Does Rachel Dolezal have some splainin’ to do?

Does Rachel Dolezal have some splainin’ to do?

Some people think so.

Rachel Dolezal is the president of the Spokane branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She is also a professor of African American studies at Eastern Washington University. She has been passing herself off as mixed race with an African-American father for years, until she was outed as white by her parents this week. This has resulted in considerable controversy and twitter is on fire.

The NAACP issued a statement today that race is not a prerequisite for membership in the organization or a disqualifier and it does not appear that anyone in the Spokane branch is going to call for her to step down. Nevertheless, many people are wondering why she identifies as black.

I cannot help but think about Caitlyn Jenner and wonder if Rachel Dolezal believes she is a black person born with white skin.

I judge people by what they do. Acts matter to me and if she has been doing a good job, I support her.

She does not have anything to explain to me.

What do you think?

57 Responses to Does Rachel Dolezal have some splainin’ to do?

  1. Trained Observer says:

    The more I saw of Rachel, the more I disliked her true persona of opportunistic bureacrat with the bureau-buzz speak that often goes with it. Rather than say “I’ve always wished I were black” or “I’ve felt black for a long time” she has said “I identify as black.”

    So trendy in the trans world, and certainly an insult to transgenders everywhere .

    The real barfer, for me, was when she said she “didn’t have the agency” to do whatever she was babbling about as she failed to explain herself, and hinted that her bio parents weren’t her bio parents because no DNA test had ever been done. Come on, babes. .. .

    Rachel is history now, having resigned her NAACP position, not getting her university teaching contract renewed, and having been kicked off the police review board,

    Plus she’s been upstaged by the bowl-cut dufus who perpetrated the Charleston murders.

    She’ll have plenty of time now to hang out in tanning salons and get her hair fancied up. I will give her this: She looks better these days than as the washed-out white girl of old.

    But she hasn’t cut the muster with blacks or whites.

    I doubt she’ll be able to make a comeback as a person of prime-time/front page interest.

  2. Nef05 says:

    I have big problems with Dolezal. My problem is that she claimed an experience that she didn’t have. Mine. Blackness is not a costume you can don as a adult because you “feel” black. It is a lifetime of cumulative experiences beginning from birth. More than that it’s GENERATIONAL. It’s hot combs on Saturday nights before Black Church on Sunday. It’s learning to cook Sunday dinner at grandma’s elbow while hearing stories of our heritage. It’s hearing how grandma did day work during the depression to keep hearth and home, and hearing how grandpa was discriminated against despite being a highly skilled brick mason. It’s hearing stories from Dad about separate train cars and living conditions in the south before the family moved north.

    It’s visiting a white neighborhood, and/or going to mostly white schools and being called every name but a child of God when you’re 7 yrs old. It’s seeing the pain of your darker sisters, cousins and friends when their beauty is questioned (while being co-opted), or when they are rejected by some man who doesn’t recognize it. It comes from the guilt and insecurity of our lighter skinned sisters when we get a promotion we KNOW we’ve earned, but wonder inside if it had something to do with making white folk feel comfortable because we’re not “black black” and they need to be able to claim some “diversity” in the upper ranks. Blackness is not a hair style and a fake tan. It’s not a costume that can be discarded when convenient.

    My mother was married to my father (a black man) for 30 yrs. She birthed and raised three black children. She lived in inner city Detroit her whole life and worked in Detroit Public Schools. She literally lived the black struggle thru her family and students, but she is not a black woman and never tried to claim she was. Rachel Dolezal claims black because she “feels” black and “identifies” as black. BS! What “struggle” did she live as a black woman? She does not get a pass because of work she could have done as a white woman, and probably been more effective because of the need we have for strong white allies.

    NAACP might have hired her whether she claimed black or white. I don’t care about that. They haven’t had any cred in the black community since the 80s. She has made a living making speeches telling her “story” in place of a black woman who had an authentic story. She told Latino/a and Native American persons they shouldn’t be a part of #Blacklivesmatter because they weren’t black. She told other black people they weren’t black “enough”.

    She’s a fake! She either has mental issues (pathological liar) or she’s a con artist. Either way, she has co-opted blackness and that is NOT okay. Throughout HISTORY, things have been taken from black women. From our children and men during slavery, to ownership of our own beings by slave owners who thought it was okay to rape and breed us, to the destruction of the black family with our sons and men today – either through violence or prison(new slavery). Now, she want to take our black experience from us and redefine it from the perspective of a white woman, because THAT’S WHAT SHE IS! Can we have ANYTHING??? Even the fact that she tried it is an example of white privilege. Yep, I’m mad all over again!

