Rachel Dolezal is a product of intersectionality as not just a mode of thinking, but an actual race to the bottom in the oppression Olympics.

In 20 years, we will look back on articles like this and ask ourselves, "how did anyone mistake intersectionality for an actual political and social philosophy, instead of the Foucaultian linguistic parlor game it actually is?"
RaR 102: That simply isn't true. Many people on here talking about racial fludity being unacceptable and trans gender fluidity being holy and sacred to liberals are simply justifiably concerned that there is a huge double standard. Not every single trans person thinks the exact same way. I grew up in San Francisco and many trans people who are trans view it as a costume they take on and off. That's not my fault nor does that make me transphobic. That's part of the of the trans world. That's the same argument that this authority and hundreds of Black bloggers and journalists like this author have levied against Rachel Dolezal. Dolezal hasn't "profited off of Black people" but there are thousands of visible White people who have. Madonna for instance is mass branding and marketing on Instagram two tiny Malawian children for Adidas who have relatives too poor to care for them who will never hold them again. How millions has Madonna and other white celebrities made off of Black culture? It shows how delusional Black journalists are about the White power structure that NONE of them have spoken up over Madonnas repeated removal off African children from their parents. Probably because Black liberals have for ages, been too dazzled by wealthy famous white people to speak up. Rachel is an easy target because she's low income and has failed at fame. Easy to kick.
Tremendous article. My query is why Shaun King has been so immune to the same level of criticism that Rachel Dolezal has faced, when he is the male Rachel Dolezal. He has white parents, white siblings, photos of him at a young age show he is white, and yet he is given a pass when he claims to be, as the author says when referring to Dolezal, a "very, very, very, very light skinned black" man. King has built a brand based on his own white privilege, co-opting a black identity that is not truly his.
She looks white? If the woman in those pictures told me she was black, I'd believe her. "Black" comes in all shades and shapes. As a half-black person that looks Asian, I've been told by black people that I'm not black because I'm "not dark enough". Yet, I've seen full-black people with skin lighter than mine, full-black people with blue eyes, full-black people with blonde hair. IMO "black" does not require a certain shade nor a certain hair color, and if it does, where does that leave those of us with black families who don't "look black"? Especially when many non-black people say that being part black means you are just black?
The statement that Washington state is almost 90% white is puzzling to me - the actual number was, according to 2010 census data, well under 80%, is declining rapidly, and hasn't been in the 90% range for more than 25 years. That's obviously not core to the story, but it's regrettable that the people reading the article who don't know Washington state will carry that false fact away with them.
I am almost curious enough to count the number of words that are actually about Oluo and compare them to number about Dolezal, the purported subject of this article
don't care one way or another about ms. dolezal, but the author seemed to have it in for her from the beginning and then gets upset when ms. dolezal picks up on it and responds in kind. article was not as great as it could have been.
I've said it before here and elsewhere and I'm sure I'll soon have a reason to say it again: We're living in The Age of Confused Ambiguity. It arose after the two separate zeitgeists in the 90s (The Age of Irony and The Age of Humorless Earnestness) merged into one mess in the beginning of the 21st Century. And the author of this piece, with her fraught self-centered tone, evinces a key corollary of our current age: The Anxiety of Contested Authenticity.
Good point beasaroboy #115. The article is rife with the author's narcissism, and completely lacking in empathy. I'd have felt no compulsion to defend the subject of the article, if the article hadn't been so poorly written.
The idea that Dolezal's story is of interest because it provides another example of the transcendent power of whiteness strikes me as an effort by the author to center herself in the story; to make it another instance in her struggle, and then to project that story out onto the wider world.

As a white person, and for the most part a white liberal, Dolezal's story was of interest to me as an example of just how fucking crazy white liberals have gone in response to the intersection of an ideology that reduces them to at best unwitting agents of white supremacist patriarchy and an epistemology that reduces all categories to social constructions. Dolezal is of interest exactly because she seems so clearly an expression of a sort of inevitable madness suffered by people trying to 'center themselves' in such an environment.

I'm not supposing everyone has my view, but I'm not supposing I'm anywhere close to alone in it, either.
For those pointing out that Oluo's argument against Dolezal's identity could easily be used against trans people, and to the people who are calling those wondering about that ignorant—here is an article from a black trans man and queer studies professor on Dolezal about why that is in fact not a dumb question to ask, or a dumb thing to wonder—that it is in fact something critics of Dolezal have yet to explain, and a question folks should not write off. Prof. Kai Green actually doesn't take issue with Dolezal in this piece: "People have said she’s been doing blackface. I disagree. I am not offended by Rachel Dolezal. I ask her the same question I ask Jenner: What do your politics look like? And what kind of work do you do?" Everyone is so quick to call Dolezal "delusional" and "mentally ill," but few people here are seeing the logical inconsistencies of their arguments, and how easily that rhetoric can and frequently is used against transfolk. The world is not that simple, but I see many people rushing to a simple answer in the name of moral one-upsmanship:…
This is a passing thought, but...

I wonder if, in a hypothetical world, a woman interviewing a trans woman who rose through the ranks of NOW while never undergoing surgical gender reassignment would be a similarly adversarial interview.

Because the same sort of attitude prevails here: you can't be authentically [human code type] unless you were born [human code type] and grew up in [human code type] culture.

Rachel isn't the poster child for trans [human code type] acceptance, but I'm certain that women feel like trans women who grew up as men and transitioned still hold the same male privilege attitudes they held when they were male.

Which, I think, is certainly the case with a white woman who tried to be a trans black person.
To be clear, I'm not trying to come to a solution here, or trying to hack on trans people. Just that the notion of transitioning from your personal identity of another identity - gender, racial, religious, or political - always, on some level, is viewed with suspicion and anger. Even those who converted from Catholicism to Protestantism were viewed with suspicion not just from the former religion but by their brethren during the Reformation - because who knew if they were spies for the Inquisition?

I'm just musing on the idea that if someone claims to be one identity or [human code type] when they were not born with that [human code type], the community and residents of each human code type - the one they were and the one they claim to be - both reject and ostracize their new claimed condition.

Which certainly does explain why the Puritans hightailed it to America and promptly began slaughtering and conquering the native inhabitants in the name of religious freedom.
@FoxSails I guess my question is going to always be "Are the people who identify as white even though they were born in Africa still African-Americans? Are people born as male who transition to female in their 40s still people who should be given voice on a same level as a woman who has been a woman all her life? And should racism and sexism, homophobia and transphobia be treated the same as social ills?"

Really, that's the question asked here. Dolezal seems to me to be an extremely sad case of a woman whose background, choices and options in life led her to a place of extreme discomfort and controversy. Is that mental illness? Even the interviewer sends a sideways sneer at the notion of being authentically black in a 200,000 person town like Spokane (or having any access to authentically black culture).

As quite possibly the whitest straight male I can think of (I go to the beach in California and get used as a lighthouse for swimmers trying to find their way back to shore), I am certainly not qualified to judge feminist, trans/LGBT or black culture, and many times even making the attempt to ask questions instead of nodding in acceptance at the multitude of dueling ideas of what it means to be [human code type], or offering to explain what it feels like as the stereotypically perfect symbol of the White Straight Male who "everyone" just wants to get out of the way because he's asking All Those Stupid White Straight Male Privilege Questions Again just laughable.

Ultimately if I cannot form my own personal perspective without having to refer to a multitude of recently articles regarding feminism to back it up, I can't take a stance and fight for what I believe in, which is a world in which my children can be and do whatever they want regardless of their gender, sexuality, mental health or color of their skin (and I make a note here that assuming my children have or will have my skin color, gender preference, mental health or sexuality is awfully presumptive for others to assume - which is something I remind myself daily when I think of their future and my hopes for them).

Unfortunately you can't separate trans rights, gay rights, marriage equality, racial equality, economic equality and gender equality these days, because the cause of social justice has grown to include them all, even as some elements begin the battle against other elements with differing philosophy standpoints that seem at odds with each other.

That there are many opponents of social justice and equality who gleefully use those disparities to attempt to sow discord and inner conflict within the social justice sphere is not lost on me, any more than a dictator using the playbook right out of African junta regimes (Idiot Amin / Donald Trump, anyone?) used American democracy and Russian oligarchy corruption techniques to steal an election for personal profit.

