My VERY Preliminary Thoughts on Rachel Dolezal and the Need to Listen to What Black Women Have to Say

by havilandp

Recently a friend asked me for my thoughts on Rachel Dolezal via Facebook.

At the moment I was just enjoying the memes, gifs, and other jokes via the internet, specifically Twitter but there is also a serious discussion to be had. In the very early stages of this developing story, I think it is important to step back and understand that we need to be good listeners as Black women speak their truth to power and share their sentiments surrounding the depth and complexities of this particular incident.

Here was my response to my friend and I hope that it contributes to a thoughtful discussion about race, gender and identity.


Right now I’m just enjoying the jokes because they haven’t gone too far (yet… which they likely will at some point).

The complexities to this are deep and it would be better to formulate a concrete opinion after better understand the WHY part of this first. 

All that said, one can make the argument (in the context of time and what we know) that she did this to profit and raise her profile off of a culture that is oppressed that she does not belong to. I further think it is unfair to use the comparison of race and gender here because although they deal with identity and some would say constructs of society, it’s not the same (similar to comparing experiences across different races, cultures or religions.. read: its not fair to compare the struggles and discrimination faced by Black people and Jewish people throughout history. Both have a deep history of extreme trauma and discrimination endured but to argue which group had and/ or has it worse is unfair, divisive and entirely unproductive). 

It would probably have been better/ not controversial if she just said something like: “I am a white woman who is interested in Black scholarship and would like to use my skills, abilities and passion to be an ally towards making true diversity and equality a real thing.” 

Again- based on what we know now, it seems a bit like cultural theft that can be viewed along the same lines that we have seen criticism of Katy Perry and Iggy Azalea. And own personal, brief and still formulating opinion only very slightly alludes to the experiences of Black women but I am not an authority or expert on that experience so I will step back and allow Black women to speak their truth because me speaking on their behalf is not my place.