  3. gblock says:

    A lot of the anger seems to be about people feeling that she was trying to “have her cake and eat it too”. That is, trying to get whatever benefits and credibility could accrue to her by taking on a “black” identity, and claiming an “authentic understanding”, yet not having had to experience the prejudice and discrimination that African-Americans have to deal with in this country.

  4. gblock says:

    Here are some issues that I see that probably play a significant part in Rachel Dolezal’s situation. I am not claiming that this list is comprehensive or that anyone else’s take on this is wrong.

    1. As a white woman, she seemed to have difficulty being accepted in African-American studies.

    2. As a white woman, she may have found a lack of acceptance in her taking on the care of a black adoptive brother.

    3. The change is probably, in part, a repudiation of her parents and the dysfunctional household that they created. And, of course, her mother sensed this repudiation, and that’s why she is “outing” Rachel now.

    There do seem to be some pretty strange things going on, and Rachel has been making some rather strange claims. And I wonder, what does it take for her to keep up her “black” physical appearance?

  5. bettykath says:

    The writer of the article is multi-racial and was adopted by a white family. She gives some insight about “transracial”, as in children of one race being adopted into a family of another (white) race. The comments are also interesting. This incident opens up a new dialog about race, in particular, the challenges faced by families that adopt children of another race and by the children themselves.

    One comment in particular that piqued my interest and leaves me with questions about who we are that are imprinted, as in biology rather than environment. I can’t find the comment now but a white family adopted a very young child from foster care. They know nothing about his biological parents, he appears white. He has always identified as African-American culturally. Another family, comment still there, adopted a very dark skin Vietnamese boy. He, also, identifies as Black to the extent that his adoptive mother was one of only three white people at his wedding.

    • bettykath says:

      I found the comment by Cindy:

      That said, my adopted son is appears Caucasian. I say “appears” because he was adopted from foster care and we have no information on his parents. Many people have commented that our son appears to be of Jewish descent, but he tends to identify with the African American culture. Starting in preschool he responded best to his African American teachers. As a small child we would have to remind him to use “his voice” when speaking. As a teen, and now almost twenty, he only dates African American young ladies. While living in a fairly white world, he did graduate from a public school system with a student population that was predominately African American. But I often ask myself if his identity issues are a product of his adoption, his school environment, a combination or something more.

    • gblock says:

      One thing that bothers me about the article is the author’s emphasis that the adoption was “without her consent”. Well, of course, small children seldom are able to make the decisions about their own adoptions, although one hopes that they would be removed from a potential adoptive home if they were truly unhappy there. Was she unhappy with her adoptive parents, and adoptive home, per se?

    • Good to see you again, Granny. Thanks for the link. The more I read and hear about this woman, the more I realize she has some significant personal issues to deal with. She’s not comfortable in her own skin. She’s a mess and for her own sake, as well as the causes she champions, she needs to get herself together.

      For the rest of us, it’s difficult to determine where the misrepresentations end and the truth begins.

  6. Malisha says:

    About Art: I read that a professor of Rachel Dolezal’s at Howard objected to her art, saying that as a white woman, she did not have the right to “tell the story” of the African Americans she painted. I saw some of her art. ANY ARTIST HAS A RIGHT TO TELL HER STORY.

    Perhaps things like this are the real problem that make someone like RD choose NOT being real over being true and disempowered.

    • Diamonique says:

      And I see that some of her art may have been plagiarized.

      • Trained Observer says:

        Liars often think nothing of plagiarizing, and presumably plagiarizers are in a sense liars … As this saga unfolds, I’m beginning to think of her more and more as, not white or black, but as an opportunist.

      • bronxlady1 says:

        This story is going to get more and more complicated with everyone accusing each other. But it’s not going to go away as much as some wish it would. I am Latina of mixed race and ancestry and I just feel punched in the head by this. She hates white people, but served (because as of this post she has stepped down) as the head of an agency that promotes equality for all. Doesn’t add up.

    • concernedczen says:

      First of all, HER story is not one of being African American. So it’s logical that her professors would question her authenticity in showing her true voice through her art as they probably question and challenge with many of their students.

      Secondly, it is Rachel’s claim that Howard University discriminated against her as a white woman, which is awfully strange since she claims she ‘identifies as black.’ And Rachel is a well documented liar. I read the appeals court documents and according to both courts, she was not discriminated against. They gave her a full scholarship and even paid her a teaching stipend during a semester that she did not teach because she was too late in applying for a teaching position. All of her claims appear to be false.

      Thirdly, several of her paintings appear to be almost exact replica’s of other people’s art. I’ve read that this is the issue that Howard had with her art work.