You can't fight on quicksand; you can't argue equality and identity without firm positions on what you believe, and you can't talk about racial identity these days without engaging in the other aspects of social justice causes and having the attitudes compared to the other realms that are worth fighting for in a society headed (at least temporarily) by a sociopathic ersatz dictator.
With your condescending remark, "educate yourself", you're immediately closing your mind to logical thought: anyone who disagrees with you must simply be uneducated. (This is precisely the same tactic that Jehovah's witnesses use to "educate" me about God's salvation.)

However, I gave this a great deal of thought. In fact, my initial reaction was to assume this woman was off her rocker. But then I realized that if I'd never encountered a trans person in my life, I'd find the concept of a biological male declaring "I'm a woman!" to be equally absurd. Please also take note that there are some in the trans community and even on this message board making the same point. There is absolutely nothing about your outrage at this woman for appropriating black culture that cannot be used against trans people. You paraphrased:

- "OK, I'm black now! Treat me as black!"
- "...You're white, though."
- "No, you just don't get race and how wonderful and fluid it is!"
- "I'm black, though."
- "Omg, so am I!"

Let's replace with:
- "OK, I'm a girl now! Treat me like a girl!"
- "...You're a dude in a dress. You're over 6 feet tall and have a Y chromosome."
- "No, you just don't get gender and how wonderful and fluid it is!"
- "I'm a real woman, though."
- "Omg, so am I!"

You make fun of her self-tanner, as if it's proof she's just a big faker, but something tells me that if she pursued invasive cosmetic surgery to look blacker, you'd make fun of that as well. And let's remember the not-too-distant past: before hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgery, a trans woman didn't have many options other than putting on a dress and makeup (and, let's be honest, looking rather silly)...rather analogous to, oh I don't know, using self-tanner and putting your hair in braids??

Your only (quite flimsy) argument for why a transgender identity is more legitimate than transracial one is to say that transgender people are born with a sense of "true authentic self", whereas this woman only expresses a "superficial identity". And yet, if you read Janet Mock or Jenny Boylan, you'll find their examples of recognizing their own identities (wanting the pink sleeping bag, wanting long hair, etc.) are no less quotidian than, say, coloring yourself with a brown crayon as a child.

And there's something much more troubling with your line of reasoning: that if we can somehow prove this one woman to be disingenuous, that automatically negates the entire concept. That's like identifying a transgender person who committed suicide and saying "see?! they're all effed in the head", or looking at black man in jail and saying "see -- they're all violent criminals". If your goal is to find flaws in other humans, well great. I'm sure you'll succeed. But that shouldn't be taken as proof that their sexuality or gender expression or race is fundamentally inferior.

Your cognitive dissonance is astounding, and for what? To promote political correctness? How about we just treat people with respect, even if they choose to re-name or re-dress themselves. To be clear, I'm not saying that the black community is obligated to recognize her as black. Similarly, my grandpa isn't obligated to recognize pre-op "Alice", having broad shoulders and speaking in a falsetto voice, as a woman.

But Oluo going out of her way to write an article lambasting this woman, who's already faced endless ridicule, seems unnecessary. Or at the very least, to be consistent, the author should be willing to write an equally critical piece about Jenner.
Hello Malachi, you seem to be missing out on a key part of the discussion here. For some participants, like @103, race is at least somewhat a generic type into which humans are categorized.

However, for the vast majority of African-American participants in this discussion, racial appearance is bound up in American society with the presumption that white is the "normal" and easy way to appear in every social setting, e.g. on television, in films, in school, on the street, in a shop, while being black in any of those settings provides no benefits and plenty of trouble. This is a generational experience going back to Jim Crow and slavery. The benefits of being black in public American spaces are very few (compared to, say, being female vs. male) and skin color cannot be easily concealed (unlike gay identity).

You saying that "it would be nice if that weren't the case" is a kind sentiment but not very much related to reality. It would also be nice if black people were all like Ben Carson and refused to be bothered by racism in any way -- nice for you, that is.

Maybe a good example for you of how this is really different from other social justice issues can be found in the Autobiography of Malcolm X, who discovered a world without racism for the first time only after he left the North American continent entirely.

Disclaimer: I am a white guy, so feel free to correct me.
@124 Shake, I am perplexed by you as well. The author has addressed this subject in a Facebook post, which I will quote in part:

I did talk to her about some of the fundamental differences between racial identity and gender identity. I'll briefly list some here (some that I told her and some that I did not): 1) While the flow of racial identity can only go one way (white people can become black but black people can't become white) the flow of gender identity goes multiple ways 2) While a white person who becomes black retains the bulk of their privilege and indeed can more easily move to the higher eschelons of black society (RD becoming the head of the NAACP and a college professor with absolutely zero qualifications for example), when people transition genders, they give up absolutely huge amounts of privilege - whether assigned male or female at birth - I mean, trans people can't even pee in peace for chrissakes 3) gender is not inherited, but race is. The majority of black people suffer, not only from being seen as black in this world, but also from their parents and their parents parents and their parents being seen as black in this world. This creates a cumulative and interest-building oppression passed generation to generation. While the oppressions of women do add up over time, they build up in societies structures (i.e. professions that have been shut off to women for decades) not in families. When I gave birth to two cis sons, they inherited none of my female oppression, but if they were to transition, a large amount of female oppression would slam upon them immediately - along with a lot of anti-trans bigotry. Those are just a few of the many differences between the way the two function in society - which, to me, makes "racial transition" purely a function of privilege in a way that gender tradition is not. This does not mean that one day that won't be the case - that one day black people won't be able to transition to to white with similar ease or difficulty - but the way in which race is set up compared to gender makes that much more unlikely. [...]

But I am perplexed by your comment because I thought the article explained why the author feels race is a qualitatively different kind of privilege in the article itself.

To be clear, I don't agree with the intersectional social justice worldview that the author prescribes. I am firmly in the Shelby Steele camp of race relations. But I thought this article was extremely well-argued and cogent, and based in experiences that will be familiar to all Americans who have known people of other races. I feel like all of these comments trying to read a transgender analogy into it are the result of poor reading on the part of the commentators, either intentional or unintentional.
Although insane to have assumed a black identity - to have written, advocated, denied her own privilege & beauty and to speak righteously of it. After traveling Thailand and seeing my share of the world, many races use skin bleach, bleach, and hot irons to achieve the look of a different race and gain acceptance and white privilege. I think this type of writing is pretty dangerous and divisive.
Thank you so much for this article!!!
"It is a bit extreme, but it is in no way new for white people to take what they want from other cultures in the name of love and respect, while distorting or discarding the remainder of that culture for their comfort. What else is National Geographic but a long history of this practice."
**sudden flashback to all the issues of NatGeo I grew up with** oohhhhh shiiiit.
The obvious area to probe is how is this different to males appropriating the experiences of the female class. IO didn't want to discuss this. She posted something difficult to fathom about buckets and ladders on her FB page and still didn't want to discuss it. I'm starting to think it's because RD is female, and open to all the challenges, but TW are male, and their view stands. Disabuse me, please. Because the FB post was ridiculous.
Rachel Dolezal has done more than break the internet and fuel Black twitter and emcee cyphers with innumerable punchlines. The vast majority of responses on mainstream and social media, even those claiming attention to nuance, pretty much accept—without justification or interrogation—that her parents’ version of the story is right and that she is wrong. Specifically, both her critics and most of her sympathizers accept the following as a “fact”: Rachel was pretending to be Black when she was really white all along. My aim here is not to defend or to condemn her, but to show that this one simple “fact” is neither simple nor self-evident.

Race is a social construct. It is a social reality, not a biological one. This fact is widely acknowledged by academics but many of them misunderstand it. Often, people who claim to know that race is a social construct make statements exposing that they really do not recognize it as such.

In truth, people often “become” what they want through deception and manipulation, witness the wildly popular handbook to sociopathic behavior, The 48 Laws of Power. While developing her latest book, Physics of Blackness, Michelle M. Wright has been asking us to shift the question from “what is Black?” to “when is Black?” Understanding the social construction of race forces us to recognize that one’s race is an imposition of perception by others, and this perception can be different from one social context to another.…
"This is why many of us avoid talking about race at all. There is no winning. Either you "understand" but you of course are still racist because society has made you automatically, subconsciously, structurally racist by being white-- or else you are just plain old racist. I don't know the answer but we continue to pay the price for the atrocities of chattel slavery."

