Don’t buy what Rachel Dolezal is selling
The newly named Nkechi Amare Diallo’s mindset is misguided and dangerous
3:49 PM“I was born to two white parents, but I do have an authentic black identity.”
That’s what Rachel Dolezal told Dr. Phil in an episode that aired as part of the promotional tour for her new book In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.
By this point, we all know who this woman is. After she was outed as a white person heading up an NAACP chapter in Washington state, her stature rose to prominence in the U.S. when she deservedly became a target of ridicule. At this point, in trying to sell product and art to make a living, she was staring homelessness straight in the face. She’s gotten multiple platforms to spew this nonsense. England’s BBC Newsnight sat her down for an interview. She put her harmful rhetoric on full display, saying, “The idea of race is a lie.” First off, no it’s not. It might not have scientific merit at the core of its existence as anything more than phenotypical differences in humans, but that doesn’t make the effects of said construct any less real. Secondly, if that were the case, you wouldn’t be claiming to be black. Obviously.
Then, The New York Times decided to allow her to reply to reader questions on Facebook Live, for reasons that are still unclear. There, she dropped the word transracial, claiming to be such. In short order, here’s why that doesn’t make sense. When it comes to said matter, it is not a choice.
“The fundamental difference between Dolezal’s actions and trans people is that her decision to identify as black was an active choice, whereas transgender people’s decision to transition is almost always involuntary,” Meredith Talusan wrote for The Guardian in 2015. “Transitioning is the product of a fundamental aspect of our humanity – gender – being foisted upon us over and over again from the time of our birth in a manner inconsistent with our own experience of our genders. Doctors don’t announce our race or color when we are born; they announce our gender. People who are alienated from their presumed gender and define themselves according to another gender have existed since earliest recorded history; race is a medieval European invention.”
Or, in short, there’s no going both ways. Black folks cannot just declare themselves white because they make some cosmetic changes and start listening to Dave Matthews. Not to mention that if she were actually black, she would never have gotten this many chances to plead her mediocre case to various outlets around the world. Even the most respected of our women are routinely denigrated and insulted in public spaces, no matter what.
We’re not even going to get into the absurdity of her changing her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo (but not as her pen name. Yay, whiteness!). The most fundamental portion of her argument is demeaning when it comes to the African-American experience. What she’s essentially asserting is that all blackness is an act. On a basic level, this is where people’s issues with blackface come in. But in reality, it’s far more insidious than college kids painting their faces and saying “n—a” when they sing songs.
Her entire concept of transracialism is closer to what the white family is trying to achieve in the movie Get Out. The idea that blackness is just something you can wake up and feel and thus become is frightening. How little do you have to think of black people to feel like you can just decide it’s something you want to do? It’s the height of a supremacist’s logic. By deleting the experience of actual black people and erasing the years of societal abuse, conditioning and dehumanization we have endured, what you’re saying is being black is so easy that any white person could do it. It’s not just a ridiculous punchline to say you identify as black. It actively reinforces the idea that black people are lesser beings than others.
For her, it’s not enough to love, respect, nurture and support black culture. She’s got to steal it. In the film, the blind man who wants to steal the main character’s brain doesn’t even view himself as racist. Yet, the fact that they keep choosing black people to body-snatch is a clear sign of his ignorance to his own bigotry. Dolezal is no different. Blackness is thus presented as something that exists for the purposes of white taking.
In an interview with VICE News, which traveled to her home in Spokane, Washington, she lays out this terrifying vision while reminding the audience that a lawsuit alleging that one of her family members was sexually abused by another is how this whole situation blew up to begin with.
“What is whiteness or blackness? Or, you know, what does it mean to fall in between,” she says. “In what ways are we who we are? I’m not part of that. Owning, praising, living whiteness. That’s not me.” You could posit that by trying to help black people through her work, her lifestyle and her passion, she was actively making a choice to move away from whiteness as a power structure. But, frankly, she could have likely done a lot more to help others as an actual white person. That’s how privilege works.