      This woman is not black. She is an opportunist and a scam artist. And it is truly offensive as an actual black woman to see the mockery she has made. She has not helped black people by making the “cause” all about her including her faked hate crimes, dressing up half-naked in “tribal paint” and parading around in front of a white audience, lots of embarrassing half-naked pictures on her facebook, and lie after lie after lie.

    • concernedczen says:

      By the way, if you google an article called “A radical mongrel” you’ll see a laundry list of other lies from Dolezar including claiming to be Jewish and Arabic. Claims about being raped by a mentor that seems eerily similar to the Bill Cosby situation. She is a hot mess. And is now coopting the language of transgender movement to further her personal aggrandizement and attention seeking needs.

  7. Diamonique says:

    As a black woman, this thing pisses me off. She has been representing herself as a black woman, giving speeches and lectures about her black experience, claiming she’s received hate mail because she’s black, hiring a black gentleman to pose as her father, claiming her adopted brother is her son. It’s not about her race… it’s about the lies. Sista has issues, and she needs to go and work them out. Issues with her family and issues within herself. Just my opinion.

    • It’s one thing to advocate for another race or culture and quite another to claim to be what you’re not, and claim that stuff happened that perhaps didn’t happen and to twist truth in half-truths. I’ve gone from thinking RD probably didn’t do much harm to thinking she has a problem she needs to fix. It could be a case of telling one lie and then needing to tell hundreds of others to cover up the first one. What Tim Wise says about being comfortable in one’s own skin and supporting others makes perfect sense, more sense than pretending to be something you’re not.

    • bronxlady1 says:

      I’d like to hear it. As for looking at all the “good” she has done, look at There’s a story there about how as a professor, she shut down a Hispanic student from participating in a Hispanic exercise for “not looking Hispanic enough.” Got to say…Whaaat!?

  8. Greg Beasley says:

    Frederick, I wonder if she has been misrepresenting herself on government forms. Is it fraud if she has done so?

    • MichelleO says:

      My argument is many organizations, including the government, somehow dropped the ball. She kept her birth name and possibly her social security number. It is very apparent, that no one—and I mean no one—ever vetted her. How that can be, I do not know. Maybe she has some pretty powerful friends in high places. She grew up white, doesn’t anyone, including the government, check records anymore?

    • I don’t know.

      She might have a problem, for example, if she applied for and was awarded a scholarship or grant that was supposed to be for a deserving AA. On the other hand, there’s a 3 year statute of limitations that may have expired.

  9. fauxmccoy says:

    wow — that whole sitch is really weird. i think tim wise makes some valid points. my own mind is somewhat ambivalent. i would like to hear what black folks have to say and i struggle to understand her motivation.

    nice to be back with you folks again.

    • a2nite says:

      I think it’s interesting to hear from a white person who is with us in the struggle.

      She’s a phony, IMO.

      This is one black woman’s opinion.

      • fauxmccoy says:

        well — my backside is about as lily-white as it gets but i’m sure here with you for any struggle.

        i guess the difference between a poser and me is that i would not dare to presume that i understand every part of the struggle, because i never will. i will believe you though and not presume to speak for you or take leadership roles that are best filled by others with more experience being black.

        • MichelleO says:

          I don’t hate this lady, I feel that she did a good job. She walked the walk, and applied her scholarship and education in advocacy and upliftment of lacking black communities.

          I agree, that she does have some personal issues—but other than that, she was excellent. Her organization and many black people, including women, were willing to forgive her.

          I remember John Brown, a white man who died for the cause of abolition of slavery. Did he have a feeling of solidarity and kinship with slaves and freedmen to the point of wanting to be their “skin” brothers? I don’t know. But whomever is for me, most certainly is not against me.

          • concernedczen says:

            I’m still waiting to hear evidence of the good job she did. I did see her host a rally for HERSELF due to her being the supposed victim of hate crimes. Haven’t read anything tangible about what she did for other people though.

    • Good to see you again. Don’t mean to pry, but how’s your mom?

      • fauxmccoy says:

        well, you hit the nail on the head, fred. her health if failing rapidly due to a neurological disorder similar to ALS. it’s kind of rough all around. i spend a considerable amount of time helping her out which aggravates my own disability, then we wake up and do it all over again.

        i hope you and crane-station are doing well.

  10. a2nite says:

    FYI: here’s a take that helps from Tim Wise.
    It’s more complicated than not being a big deal. No it’s not like passing for white to feel safer in white society, get ahead.

  11. Malisha says:

    A friend sent me this article, very interesting:

    The more I read, the more I think Ruthann Dolezal wanted to destroy Rachel’s credibility so that when push came to shove, if Rachel testified against her white brother Joshua (on trial for molesting a child), her credibility would be zero and she could be said to just be anti-white and crazy.