Uhh, Sloopy, I'm pretty sure SLAVES paid the price for slavery. Implying that it's a hardship for you/ us white people to have to own up to an unfair system we are continuing to allow/ enable/ perpetrate - saying that being asked to critically examine our lives and the system we live in is a "price" we have to pay - is ignorant and embarrassing.
No one is demanding that individual white people fix all racial inequities, or take responsibility for centuries-past slavery. But we DO need to talk about it, and acknowledge it, despite it feeling uncomfortable, or nothing will change.
Besides, this is not a call for more white people to talk about race - quite the opposite. I think this excellent writer is saying, white people need to LISTEN.
@126, that Facebook post information is certainly interesting, but it SHOULD have been included in the original article, which, as I said earlier, is woefully lacking when it comes to range of topics discussed. I don't know if it was the author's choice to leave off that point-by-point compare/contrast with the transgender situation, the editor's, or both -- but clearly a lot of the comments in this thread would have been slightly to a lot different, if we'd all seen that angle addressed clearly from the start.

Personally, while I found all that helpful to some extent, it doesn't end up solving the troublesome aspects of a hardline essentialist racial stance, nor does it deal with a whole range of other issues that were untouched upon here: How RD's self-identification ACTUALLY makes the author's life more difficult, in practical terms, not emotional ones (clearly, one is that their books will be competing for shelf space in the same sections of book stores); how good intentions and good deeds may or may not trump quibbles over appearance; how the hair-splitting on the left, epitomized here, fits into the wider national picture of the election of Trump and the metasizing off-shoots of those who gravitated toward him precisely because of these kinds of myopic identity squabbles. Etc.
@133,"myopic identity politics" had nothing to do with the election of Trump, that is the other sides narrative. Trump didn't win, Clinton lost, because she was a terrible candidate. Regarding Dolezal/race essentialism I am quite partial to this article…

I don't know what to think, because I'm white and can't share the anger of what it feels like to be black and see that side of the argument, but I appreciate that perspective. But what creepy parents she has, to have ruined her life like this. It seems like she was living her life trying to help people, albeit under this falsehood but still, it seems like her intentions were good, for the most part, right? Advocating and living a seemingly peaceful existence, until her parents decided to attack her publicly - what kind of parent goes out of their way to destroy their child's life - and to what end? What did they gain from this? Smug religious righteousness? They seem like pretty awful people, and perhaps the source of her early struggles that led to her decisions? I don't know, but it's hard to watch this modern day scarlett letter story play out - it seems like there should be more room for forgiveness towards her instead of these attacks. Judgements aside, It doesn't appear her actions had malice or ill will towards others.
@133/Dunno, regarding your other comment, the interviewers attitude also made me sigh and groan throw out the article and before anyone gives me grieve for that I am also I black women. It is definitely a missed opportunity for a better conversation about this "race" everyone is also imploring us to have. Instead it was the same old same old, could have had potential but stops at "Rachel lied, is bad, drowns out authentic black voices" Any ways, Oluo committed as she was to her angry social justice shtick could not ask more interesting questions, her framework was not allowing her to. I do not necessarily dislike this frame by the way, it makes good points, it just doesn't need to be applied absolutely every where at all times.
@134, both are true: what I said AND the fact that HRC was a terrible candidate. It's a wide world out there, with lots of facets to fraught issues, and it's not just discussions about race that are not well served by essentialism ("This identity can only be defined by X"); it also undermines thorough understanding of political situations ("This was only caused by X.") And "the other side's narrative," if it led to people's voting for Trump and lining up to see Milo, etc, is not something that should be dismissed with an arch wave of the hand, just because we disagree with it. Doing that does NOT make such people stop scoffing at the kind of internecine discussion happening here; in fact, it likely pushes more people who are on the fence into that camp.
@135, She was estranged from parents, raising her adopted black sibling as her son, later brought a lawsuit against her older biological white brother for molesting her younger adopted black sister. Prompting her parents to retaliate by exposing her as a "liar" I guess. Thought I'd share this backstory since a lot of people seem unaware.
The first and last thing I'll ever read about Rachel Dolezal. Also, the first of many, many thing I intend to read by Ijeoma Oluo. I learned a lot from reading this. Thank you for using this strange phenomenon to illuminate so many important cultural phenomena.
David Wilkins #111, a couple of things:

1) I'm a writer myself, and most of my friends are published writers. I can't think of a single Black journalist who has NOT taken Madonna to task every single time she mindlessly (and poorly) appropriated the work of Black and queer artists, from at least as far back as "Vogue." Just because you haven't read these pieces does not mean they don't exist.

2) You may have "grown up" in San Francisco, but evidently you did not allow San Francisco to grow into you. There is a difference between drag artists and trans people. This difference has existed for generations, and not just in San Francisco.

#123 Malachi Reynolds, to answer your question:
> "Are the people who identify as white even though they were born in Africa still African-Americans?"

There are some white people who identify as Africans. Those people generally still live in the African nations in which they were born, or to which they moved.

I was born in an African nation, but I am white. I do not "identify as" white: my whiteness is a fact that my mother's and father's combined heritage proves. It is not something I can change. Nor can I "still" (or ever) call myself "African-American," because that term refers to a complicated and painful history that is specific to Black people whose ancestors were brought to this country against their will. I have absolutely no claim on that.

I insist on these things, and on holding my ground as a white person in America, because I believe that reparations will be necessary to heal the wounds we continue to inflict on Black American culture, community, and individuals. I'm pretty sure Rachel Dolezal believes in reparations as well, and I'll be damned if she sees a dime.

Please, people: stop making this bigger than it deserves to be. Dolezal is playing a long con on you, and you're letting her.

(By the way, RaR #102, you're awesome.)
RD is wearing platform heels, not wedge heels.
So should transgender men (men identifying as women) be mocked as well for not understanding the lived experience of "real" women but ignorantly trying to pass themselves off as women as well? Is it just another case of male privilege?
140: Anne B: I KNOW the difference between a drag queen and a trans person. Clearly you didn't come from the San Francisco or Bay Area like I do or you'd understand that GLBT doesn't mean your progressive or tolerant by default.

As far as your Cis black journalist friends "criticizing madonna for being a kidnapper of black culture" there are very few articles (perhaps maybe two or three) that have appeared that I could find after an extensive Google search. The Black community, Black twitter etc are overwhelmingly obsessed with Rachel Dolezal over other public figures which ARE actually doing serious damage to African diaspora. That's not debatable.
Maybe I'm talking out of my depth here, but regarding the trans issue; picture it the other way. Does a woman who identifies as a man experience male privilege once gender conversion is complete? Does a man who identifies as a woman give up his male privilege once gender conversion is complete? These are worthy questions.
But what this article makes clear regarding race is the undeniable truth that white people can exercise white privilege to identify as black, but black people have no such luxury when it comes to identifying as white.
Race and gender, though major components of human identity, are not the same thing, and the problems and questions surrounding each are not commensurate with each other.
@Diahni: Interesting that you find the article "polite." Not to defend Dolezal, but the whole time I was reading it I was taken aback by the degree of hostility oozing from the writing. I found it quite ironic for the author to mention that Dolezal grew increasingly hostile during the interview. Given the attitude with which the author went into the interview, I'm hardly surprised.
A hidden in plain sight pattern of the current era is that the writers and activists and so forth who are keen to speak on behalf of the black community, and who occupy the plum positions in media and academia reserved for "black voices" to do so, are themselves so very often the product of 2 or more white grandparents, and predominantly white communities, with predominately white peers and schoolmates and co-workers and partners, and as far as you wish to look.

That it is increasingly the mixed kids who are grabbing the best scholarships and jobs set aside for "black voices" is striking and seems to be a fairly new development. You would think this would be of interest to the Intersectionality studies types but as far as I can tell its just accepted without comment.

This maybe provides a clue to why the author is so obviously hostile to the subject of her article and is especially keen to stipulate a certain set of ground rules as to who does and does not get to speak about blackness in America.