At this point, it’s not enough to just say, “Don’t give her a platform” and expect her to go away. While she might be an extreme example, the root logic of her thinking is nothing short of dangerous. Black people have had enough stolen from them in this nation over centuries, so if someone is legitimately trying to rationalize a fake race through some level of science, that’s scary.
Killing, raping, jailing and trying to dishonor black folks is a tradition as old as America itself. But trying to steal our existence from the inside out is quite another. If the idea becomes accepted that somehow people can declare themselves black without connectivity to the problems that come with it, we’ll be setting ourselves up to be wiped out in plain sight, without even having to be removed.
We wouldn’t be the first group in America to suffer that fate, either.
Daily Dose: 5/1/17
Hasan Minhaj wins the weekend at White House correspondents’ dinner
2:23 PMIt was extremely busy last week and over the weekend. I filled in for Bomani Jones on The Right Time on ESPN Radio. Then on Sunday we did The Morning Roast, which was fun. Then this tweet destroyed my mentions.
The president is back at it. Monday, he released audio of an interview in which he exposed himself as being completely unaware of American history, which is shocking to exactly zero people. What continues to be surprising is how brazenly he just states things that are completely incorrect and seems to think that just saying them will make it so. Not the case. Andrew Jackson wasn’t alive for the Civil War. That’s a fact. Also, it’s extremely not OK to call Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” for multiple reasons.
Speaking of the president, he skipped the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Again, that came as no surprise. The annual event that turns D.C. into a raging zoo of celebrity and politics still went on, however, and it was probably better that he wasn’t present, as basically every single person who took the stage was there to let him know exactly how little they think of him. But comedian Hasan Minhaj was clearly the star of the show, stinging the media crowd with a scathing plea to do better while dropping some of the smartest jokes that event’s seen in years.
If you haven’t heard about the Fyre Festival, lucky you. Basically, Ja Rule and a guy whom many people consider to be a scam artist put together a week full of programming that was supposed to blow the festival circuit away in terms of scale, luxury and exclusiveness. All this came at price tags that got up into the tens of thousands of dollars. Seriously. Then, it completely fell apart. Literally. And people were stuck in the Bahamas with no food and no shelter. Total debacle. Now they’re getting sued for $100M, accused of fraud. Life comes at you fast.
The Big3 appears to officially be here. I have to admit, when this idea first came up, I didn’t exactly think it would last. Sure, Ice Cube was involved, but I figured he might lose interest or some other snag would come up that didn’t get it off the ground. I was WAY wrong about that. Over the weekend they league held its draft, which is pretty cool. It’s a 3-on-3 hoops league with former NBA stars, so I don’t know how much good basketball we’ll get, but it’ll certainly have star power. The top pick was Rashad McCants, which is … interesting.
Coffee Break: If you don’t know who Francesca Ramsey is, you will soon. The comedian and Comedy Central star is soon getting her own late night show, which is very special in America, as she’s a black woman. But with that opportunity comes a lot of pressure, never mind responsibility, to a certain extent. It won’t be easy, but we’re glad she’s there.
Snack Time: If you’re wondering, Rep. Maxine Waters is still about that action when it comes to talking about the commander in chief. She laid it out again over the weekend, calling him disgusting and disrespectful.
Dessert: This will make you laugh. Guaranteed.
Daily Dose: 4/28/17
LaVar Ball overplays his hand
11:42 AMWe all know how much President Donald Trump loves Twitter. It’s basically his main mode of expression, which is a tad concerning for the man leading the free world, but it is what it is at this point. The funny thing is that if you go back and read his history, there’s basically a tweet outlining a stance that is completely contradictory to what he’s doing now that he’s in office. It’s genuinely quite remarkable. That said, we’re nearing the 100-day mark, so let’s take a look back at that time in his social media feed.
The franchise of Dear White People holds an important space in the cultural landscape. The film, released in 2014, was an eye-opening look at what black college life can be like at predominantly white colleges, which is basically all of them that aren’t historically black universities. The film clearly made waves in the mainstream, mainly because of the title, which automatically put a lot of people off. They’re back with a new series for Netflix, which is a fantastic evolution for this story. We need this show.
