April 24, 2017

Dear White People (and People of All Colours),

When I first heard about Rachel Dolezal, I thought her story would be a fleeting headline in a turbulent world of racially charged issues that continue to plague society. Like many, I believed that since she had been exposed, she would disappear, shamed and embarrassed for portraying herself as a black woman despite the fact that she was white. Recently she has resurfaced, causing me to wonder why she would continue to perpetuate this myth. Ms Dolezal appears to have become emboldened by media attention and has gone as far as to refer to herself using the classification ‘trans-black’.

Watch: https://youtu.be/5SfYliM_QmA

In a March 2017 interview with Savannah Guthrie on Today, Dolezal stated, “…I identify as black….I am part of the Pan-African Diaspora.”

Furthermore, I was shocked to learn that she had travelled to South Africa to discuss ‘non-racialism’, the end of race and the ‘triumph of the human spirit’ at the University of Johannesburg. Ms Dolezal’s assertion that she is a ‘trans-black’ person is a misguided attempt to gain attention and capitalise on the sensitive issues of race, racism, disparities in education, social justice and economic status. There can be no more blatant example of what some refer to as ‘white privilege’. It amounts to a shameful usurping of position and a sense of entitlement. Rachel Dolezal is an imposter.

White Privilege – “The level of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred, irrespective of wealth, gender or other factors.”

Although my biological and familial heritage is European, my connection to the black community began at the age of eight months, as a foster child with an African-American family in San Francisco, California. I was a member of the Black Student Union during my undergraduate years, my children are bi-racial, and I am a longstanding member of several historically black fraternal organisations.I have worked on community service projects, mentoring black children and developing relationships in the black community in the United States and Canada. There have been many occasions on which my sincerity has been questioned and my efforts ridiculed – my participation has even been rejected. Yet never once has it crossed my mind to refer to myself as black or ‘trans-black’. My participation in and membership of these communities have never equated to ‘race re-assignment’.

Read: Ugandan mother launches Black Girls Magazine in Canada to fight exclusion

Black people have endured centuries of injustice and continue to suffer the effects of systemic oppression that were created by white people, a reality that we all must acknowledge and for which we must accept responsibility. The black community does not need non-blacks to become black; they need us to stand up and say that we too recognise the disparities and are willing to do something to change them. One has only to look historically to the non-black Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement to see examples of those who risked, and in some cases lost, their lives because they openly took a stance. Ms Dolezal’s antics disparage the legacy of those brave individuals.

Ms Dolezal’s assertion that she is a ‘trans-black’ person is a misguided attempt to gain attention.

The black community doesn’t need non-blacks to become black; they need us to stand up.

She is very comfortable in her cultural appropriation and gaining attention from her masquerade.

The contemporary concept of ‘non-racialism’, while seemingly appropriate from a political and legal standpoint, does a disservice to the black community, and to people of all races, by ignoring the very real problems that continue to divide society along racial lines.

As one publication pointed out, “To [Dolezal], like to many contemporary thinkers, race is a social construct that we must urgently deconstruct and get ahead with our lives as human beings on earth.”

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The fact is that race is a subject that needs to be discussed and explored, not avoided under the guise of political correctness. Only when we face the fear of difference will we begin to overcome the barriers that have been artificially created in order to divide humanity, resulting in oligarchic power and profit systems that serve to benefit a select few. Instead of being ‘colour-blind’ we should embrace and celebrate each other and all of the varieties of culture and ethnicity the world contains.

If Ms Dolezal were ‘woke’, she would realise that she could make more of a difference by advocating for change and combating injustice through the eyes of a white woman; she would promote the intellect, strength and beauty of the black community as she has come to know it, not suggest that society should ignore those things that make humanity inspiring. Instead she has convincingly demonstrated that she is very comfortable in her cultural appropriation and gaining attention from her masquerade.

It is time to stop rewarding attention-seekers and dysfunctional narcissists with our time, attention and money. Instead, let’s focus on people of all colours who are sincerely making an effort to instil real, positive change in our communities and the world.