While the author could likely be lectured quite effectively with her own talking points, the people in a position to do so don't seem to be getting a lot of nice writing assignments these days.
What very few people have talked about in this bizarre character study is the role an abusive upbringing has likely played in this sad, confused woman's life story. One commentator alluded to Ms. Dolezal's mental health and was then chewed out by the next commentator as displaying white privilege for suggesting her posing as a black woman was motivated by anything other than pure evil (apparently.) Look, I understand if the artist formerly known as Rachel Dolezal makes black people angry. I mean, I understand in as much as I'm a human being with sympathy and imagination; I don't really understand because I'm a white lady myself, but I think that anger is justified. However, as a white lady who was also raised in an abusive home where fundamentalism was used as a weapon --- I have a lot of sympathy for Ms. Dolezal as well. A childhood like that has a profound disturbance on things like identity and personality. Plain proof being, we have here a white lady pretending to be black. I also think maybe some of the harshest critics need to check some of their own privilege. Because if you weren't raised by crazy, controlling people, you know what? Maybe you shouldn't be throwing stones at people who were and are thus totally screwed up.
i skipped most of the initial news coverage on this character. i didnt want deal with the inevitable eye-rolling i was in for, compounded by additional eye-rolling at the reporting that must have often been sensationalized, clumsy and superficial. so im glad i got somewhat caught up via this mercifully honest article. this dolezal sounds like a person who would commandeer just about anything she gets involved in, her brand of righteousness is an all too common disease these days. but im really curious, how did she ascend the ranks in the local NAACP chapter carrying such an obviously false identity??
"...I had been written off as a bitter, petty black woman."
Well, you know what they say: if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, & swims on top of the water like a duck...
The article would have been much more effective if the author approached the interview with a clear mind hoping to discover the true motive behind Dolezal's behavior. Instead, she went in with the intent to tear her down and debunk everything she has said and written. In addition, the author comes across as a braggart and an elitist with her tone and her exclusionary verbage. I think Dolezal made a mistake, but I would never insult her for the way she has chosen to live her life. People like this author contribute nothing but hatred to our already crumbling society.
@151: I am inclined to agree with your perspective of this article. While I came across this article by pure chance, I read through it with the hope the author would not be as cynical, skeptical and irritated as she was. I don't know if RD found her interview to be offensive or if she felt attacked but I certainly felt a level of anger and disgust in the article I was hoping not to encounter. I wanted to read an article that felt as though the author actually wanted to understand and somehow embrace some points of view of RD that she could possibly elaborate on, and I did not. I myself couldn't help but be a little upset at the attitude the writer had going into the interview directly affected the outcome of the interview in some respects. I by no means am giving RD or anyone else the go-ahead to make a mockery of blackness or the black experience in America; however to make another person feel ashamed or belittled because of how they identify themselves I find shameful, to say the least. If this article were about any person in the LGBT community, the attitude and language would certainly look and feel a lot different.
I am 100% for people being who they are, but why couldn't she do everything she did as a white woman? I understand the urge to want to fight for equality and justice and rights but why not do so without "lying" or hiding the truth? I love this article. It is my absolute favorite about her, not because it is about her but because it confronts her motivation.
This ultra white woman is delusional...good grief. It's like the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood", everyone can see who/what she is, except herself or as a child thinks "I will close my eyes, I can't see you, therefore you can't see me". She's Only fooling herself and personally, is insulting to me and All women, imho-#pathetic Thank you, #IjeomaOluo for painfully, diplomatically, subjecting yourself to such insults by not only a truly #ignorant white woman, but #stupid as well
You should feel like crap! I am offended by your article because how dare you go into that woman's home and disrespect her like this? If you had been upfront with your perspective about this article she probably would have never let you in her house! You come off as arrogant in this article and please know, that you do not represent ME as a black woman by writing this crap.
Wow! Where do I start? I wont bore you with the prejudices that I inherited from my upbringing/conditioning that made me so innocuous to the sentiments of my fellow Souls on this plane but I´d like to share a perspective that I´m coming to abide by. I´d like to offer that the Soul has no sex or prejudices, finding itself here, lost in its particular version of this great Illusion, whose spell we are all under here. The Soul has chosen its particular mix of false beliefs to help it overcome aspects of the general Unconscious Guilt that all Souls suffer from.... otherwise We would not be here; The guilt has grown from the false belief that we have separated from God into an individuation that has necessitated the creation of this world to facilitate our need to hide from God as we falsely believe that he is disappointed/angry at us; thus the Guilt that has metamorphosed into a cesspool of Guilt, Hatred, Anger, Envy etc. that are controlling aspects of the ego-mind that we each believe is our self and we will actually find these qualities in our depths, no matter our "status ", should we look with clarity.This state is what We must each choose to be healed of. The point is that in Truth, we have never separated from God, but are still a part of the One Great Eternal Being...... and the greater the degree of our awareness, healing and sanity, the greater the degree that we are aware of all of Eternity, past and future, and Infinity....All that is. Aware of not only our experience through illusory "lifetimes", possibly even future ones, where we have been male, female, black, white, brown, etc. But also capable of being conscious through the One Being of other parts of the One Self, and their experiences. So, where I was unfamiliar with how a man could be Gay, and now even a Trans - X person or a black person can be my equal etc. etc. etc. I can now grasp that in true freedom, all is possible and is not determined by the particular constructs of my conditioning and the sooner we all adjust our lenses, the sooner that we´ll be able to do the Forgiveness Homework/Spiritual Therapy necessary to free ourselves from this Great Illusion and its suffering. Relative to our Eternal Perspective and Awareness hundreds of "lifetimes" can seem but an instant, and all can be released and forgiven rather than this bizarre war of defensiveness about every instance of difference that so threatens us and our imagined value or self importance..... we can let it go and be okay with everything - it´s just ego illusion. Instead, we can focus on our wondrous, joyful and peace-full alignment with God - Yes, it´s True, We too can Be..... LOVE.... all the time; If we can but let ourselves do this and but allow this woman to be aware in the way that she is.

Thus wrote our brother John Lennon - Let it Be.

If curious about this perspective, Our brother J. lays it out as He never could before in the "A Course in Miracles" material..... liberating stuff. Blessings to all of you who are but me, as we are all but HIM. Really, all the rest is BS. Miracles upon You.
The writer didn't do her job. She laced it with so much bias in every description...didn't read this shit through.
It was great to read this perspective, and hear about all the political toxins that come bubbling up around this woman. I know it's irritating to the author to be called upon to do these sorts of stories but honestly, I don't think white reporters should be sent to interview Rachel Dolezal. They can't possibly understand what the impact of this story has been on black women and really, that is important information.

As a white person, when I first heard about Dolezal, I viewed her as both a vile opportunist and a crazy person. I don't suppose those are actually compatible, though, because if she is indeed profoundly mentally ill (as I continue to suspect she is), how much can she really be held accountable for her bad behavior?

Be that as it may, it doesn't change the harm she's done and continues to do with her stupid book. It doesn't change the fact that her publisher IS vilely opportunistic. I do wonder why nobody's stopping her? Why isn't she required to get the mental health care she clearly needs? Then she could recede from the public eye and perhaps give some sense of closure to those she's hurt.
To sum up this article, only a white person with white privilege can pretend to be black. Gotcha, bitch! The writer makes the mistake many people do these days. they assume that calling out white privilege is a trump card that wins any argument. But what does it really mean. Of course she grew up white. Better than many blacks, worse than some. Of course only a non black person can pretend to be black. So what. Her being white and having the "privilege" of being able to pretend to be black is meaningless. It is hardly a coupe de gras the writer pretends it is.

Is she a litttle nutty? Maybe. Does this bring up all kinds of interesting issues as others have suggested? Absolutely. Does this article get at them. NO! All it does is "call her out" as being privileged, when that doesn't mean anything as far as this subject goes.

Does having enjoyed privilege mean she can never be black? Hard to say. How about a wealthy well educated black person from Africa who did not face discrimination for being black? Can they not be black here? If she wants to hang out with black people, and listen to black music, dress "black" wear her hair that way, so what? Plenty of white people do that. Many simply because they grew up in black neighborhoods. Now, saying you are black to get a job, that gets more complicated. But any true examination of this type of inquiry is totally lost in many paragraphs of "you can never be black because you grew up white"
Rachel Dolezal seems strange, interesting, and I can understand how people could have different reactions to her story. But the level of visceral anger and sarcasm in this piece just astonished me. I was frankly embarrassed for The Stranger to have a "journalist" provide a piece like this for publication. And if I were the author, I'd be embarrassed to submit it.
The most interesting question to me, is this: Suppose you have a white child growing up in a majority or exclusively black family and community, would black people view that person as black or white? This is a question that needs thinking about before answering. Would they deem that person to still be the beneficiary of white privilege?

So, is it skin color or culture that is the real factor here? And no, I am not saying "white culture" is more beneficial. As one commenter said, whites don't really have a "culture." Any culture I have comes from my native language, and probably also because it is the target of oppression and attempted eradication.

I think that if this "born-white-raised-black" person were to, as per the example, walk in the streets of New York, and runs across the author of this article, the outcome would be the same. And therein lies the brunt of this issue.