  12. Malisha says:

    Here’s another “my my my” on the Dolezal mess:

    So biological white bro gets accused of molesting a child; sis supports the victim (maybe she has reason to?) and the parents AND SOME but NOT ALL siblings counter-attack with a public shaming for her identifying as Black rather than White. Their claims that she turned her younger brother against them is quite suspect. Parents who love their children usually find that their children love them back; if this boy wanted to escape the family — and was allowed to do so after filing court papers — he probably had a damn good reason that the family did NOT want spread all over because of a public trial.

  13. Malisha says:

    By the way, Rachel is a lot prettier now than in the pictures her parents have publicized.

    • Trained Observer says:

      Exactly. She’s very attractive now … great hair, bronzy skin, whereas as a kid she looked like a washout. Not that appearances take precedence over character. But she’s looking good.

      • concernedczen says:

        And that’s probably why she has carried on the ruse for so long. She gets a lot more attention being a light complected black woman in Spokane than just your average everyday white woman. She undoubtedly gets more attention from black men as a light complected black woman and lots of attention from white men as she is seen as some exotic creature. The fact that she hasn’t eve bothered to apologize to black people for what she has done is strong evidence of her white arrogance. In fact this whole ruse exposes her own racism and feelings of entitlement. It’s disgusting.

  14. Malisha says:

    OK, now I think I understand a bit more about what Dolezal did. Her biological parents adopted four African American children. I don’t know if they had any more kids in the house, other than Rachel and the four adopted kids, but two of the adopted kids now figure into what may have happened, and the “backstory” of why her MOTHER chose to out her and make an attempt to ruin her career and violate her privacy. Of the two brothers, one sides with the white parents and the other tried to get away from them, actually SUING to get emancipated so he could leave their household and go live with Rachel. His complaint was physical abuse and some sort of restrictive religion that the Dolezals wanted to impose on him. The guardianship action where the teen-aged brother was suing to get away from the allegedly abusive parents ended up being withdrawn because an agreement was reached and the boy was able to leave those adoptive parents.

    They also said Rachel had “distanced” herself from them several years back.

    Here’s the picture I am getting: abusive adoptive parents bring in a bunch of “abusable” kids and enforce some particular religion that includes physical “punishment.” Rachel bonds with her sibs, rejects the influence of the white fundamentalist religious parents, and strikes out on her own. Soon her younger brother wants to live with her and escape the abuse he says he endures in the family. Her struggle with the family makes them angry and they are just waiting for the opportunity to punish her for her defecting from their control.

    My My My. A bit of ownership parenting? Sound familiar?

    The younger brother’s suit to escape the family was, legally, an action for “emancipation” under US law. How perfectly apt!

  15. However, reading some other stuff, like from Tim Wise, it does bring up mixed feelings. After all, he’s famous for what he does as a white man combatting racism. Here’s one of his posts on FB:

    “Hah, now for an extra special kicker…turns out I’ve just been informed by a friend and ally at Eastern Washington U. (who was involved in bringing me to campus to speak there last semester), that it was Rachel Dolezal who had objected to me coming, because I, as a white man, can’t speak to race issues involving black people. First, they got a dictionary at EWU where she can look up “irony?” And second, her objection is perfectly indicative of her problem. She thinks I seek to speak from authority on blackness. No, that’s not me, that’s YOU Rachel. I only seek to speak about whiteness. Her confusion on that point is the source of pretty much all this bullshit: not knowing the difference between confronting whiteness and seeking to speak for blackness.”

    I’d have to agree with Tim. That’s taking things a bit too far – a white woman living as a black woman objected to Tim being able to speak as a white man about race? Sheesh.

    Maybe Rachel does have some splainin’ to do.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Sorry about the two posts – WordPress is acting up – or my computer is!

      • Malisha says:

        Well I didn’t know that about Tim Wise. I think it’s ridiculous for ANYBODY to object to a person speaking up about racism, who has something constructive to add, just because of his or her “race of origin.” THAT was wrong of RD. Appearing African American, I can’t say that was per se wrong. Objecting to someone else contributing because he was not “race enough” would definitely be wrong.

        I had this experience myself. I wrote a play that was produced in a Montessori upper elementary school, about Dred Scott and his family. The kids took part in writing it and performed it beautifully. Shortly thereafter a grant-writer for a state university’s college of arts and letters sought a $25,000 grant for turning this play (with the assistance of the theater department of the university and the cinematography students) into a portable production that could be marketed to public schools at a very low price. They would film a prototype production and package it as a DVD for teachers and students.