If you’re wondering, Michelle Obama will not be running for office. It’s been a strange pipe dream for quite a few of her fans who seem to think, understandably, that she would make an excellent public official. But one would think family time would be a priority after eight years in the White House. Getting involved in an election is a time commitment that takes over your life — never mind doing the actual job. Can’t imagine she’s looking to uproot all that anytime soon. But she was more definitive than Chelsea Clinton is about it, recently.
LaVar Ball is finally dealing with the big boys. For all of the entertainment he’s provided from a media and meme standpoint, his antics are not looked upon well by major corporations. Which, ultimately, was everyone’s concern to begin with: that he might actually be hurting his children’s ability to earn money at this point. Well, that’s exactly what’s happened. Nike, Under Armour and Adidas have all said that they don’t want to sign Lonzo Ball, who could potentially be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Mega wow.
Coffee Break: The 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots is this week, which is kind of wild to think about. It feels like far longer ago. But from a media standpoint, that moment in history was made all the more intense by the fact that we had so much footage of everything. It was early in the 24-hour-news lifetime, and video really shaped a lot.
Snack Time: We use Slack at our office. Most people do. It’s a fun little chat system that, when utilized well, really can improve productivity. Why a dating service needs to be integrated with it, we have no idea.
Dessert: New Gorillaz. Get on it.
Daily Dose: 4/27/17
Gift Ngoepe breaks new ground in MLB
12:45 PMAll right, kiddos, the NFL draft is Thursday night, and if you’re looking for something to do in the hours leading up to it, The Morning Roast crew has you covered from 4-7 p.m. EST, filling in for Bomani Jones. For Friday tho? I have a surprise.
If you say you’re going to do something and you don’t, there’s an easy out. It’s called apologizing, and if you’re an earnest person, it’s really not impossible to do. Whether you mean it is a different discussion, but for the purposes of other people’s feelings, saying, “I’m sorry” can be a valuable resource for maintaining relationships. But that’s not how President Donald Trump rolls, alas. So when he said he was going to blow up NAFTA, well, Mexico and Canada were like, nah. Now, he just says his plan is delayed. Easier option: My bad.
Remember that situation with SheaMoisture from earlier this week? Controversies like that crop up because people don’t have a clear understanding of just how weaponized black hair is. So when a company that has been largely supported by black folks suddenly seems to turn on its base, people feel betrayed. Why? Because of things like what happened in Texas this week, where a kid was nearly suspended from school for having two freaking lines in his hair. You can’t fix fly, pleighboi.
Rick Ross is one of my favorite rappers of all time. Not because I’m superfond of his lyricism, though I do enjoy that, but because as a dude, he just strikes me as the kind of person whom I would want to be around, for various reasons. Now he’s on his health kick, and he’s letting the world know that seizures are not the move, if you can avoid them. He’s also got a new album out, but he made an appearance on Desus & Mero, and it might be the best interview they’ve ever done.
You all know how much I love baseball. You also know how much I enjoy the game being exposed to various new cultures so more people can play and enjoy the sport as I do. That said, Wednesday night in Pittsburgh was an incredible moment. For a quick backdrop, the Pirates earlier this week pitched Dovydas Neverauskas, the first Lithuanian-born player in the bigs. Then, on Wednesday night, Gift Ngoepe came into the game to play second base — and got a base hit in his first at-bat. He’s the first African player in the MLB, so, yeah, cue all the tears.
Coffee Break: Wednesday was a brutal day to be an ESPN employee. Many colleagues and friends lost their positions because of layoffs, and at the end of the day, nobody wants to see that. So salute to everyone who helped make this company a better place.
Snack Time: Today is Take Your Child To Work Day. We see all your fun pictures and goofy updates, but look, there is only one of these that matters. It is this one. You know this.
Dessert: I’m just going to go ahead and blindly be happy about this photo.