You see, this is, to me the fundamental issue: That black people simply won't ever forgive white people for, well, being born white. That the innocent is made guilty by no cause of their own. How is that different? Then the question follows: Is not the exact same wrong, at least in spirit, at least philosophically, being kept alive by black people? I fully understand that black people do not own slaves. But many black tribes have own slaves and chattel. For centuries.

You see, I am from Africa. And I see this happening. Isn't there, perhaps, validity behind the accusation of spite? Perhaps the spite is wholly understandable. But to deny it exists is ridiculous.

And to deny that blacks would act in exactly the same way, were the roles historically reversed, is equally ridiculous, as this is happening, in reality, right now.

One might say "just deserts." But then you can wrong. When you replicate a wrong, you are as guilty of it as the one who perpetrated it before you. And history is simply to far in the distant past (and too diverse) for any black person to unequivocally state that in no time in the history of their "race" their "race" did not do the exact same thing to other "races" and were not subsequently the recipients of privilege of some kind.

Now, is one receiver of privilege better than another receiver of privilege? That is an important question to answer. Of course, we might say "Hey, these are modern times, we now know better." But looking forward might our distant ancestors not say we were backward? And looking back, does the same not apply?

To me, yes, race is a social construct. Yes, money is a social construct. But there are overriding social constructs that are biologically based. Namely things like survival. Like competition. Like dog eat dog. And won't that exist as long as humans (or any other kind of animals) do?

Should we not rather be brutally honest and say "I am as guilty of being the recipient or centuries-down-the-line beneficiary of some privilege my ancestors had over their competitors."

Should we not admit that it is, in the end, a roll of the dice. That there is no real, biological reason why, currently, "white" is the currency du jour, and if the dice rolled in a different direction, the roles would have been perfectly reversed, and "black" might as easily have been the currency of privilege?

So what can be done? Is rubbing unsought-for privilege in the faces of those who were never party to oppression and had no choice in being the recipients of such inherited privilege the solution? Is "making them aware of" their privilege and asking them to habitually "check their privilege" going to level the playing field? I think not. I simply don't think that is how nature works.

No. I think that black people should understand that I did not participate in the oppression of black people. In fact, personally, I was jailed and beaten by apartheid police twice, in 1992 for anti-apartheid actions. I am not saying that what I went through even remotely resembles or compares to what people went through (if they survived) during Apartheid. But it does mean one thing: I am not guilty of it.

And telling me that I should somehow make recompense for the privilege I may have purely due to my skin color is both impossible and wrong. What is it, exactly, that I should do? I did not ask to be born white, as little as someone asked to be born black. Should I live guilty? No. I am not guilty for the purposes of your satisfaction. As little as you are for mine.

Or are you asking me to give privilege (the very thing you say is wrong) based on skin color to black people?

Do you see why we stand confused and do not understand what it is you actually want?

"You'd have a much better chance of getting a job interview if you changed your name to Sarah." Maybe true if you were once a white man. Diversity hires are the most difficult job hr folks are asked with.
@126 Ooof, I am sorry, but the author's "clarification" on Facebook reeks of as much ignorance of the original article.
"1) While the flow of racial identity can only go one way (white people can become black but black people can't become white) the flow of gender identity goes multiple ways"

Black people can't become white? What colour was Michael Jackson when he died? This argument holds no water. Or is she suggesting that a person born black (in America) will suffer from systematic racism and thus never really know what it's like to be white even if they bleach their skin and physically become white? But this logic would void her argument that white people can become black, so...

"2) While a white person who becomes black retains the bulk of their privilege and indeed can more easily move to the higher eschelons of black society (RD becoming the head of the NAACP and a college professor with absolutely zero qualifications for example), when people transition genders, they give up absolutely huge amounts of privilege"

If I recall correctly, being black is generally a less privileged position in American society and to become black would be to, indeed, give up huge amounts of privilege. Was it Dolezal's 'original' whiteness the thing that made it possible to move into the higher echelons of black society? Perhaps. Perhaps because she never suffered the systemic racism experienced by black people she was more likely to graduate from high school, get a college degree, etc. But perhaps it also had something to do with her perceived blackness and passion for black culture. Alongside any inherent white privilege in her identity, the people who hired her in white-ass Spokane were probably operating on the racist assumption that "She's black so she has authority to speak on — née, teach — black culture, despite her lack of credentials."

At the heart of Dolezal's deception is also self-interest. If she could acknowledge that, I think I'd have a lot more respect for her. Because if Dolezal's intention was to expose the fluidity of race and liberate blackness from racial oppression, wouldn't she be honest from the beginning that she was born and enculturated as a white person? Dolezal never acknowledged her whiteness until it was exposed; she even went so far as to find a fake black dad, braid her hair, and tan to the point of "passing". Add the fact that she used the belief that she was black to profit in the form of scholarships, teaching positions, and a leadership position in the NAACP, and the ridiculousness of her book's conceit is made all the more so. This book is a PR move intended to salvage her career. And you know what, I don't even begrudge her for that, since anyone would probably do the same - the issue remains, however, that she has tried to escape the fallout of one lie by adding yet another layer of lies to her identity. I do believe that Dolezal was the victim of abuse as a child, and for that reason I feel that, in the beginning, joining a different race on the basis of that race's historical oppression did feel like a coping strategy for her. But there comes a point when one becomes an adult, understands the nuances of race well enough to see that National Geographic's fetishization isn't a great basis of understanding of blackness, and acknowledges that the oppression of familial abuse cannot be 100% conflated with the historical racial oppression of black identity. I don't blame Dolezal as a child for coming up with a strategy to cope with abuse; I do blame the adult for not only failing to understand these distinctions and take ownership of her own history, but for using an ignorant association between her personal pain and the oppression of an entire race of people to launch a career that is, like the history of the West since colonialism, built upon the backs of black people.
I found this article to be incredibly lacking in depth. The interviewer spent over 3 hours with the subject, and yet we have very few quotations from either person. What was said in all that unreported time? We'll never know. Instead there are countless interjections about how the interviewer felt before, during, and after the interview; the piece is more illuminating on the interviewer than on the subject. The questions that are reported are banal. They offer nothing that hasn't already been discussed or questioned, and they do not try to investigate anything deeper than the interviewer's own philosophy.

Most egregious is the projecting of the interviewer's emotions onto the subject. It's fine to describe the quality of someone's voice or the quickness to which someone responds, but to try to ascribe some sort of emotion or intention behind that is deceptive. When she leads off the article at length with how disgusted she is with the subject, how does she expect any of us to believe the interview went down as she says? The piece is dripping with bias. Bias is not always bad; it can lead one to asking some very pointed and detailed questions. But the interviewer doesn't do this, or at least chooses not to report on these if she had. Her biggest "Q"uestion turned out to be nothing more than a statement of the interviewer's own philosophy. If the subject has never answered the question, you have to at least explore if maybe the question is a bad one: if someone doesn't hold my personal philosophy, does the question still make any sense?

