By Ewurama Appiagyei-Dankah
To Members of the Black Community who insist on supporting Rachel Dolezal:
What Rachel Dolezal did was wrong. Entirely and completely wrong.
Her support for the black community is wonderful, and the fact that she is so passionate about the issues facing the black community is something that I, without a doubt, appreciate. However, the fact of the matter is that she could have been as supportive, and possibly been even more useful to our cause, if she had not done so under the guise of blackness.
Many who stand to defend her are raising the fact that the NAACP was founded by white people, which is accurate. However, the founders of the NAACP did not pretend to fully understand the issues that black people in America face. They did not found the organization while pretending to be something they were not; they did it as themselves, and look how much they accomplished, as the NAACP is an organization that still stands today. Rachel Dolezal did not do this.
She led her chapter of the NAACP while acting as a black woman. She portrayed herself as a victim of hate crimes—hate crimes that she appeared to perpetrate. She spoke of issues that she dealt with growing up as a black woman that she did not experience, nor will she ever experience, because she is WHITE.
And at the end of the day, that is, for me, the worst part. Rachel Dolezal can be white. She has the luxury of returning to her whiteness and its accompanying privilege at any moment she desires. She can get rid of her locs and wear her long, blonde hair the way it naturally grows. She can stop getting dark tans and return to her natural complexion.
I do not have the ability to wake up in the morning and rid myself of my melanin. When my braids are taken out, the hair that grows out of my head is as kinky and curly as can be; I cannot get rid of it. When I meet people, the first thing they see is my dark skin, and they may have preconceived ideas about what I am like or how I behave because of nothing more than that.
Rachel can get rid of her blackness and all the baggage that comes with being black at her leisure—we cannot. (And a quick aside for all those making claims that she is “transracial”, can you be transracial? If you are in a situation where your blackness is a problem, can you drop your appearance and say that you are “actually white”, so as to sway someone’s opinion of you? If you tried to tell people you were white, would they believe you? I didn’t think so.)
Additionally, Rachel’s “blackness” and all those claiming that she (or they) were born in the #WrongSkin seems to come from the idea that certain behaviors and personality traits are associated with specific races, which is completely false. Black people, and people of all races, have personalities and characters as varied as the stars. You cannot “feel a certain race” inside, because in asserting that you feel a different race, you assume that
A.) If members of another race could, hypothetically, “feel” a certain way, you know how that feels, and
B.) Members of the other race behave a certain way, which is stereotyping.
There are no feelings or behaviors associated with specific races, and to say that there are is ludicrous.Some are also claiming that a possible reason that she tried to pass for black was that she wanted to see what black women and black people experience in this nation, like the book “Black Like Me”. But that raises the question – why are people so loath to just listen to people who are ACTUALLY black when they talk about their experiences? Why did a book like “Black Like Me”, need to be written by a white person for there to be validation of everything that people who are actually black say? These questions are some that we should think critically about when we laud non-black people for discussing the experiences of black people in our nation.
And don’t get me wrong: I am glad that people of other races are “down with the cause” and want to support the black community in the midst of the struggles that we face. I am happy that they want to help and learn more about stopping anti-blackness. However, I cannot, and will not support a white woman being an ally while deceiving those who she works with and for. By using blackface, which has been and is still used as a way to mock black people in our nation, Rachel undermined everything she tried to do for our cause. She could have done everything without the dishonesty. I cannot and will not support Rachel Dolezal, and nor should you.