        A white professor put the cabash on the whole thing and got us disqualified because he claimed that I, as a white woman, should not have written dialogue for slaves and free Blacks living in Missouri in 1850! Of course, I immediately suggested that he locate his university’s expert on slave dialects and that person would be free to rewrite the play and I would cede the copyright — but no. The play has never again been produced. I have offered it to any teachers or schools for FREE. No takers.

        This was exceedingly stupid and ill-intended. I don’t know what the guy was trying to prove. Who has a patent on the issues of freedom, discrimination, justice, racism, or liberation movements?

        • That was stupid, I agree.

          I’m since reading that RD went through a spell of claiming to be Native American. There are some other issues about her unearthed. If true, I think the lady simply has a mental health issue. That she’s done some good is wonderful and possibly just a side-effect!

  16. racerrodig says:

    I say let here work speak for itself. It’s not like there are no white people who support other race relation based issues, nor AA people who are members of primarily white groups.

    Hell………..I think what she does should advance relations as long as she’s sincere, which appears to be the case.

    • Rev Bev says:

      My reaction was she has s’plaining to do if she has been lying…Lying cannot be sincere; I may not know enough of the facts.

      • Malisha says:

        Well, what would we say if a woman born of African American parents, but who was very light-skinned, passed for years and years and then, for some unknown reason, her mother “outed” her as Black? We’d say, “Who cares?” We’d say, “nobody is supposed to judge her on the color of her skin but on the content of her character.” We’d say, “She’s living her own life; her mother should stop interfering.” At least I would. I would especially say this if the woman who was “lying” about her “race” [yes, “race,” because c’mon!] had four white siblings and some kind of feeling that she wanted to live white rather than black.

        • True. And yet maybe some difference between a person who quietly lives as another race and one who lives in the public eye. Here’s something interesting Tim Wise had to say on FB that lessened my respect for RD just now:

          Tim Wise

          Hah, now for an extra special kicker…turns out I’ve just been informed by a friend and ally at Eastern Washington U. (who was involved in bringing me to campus to speak there last semester), that it was Rachel Dolezal who had objected to me coming, because I, as a white man, can’t speak to race issues involving black people. First, they got a dictionary at EWU where she can look up “irony?” And second, her objection is perfectly indicative of her problem. She thinks I seek to speak from authority on blackness. No, that’s not me, that’s YOU Rachel. I only seek to speak about whiteness. Her confusion on that point is the source of pretty much all this bullshit: not knowing the difference between confronting whiteness and seeking to speak for blackness.

        • Trained Observer says:


        • concernedczen says:

          There are lots of differences, Malisha, that should be readily apparent including the fact that a very light complected black woman in America likely has a significant component of European genes. Rachel Dolezal appears to have NO black ancestry other than what all human beings have by virtue of humanity having originated in Africa and the first human beings having been black.

          Secondly, of course the circumstances of living in a deeply racist (white supremacist) culture should offer an explanation of why a black person would attempt to pass for white.

  17. Malisha says:

    Off-T: I corrected an error in my last post on Professor’s last article.
    “First Amendment” — not “Second.” 😳

  18. Malisha says:

    I also couldn’t figure out what the brou-ha-ha was about. This woman was raised with four African American siblings. She spent her considerable intelligence and energy doing the right thing, not the wrong thing. She may have some personal issues that might be vaguely interesting to people who were interested in such things, but this is not about anything terribly important in my view.

    I wonder, actually, what the Hell her mother was getting out of her 15 minutes of bizarre fame? It smells to me like there may have been some little family troubles that the mother couldn’t resolve to her own favor and, given an opportunity, she reached out to throw her daughter’s life into chaos. Tsk Tsk.

    • Trained Observer says:

      If she’d said “I’m biologically white but I think and feel black” from the get-go, none of this brouhaha would be escalating. Something seems a little off about the bio parents. Why were they giving interviews last week when they haven’t even seen her in years? I see publicity stunts for book and movie deals.

  19. It would be flakey if she had a nefarious reason, like using affirmative action to benefit, but if she just simply feels she was born in the wrong skin / culture, then so be it. The NAACP is supporting her and says she’s done a good job, so who am I to make her explain anything?

    • Two sides to a story says:

      PS – I did have to giggle at some of the tweets about her, though, like “orange is the new black.”

      • Two sides to a story says:

        PSS – I’ve visited friends in Spokane / Couer d’Alene area and since there are about a half-dozen blacks in the area (exaggeration, and my trip was 2004) it would be easier to fool people there, LOL! My mixed race kids were stared at a lot on that trip.

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