial for all black people.  It’s just a shame to have lost all that.  Sadly, identity has trumped accomplishments.



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