This article feels like it was done to try to be a "gotcha" piece. At around 2 years late, it just seems like trying to kick someone when she's down. I understand this was a job, but really, if you are going to do such a poor job, maybe pass on it so that someone with more skill can conduct an interview and write an article that actually adds to the discussion rather than rehashing what everyone has already said before.
164: You made a great argument but seem to miss the fact that the majority of children have suffered trauma well into adulthood. It's not like there's some neat point as you become an adult where suddenly the trauma just fades away and you have clarity. That doesn't happen without a lot of self-awareness/help and very few people attain it. Also racial fluidity works with every single race in the United States except for Black people. It's the Mormon church after all that accepted the very very dark skin Fijian people as "priests and as as human beings" until the late 70s yet they wouldn't except Black Americans. Now in 2017 Cis Black liberals like Henry Louis Gates (using Mormon birth records...). demand that ability to go back-and-forth and self identify the way Latinos, Native Americans, middle eastern, Asians be DENIED to Whites AND Blacks. Dumb white liberals fall right now in line with this David Duke mind set. Gates for instance has largely made his fame on outing people like Antole Broyard that wanted racial fludity in their life when it was illegal to the highest law. He goes back and finds their history and make sure that their descendants are labeled "black" until all the eternity. It's absolutely gross. It's like academic enforced apartheid or something. Gates et al want to poison young people with their internalized white supremacy. If Rachel wanted to become a black person and move across the stupidity of the colorline which today is enforced largely by Cis black people like the author, then she made the only choice in the manner she chose. Also remember that it's only because of recent extreme and detailed ability to trace ancestry that we know that she doesn't have any black ancestery herself. In the 70s nobody would've questioned her. If she could provide one branch or one person then we would never have heard about her and there would be no out cry. She'd be EMBRACED FOR HER BLACKNESS LOL! Because the majority of cis black liberals people are obsessed with maintaining and enforcing the vile white supremacist created one drop rule. It's perfectly fine if millions of White people claim to have Native American ancestry which 90% of the time is complete fiction or Iron eyes Cody who is completely European passes and then First Nations accept into a tribe or even Johnny Otis. Otis always said he was black despite being of Greek descent. He felt that because he was a big part of the black community in the 30s and 40s and was going to be cast out of the white Bay Area community (the Bay Area was very segregated back then) marrying a black woman that he was simply just be going to become black. There really isn't much difference with Rachel's views. I think if he were alive today probably defend her.
Is Rachel Dolazal pretending to be black much different than Bruce Jenner pretending to be a woman? Or for that matter people in Bellevue pretending to be Napoleon?
I wish the interviewer had seen the larger point about the photo of the two women, a powerful image of what appears to be a biracial child bringing the two women together through him.
Thank you Ijeoma Oluo for a most insightful interview and commentary. I agree with you about the white privilege that allows a white woman to transform herself into a black woman. and that is not the same as "passing." Not at all. However, many of the commenters here seem fixated on two thing about Rachel--possible mental illness or identity issues--rather than seeing the long range impact of Western Dualism coupled with a sheltered, fundamentalist upbringing as being at the root of her inability to see herself. Let me explain....

Western Dualism posits that the world is either/or. Either you are good or bad, rich or poor, etc. From what Rachel says, she didn't grow up rich, but she perceives all whites as being born with as she says "silver spoons in their mouths." Didn't she ever meet any poor white folks? Apparently not. Coupled with her fundamentalist Christianity, Western Dualism more than likely taught that she and her family were among the blessed and by being blessed were never really poor. They took in black childre not just elevate their financial circumstances but to also bring them into their lovely blessed Christian home. Of a more insidious nature, the Dolezals may even have believed that blacks could never make it into Heaven because of their condition--blackness--yet maybe the Dolezals, those good white people, could make their life on earth better.

This sort of thinking by dualistic fundamentalist Christians has been from the early days of the U.S. part of the fuel for slavery and for the racism that keeps blacks and whites separate and unequal. As long as there are people who believe that God has ordained that one group of people is inferior because of their skin color and seeming inability to get out of their impoverished circumstances (because they are not blessed) then we will have people who will continually deny that there is a problem with racism in the U.S.

Likewise, we will also have people who fail to see that there are a whole lot of poor whites in the U.S. and that their economic circumstances sometimes blocks out any ability to take advantage of white privilege, and puts them in the same economic bracket as poor blacks.Western Dualism coupled with Fundamentalist thinking again. Those poor whites, who see themselves merely as failed rich persons or as among the blessed whitefolks, will never see that they have more in common with blacks and other minorities than they do with people like the Trumps and Ryans and McConnells, who they seem to always vote into office.

Rachel, however, was perhaps never allowed to talk truthfully about her home situation--that even though she is white, she wasn't rich. She had to always be one of the blessed, one of the rich, one of God's chosen. When, in fact, she saw other whites who didn't live the way she did, and who had much more than she did. Seething anger, an inability to speak truth to power (the power being her parents and church) probably caused her quite a bit of distress. She got tired of being humble, home schooled, plain and white. She reminds me of the character in a Garrison Keillor story who comes home one day to discover that his family is really Italian Remember at one time, to midwesterners of Scandinavian descent, that Italians were a different race--with, as Keillor mentions, all the emotional passions and good food that were lacking in his own Scandinavian home. Maybe to the cloistered Rachel Dolezal, the only way to have the emotional expression and perhaps pity for growing up poor was to become black. When the good/bad, rich/poor white/black dichotomy of Western Duality is coupled with a bloodless, blind fundamentalist Christianity endemic in the U.S., and it doesn't meet the needs of a kid who may have more going on than that kind of duality can fence in and castrate, some serious weirdness is bound to occur. Whitefolks used to just bemoan interracial marriage and look askance at those of us who socialize and worship outside our color boundaries. No one ever expected someone would go beyond all of that to completely transform herself physically as much as culturally. Then again we've never see someone so angry at enforced Christian sanctioned dualism as Rachel Dolezal.

Bodhi "we've never seen someone so angry at enforced Christian dualism then Rachel Dolezal" Really?
I found this article poorly written, angry, and simple. Someone like RD should have been interviewed by someone who understands the human condition, and could objectively view her and her stranger situation. This article was not informative, and did not dig deep into the collective of this woman. The writer is simply argumentative the whole article. It is an opinion piece between her and her friends. I would have enjoyed an interview by someone coming into the room with an open-mind, not preconceived hatred toward a troubled person. The whole article was an excuse for the writer to assert her "authentic blackness" while victimizing herself. All the while spending a few articles explaining why she was too good for the interview, well even if times are tough she could have turned it down. What ever did happen to objective reporting? This was a cry for help on how simple minded the writer was, certainly won't be reading her excuse of a book, or RD's for that matter. Both awful writers.
Many of us recognized Rachel Dolezal as the narcissist who used white privileged to hijack real discussions about race. Thank you, Ijeoma Oluo, for confirming that she is exactly what she appears.
I read every single comment to this story, which in all honesty, were more enlightening than the article itself. Personally, I believe that the author had an opportunity and a platform to get at the heart of "something", but she squandered it with her blatant disdain for the subject. She walked into the interview with complete bias and there wasn't a smidgen of curiosity to get to the heart of the Big Questions(s). I.O. had her own Big Q, but it wasn't mine and I doubt that it was for most of the readers. There was too much "me, me, me", which is frankly what R.D. is guilty of, but the author skates past her own narcissism and relishes in it, rather than find the true story and discover the unanswered questions that us readers have. My goodness, I.O. spent 4 hours with R.D. and she didn't feel that it was necessary to even mention that R.D. had 4 adopted black siblings, let alone expound upon, what seems to me, a horrible childhood. It was a ruined piece from the beginning, and the author had an uncanny ability to make me want to sympathize with R.D., when I had none. She went into another person's HOME and didn't even try to understand why R.D. did what she did. She was there on a mission, and that was to make her subject feel small. Maybe R.D. shouldn't be given any deference to what she did, but how would I know as a reader who had little knowledge about this matter before reading this piece. Finally, it's disgusting to me that she describes Spokane as Lily-White, like it's something sinister. Imagine a white journalist going to East Orange, NJ and describing the city as "coal black". I.O. writes well, but she can do better as a journalist.
177 DOLEZAL & The Unexplored Perspective
In an alternate universe (as in a Vonnegut or George Saunders short story), a decade from now The Library of America will publish a classy two volume work composed of RD's book and IO's book, with all these comments published as an Addendum in between the two.
Love the article. Bottom line in my mind, is that she is white period, and as being white has never experienced the being a black women in America, which is what you were attempting to explain to her, and which she totally blocked out.
If Rachel could prove one scrap of Black ancestry and everything was exactly as it was excepting that she was able to prove some verifiable Black ancestry three, four, five or six generations ago, her haters would be magically OK with it and so would the interviewer. That says more about their embrace and obsessiveness over whiteness and white supremacy than it does about Dolezal's. What's going to be great is when someone who is completely Norwegian looking but with distant verifiable black ancestry does a Dolezal. That will help destroy the stupidly White supremacist and out moded views of US racial classifications for all time. Until then the self appointed cis black liberal elite like Oluo, Yaba Blay and Gates will continue to harm multi racial, trans and mentally ill people with their grotesque privileges blackness whisperers for the White controlled liberal media.
It's strange that IO and others smugly insist how laughable it is that RD could ever be taken for black, mixed race, or anything other than "very, very white." Her career trajectory clearly shows that she was perceived as black or mixed by entire communities of both black and white people for years.
Excellent article. Truly well done.

The people who are attacking the author, really don't get it.
PLEASE. EVERYONE. Read true narrative journalism by a scholar of "passing" and race studies. This piece written by white/multi racial scholar A.D. Powell blows this joke of a bitter abusive essay/interview out of the water. It deserves to be published in the New York Times. It's 9 million times better than what this writer could ever produce:…

Racism exists, race does not.
My white privilege consists of growing up in the projects, walking to the store and buying food with food stamps. My white privilege is so desirable, who wouldn't want to work all of their lives paycheck to paycheck until they're 70 years old. Ijeoma Oluo, my white privileges are really paying off. I do although appreciate how you see through Rachael's fake pedigree. I question your self motivated countless black supremacy quotes, as if I should feel embarrassed by the pigment of my skin. I don't and I'll continue to judge and identify others by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. Those who frown upon capitalism should stop using modern day technologies, throw out their washing machines, stop driving cars, get the hypocrisy? Move to a 5th world country if you hate capitalism so much. Move to an island and only invite people of your own ethinicity, that way you find some new evil to victimize yourself with.
I think ijeoma is a bitter person. She has a huge chip on her shoulder and hates whites in general but I can see why Rachel brought out her anger. She got busted and will tell a 1000 lies to cover 77 lies she has already told
It's easier to be black than white in America now. There is way much more free shit and advancement for moderately capable blacks than there is for whites (or asians for that matter). RD has figured that out and it scares the shit out of black people. If she is given respectability, the gravy train is over.
"the inherited trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage of racial oppression" - this article was written by and for Americans, but there are way more humans in the world than Americans, and there is a real advantage in being someone from the 'outside' looking in. I am from the UK, where similar racial hatred happens within the population, but whose black folks are largely from a Caribbean background, where there is not the same stigma & fury about slavery as is the history of the US - yes it happened there too, but those countries have achieved their independence many years ago, their leaders are all black (often lighter-skinned due to the hierarchies that developed) and there is a total difference in attitude to life in those places. Looking at all this it is obvious to me that the existing situation in the US is directly caused by the fact that blacks have been prevented from rising in sufficient numbers into the upper strata of life. Those who get there (thank God for a black President!) do manage to contribute their worth into society, and there are a myriad of people now doing just that, without leaving their 'blackness' behind. I think this article's author has a problem with her existence in being an American (I assume) who believes her reality is African-ness
& if she leaves that behind she is somehow a traitor. So she clings to that instead of embracing the country she is living in - what she sees as the enemy - the 'white' world
That is a very simplistic way of viewing her status - but I think points out how very complicated this actually IS. We are all a very mixed bundle of beliefs & likes/dislikes & trying to find our way in the quagmire, and this author suggests that a person must be 'true' to their racial origins & does not take into account the reality that there are acceptable ways to behave & unacceptable, good attitudes & bad and all this trying to BE African because that is what your truth is, is actually a black-American furious rebellion against what is perceived as that other 'white' culture. Why not try to relax & be/do what seems the best for the situation, in honesty, without labels & black/white identity. I think Rachel is a confused person, and a bit silly, altho I can see why she did this as a rebellion against her parents, and then preferred the society she hid in. She does not say she benefited by being 'light-skinned' - which she actually did - because within black society you will be admired for that as a woman - especially within Caribbean cultures, and among older people - yes I have lived in the Caribbean so I know what the facts are there. As an outsider I feel sorry for those blacks who have not been able to rise up above the racism embedded into the culture of the country - but many HAVE and that is why there is hope. You cannot solve anything by being angry about it - I'm white & I am listening, but I would like this author to tell me what she thinks I should actually do about the situation - I will sell her my house, I would employ her, I will mingle with black or other 'minority' people and discuss all this stuff with them without the 'knickers in a twist' of a lot of whites, and I will argue any point on fairness within society. Look at black people who have risen to the top of their fields - many more now than ever - I am not trying to undercut them, I feel proud of their achievements but the one sure thing I will say is - most of them have the educated & relaxed minds that only comes from rising above the fray, seeing all that muck for what it is & plowing forward to take their places at the top of the country's hierarchy. Pain may
happen thru opther people's bigotry & ignorance, but for all those like that there are a lot of supporters happy to see you rise - that is how Obama happened. The total epitome of class !
Vcgrain: Go on to twitter and put "Dolezal and Jenner" into the search engine. Hundreds of Black Americans are defending Dolezal and asking why Jenner is a gender busting hero yet Dolezal can be abused unabated. AND No. NO. You don't want a talentless author like Ljeoma Olulo who spouts pseudo science, unverified sociology and who openly hates Whites "to tell you how to act" aka poison you. This author is scared because Rachel Dolezal is another nail in the coffin of the one drop rule. She coolly judges features and hair textures as if she has some moral authority over racial classifications. Whites like you fall in line. Why? THAT is dangerous not a woman with self tanner on food stamps. Fake journalists like this interviewer depend heavily on White liberal stupidity. And having spent many years in the United Kingdom and can attest that you should not step down to the United States way of thinking about race. It is very sick. We are all poisoned. You are about two decades ahead and always have been. That's why Black scholars went to London as far back as the interwar period study to Africa because you couldn't anywhere in the US.
Why can't national Geographic do an article on an African tribe without it being "White Supremacy?"

The tribes exist, they live a certain way, why is reporting on that "White Supremacy"?

No doubt, white supremacists are on the way up right now, and their BS needs to be countered, but if we label everything "white supremacy" it isn't going to help much.
I wish to respond to this article as maturely as possible.

I am a black man who socially, without my own effort, passes for white or something other than black. I am not biracial. I have two black parents.

I have yet to find another man who truly has shared my experience, although I have briefly met a few women who have, this being a result of society's facsination with feminine racial and sexual exploitation.

With that, I have come across enough instances where, yes, I benefit from white privilege. I have no doubt about that. But, this is where I find myself more sympathetic to Rachel than the writer of this article.

Rachel, despite her selfishness, did give up a lot, to appropriate this identity of hers. And that, although may still lead the author to speak out about Rachel's exploiting her own white privilege, by passing for black... here is where I differ...

Rachel cannot benefit from white privilege anymore. She lost that when she was outed. Now of course, the outing was despite her efforts to cover it up and therefore, yes, she's in my view opportunistic.

But the author's breakdown of white privilege and white supremacy, in my view, borders on paranoia. If only because, any choice Rachel makes, will inevitably be a result of racial white privilege. Anything she does will be suspect and reanalyzed as being selfishly motivated. And any efforts to break that cycle is simply a result of a cynical ignorance. She wants to even break the cycle for selfish reasons.

In the end, Rachel has been painted in this article as a dangerous trojan horse. So I wonder, when she taught, did she somehow manipulate the students to believe in white supremacy ideology in some clever surreptitious way?

Again, I am not defending her deception, nor her tactics. Someone else should have been hired. But who hired her? Was it a board of white directors? NAACP in spokane, WA.

I've been in enough situations where my own motivations and intentions are questioned because I was believed to be "not black" and not real. All of a sudden, it all changes, just by the accuser or the critic believing I am actually black (that is of black ancestry, through slavery, and to Africa, by a substantial level).

This article on Rachel has ignored the fact she has children, she's trying to explain how as a child she viewed the pictures in the National Geographic. This is important. The people in those pictures are real people, regardless of how Nat Geo portrays them. Because to some degree, there is a capacity to see, oh that's an actual person, not a prop for a anthropological story.

Rachel has also become a prop for a social story. From this article, if I were to accept it all, I would think Rachel is so deranged that she would suffer just to experience "what its like" in some absurd fetish. But I can't help but see that she really will not go back to being "white" as in denying this identity she appropriated. And that reminds me of someone who is truly trying to figure out how to break free of white supremacy.

This reminds me of a story of a man in Louisiana who was raised black, but foudn out his parents, back in the 50s had both abandoned their whiteness because they couldn't live with the atrocity of it in those times. So this man, raised black, with his Spanish/Indian mixed features married a black woman, had black children. Wayne Joseph.

I get it, the difference is, he didn't know. But when he found out, he was not relieved, and I don't think Rachel is willing to escape to unquestioned whiteness that she could.

Why didn't she change her name to Sarah? You asked. It made no sense to change her name to Diallo for the reasons she indicated. But that's just it, what would a reasonable reason be? Knowing she can't even face it... what do you see? It appears a woman who is so clearly wanting to be black that even her mindset to "change her name" escapes her to use Sarah.

Her mindset just doesn't strike me as a white woman swimming in another type of white privilege, but a white woman who, despite her faults, and yes those faults are real (esp. making her the center by joining NAACP as president), who is trying despite herself to abandon it.

Not sure, this is just how I see it so far
This is funny.
@#52: get an ad blocker and quit complaining. It's amazing to me the number of people who won't just install a simple ad block but will continue to bitch about it. Websites have ads, that's how they make money and continue to publish.
There, I did most of the work for you, now STFU and let the adults talk about the article.
My fellow David. I learned more from your classy comment than this interview! Thank you!
I found the article to be insightful and illuminating in a number of ways. My perspective is shaped by my experiences as a white CIS female who has also enjoyed the privilege of further opportunities of education. Here is Australia we have our own appalling track record around race, the intergenerational trauma caused by invasion, genocide, stolen land, stolen children, stolen wages, and perpetuated by a lack of understanding of our nation's history and today the fear and hatred towards people of different races.
I am interested in how people are comparing the RD issue to ones of gender identity. My personal take (as a white CIS woman) is that these are two very different issues and the conflation of them does nothing towards addressing either of them respectfully or productively. RD's actions remind me of a recently disgraced "wellness blogger" here in Australia called Bella Gibson, who claimed to have healed herself from cancer using clean eating. She profited financially from this, but seemed to enjoy the attention and validation more. Even after being caught out she perpetuates an air of ambiguity about her health, and history still seeking more opportunities for money, but mostly attention / fame. She has caused harm in claiming to be something she is not "a cancer survivor", she may admire their courage, celebrate their victories, but she has not lived that experience.
Wow now Rachel is being compared to some blogger who faked cancer? Did you post that so you could win the approval of black pro hypo-descent liberals? Guilt about being from one of the most racist white populations in the world? I dealt with your white population's racism myself and it is pretty hard-core so it wouldn't surprise me. You're not researching Dolezal you are being told to accept this interviewer's bias as "the final word." Unlike yourself Dolezal grew up with, lived with and conflicted with black people in a real world real consequences social space. She escaped religious fanatic parents as well. Apparently her mental health issues aren't to be pitied the way every other public figure who've made mistakes have been. She has Black siblings, married a black man and has mixed race children and a black son she adopted whereas the majority of mixed race public figures have all married non Black men. This author conveniently leaves all of this out because she's terrified that Rachel Dolezal is another nail in the coffin of the sacred one drop rule. Also the NAACP, despite firing her did not denounce her. She's done a lot more for black people then Kaitlyn Jenner has ever done for transgender people. Jenner is proud she voted for Trump and lied to multiple partners. You do know that when trans people lie to their cis partners that the latter also end up mental health issues and trust issues afterwards?
But I've always loved National Geographic! I never knew that it was oppression porn! I guess I'm racist now...
What more is there to say about a deluded, demented, delusional crazy white bitch who can't get enough black dong, that hasn't been said already in Heidi Klum, Nicole Simpson and Joy Behar's diaries? Another piece of an "anti-racist narrative" dipped in cutting edge...(eye-roll),
I think people are making this more complicated than it needs to be. She's not mentally ill, she's not a black woman trapped in a white woman's body. She's a con artist. She conned her way through college (though she sure hollered 'white' when it was convenient for her), she conned her way into respectable jobs and community positions she could never have achieved as her white self, and she did it all in a town where she wouldn't be called out. Try pulling that off in Detroit or Chicago.
What's most stunning about this inarticulate article is the unnecessary vitriol and personal attacks leveled at the subject, by the "writer". She doesn't attempt to understand Rachel or even, more interestingly, understand her clear vitriol toward Rachel, instead she embarks on an ugly smear campaign that never brings anything new to the table in the case of the Public Vs. Rachel. The author tells us smugly that she "surprises" herself by accepting this interview, yet her interview doesn't attempt to explore that, or worse tell us anything about this journey that is actually surprising. What follows is pitbull journalism, myopic views, and a lack of intellectual thought on or about the subject. We readers deserve more.

"To be clear, I'm not saying that the black community is obligated to recognize her as black. Similarly, my grandpa isn't obligated to recognize pre-op "Alice", having broad shoulders and speaking in a falsetto voice, as a woman."

So you're saying no one is obliged to treat black people and white people equally, nor women and men equally?

Because I've seen plenty of ciswomen that look like men, plenty of cismen that look like women, plenty of androgynous people, and plenty of people where I couldn't tell their race or that looked like a different race than they were born into.

But if he bases gender and race purely on how a person looks to him... your grandpa will refuse to recognize a ciswoman with broad shoulders and falsetto voice as a woman?
Very well written. Someone who came to mind was Michael Jackson. Although well received by many cultures, not many would consider him all-together sane.
LT17/200: You do realize that if this were the 1970s she could have done this and been praised by the Black community because ancestral records were unable to be accessed. Detroit needs someone like Dolezal who cares because people like this author and the sacred Obamas sure aren't helping that city. You do realize that if there were one person of verifiable Black ancestry in her tree ten , thirty generations back that this Walter Plecker interviewer would have applied the "One drop rule" and said "ok, Rachel Dolezal is Black" ?? ljeoma Oluo hates Whiteness, tells white liberals how to think and then applies the principals of White supremacy to race.
I read the article and also heard the interview today with Oluo on KUOW's The Record and was really surprised by the effect it had on me. As a WOC I wanted Dolezal to get the take down she deserves, especially if was happening at the hands of an extremely intelligent, articulate activist in our community. This story, however, left me feeling more pity for Dolezal than anything else. At what point does one have to factor in the possibility of mental illness? Clearly the choices this woman has made in her life point to something bigger at play than a passion for racial fluidity. As her world crumbles around her she adopts a child and then doubles down on her con by changing her name to something so distinct that she will surely be recognized in her new community? This whole story just went from absurd to really sad and I just hope someone is looking out for those kids.
This is the stupidest and most racist story or whatever you want to call it that I have ever read. If the tables were turned it would be a conservative, right wing nut job that was said to have wrote it wanting their chance two seconds of fame. Get a life lady and be proud to be who God Mad you a white woman !
I prefer We not call It "White Privilege": that DOES imply what Whites have is NOT a right ( and denies the IGNORING the human-ness of Us Non-Whites . . . . )
Actions will ALWAYS speak louder than words: ergo, the Global White-Non-White Gap in Wealth . . . . --- .
I just wonder, is the author projecting?
15 minutes up. Only the eclairs and croinuts care now Iljeoma.
What was the point of bringing up Idaho?
This is a hit piece. Nothing more than a sloppy and malicious attempt to deconstruct this woman when she is down. Ijeoma Oluo’s claims that Rachel Dolezal is so obviously white; “pretending” to be black with a cheap caribbean style hair flies in the face of reality. The truth is that Rachel Dolezal successfully passed as black for a very long time, is deeply sincere and entrenched in her identity, has had a prolific career as an activist and author, and is also an accomplished artist. She has worked very hard to fight for the homeless, the poor, and for equal rights and for people of color. Is this author so perfect that she is entitled to be the proverbial judge, jury and executioner of Rachel Dolezal? One thing is clear, and that is that Ijeoma Oluo feels that Rachel Dolezal is a threat to her that must be taken out. She describes Rachel Dolezal, as a ”really, really white” person who is “turning herself into a very, very, very, very light-skinned black woman”. It is worth noting that in a side by side comparison both Ijeoma Oluo and Rachel Dolezal appear to have very similar complexions. Perhaps the threat lies within, for this author. Does Rachel Dolezals very existence open the door for questioning Ijeoma Oluo’s own racial identity as well? Or perhaps personal identity is much too important for all of us than to simply allow perfect strangers to tell us who we are.
Good minded people have a responsibility to do the right thing and stand up against intolerance like this horrendous piece of trash by Ijeoma Oluo . Rachel Dolezal is a good person who has devoted her life to good causes, and although she may have some troubles she not deserve this kind of irresponsible, foaming at the mouth take down by some HACK writer who's only claim to fame is being a fat black woman with a bachelors degree in Political Science. Fortunately Ijeoma Oluo does not speak for all black people. People like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Sharpton, along with NAACP have made public statements in support of Rachel Dolezal.
Really enjoyed reading this. Your perspective is obviously informed by very different experiences and knowledge than my own but that made it all the more interesting. I had to re-read one paragraph though because it confused me:

"There was a moment before meeting Dolezal and reading her book that I thought that she genuinely loves black people but took it a little too far. But now I can see this is not the case. This is not a love gone mad. Something else, something even sinister is at work in her relationship and understanding of blackness."

Why are these assessments being regarded as inherently contradictory? Aren't you basically saying that first you saw genuine love gone a little too far and then you saw something even sinister at work? Most plausible and satisfying explanation to me is that you were right both times.

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