Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

 

Last week, race was the topic around every water cooler and dinner table. Yes, the aftermath of the McKinney pool party was still weighing heavy on Americans’ hearts. But all eyes in the nation turned to Washington and one woman. Her lifestyle raised questions about race, personal choice, and the commitment to keeping up appearances.

 

Rachel Dolezal, an NAACP leader in Spokane, Wash., was outed as a white woman who has lived as an African-American for almost a decade. As the country learned of her deception, reactions ranged from offended outrage to confused intrigue.

 

Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing. I know that’s probably not the right reaction, but I couldn’t help it. Simply put, I always find it funny when white people try to act like black people. A white person with cornrows or a doo-rag is just flat out amusing to me.

 

I can’t pinpoint why it’s so hilarious; it just is. It’s just so bizarre for a white person to try to steal the culture of a race that has struggled for so long. Some black people laugh along; others are understandably offended.

 

Black people have had to overcome so much horrible treatment over the centuries, at the hands of white people no less, that one could argue their culture and spirit is what sets them apart. For a white person to take that from them is at the very least ridiculous and at the worst appalling.

 

Since I’m white, I’m not personally offended by Rachel Dolezal’s actions but I 100 percent see why a black person would be. It’s like Dolezal wore blackface for a day as a social experiment and then decided to live in it. It sounds like the premise of some new Diablo Cody project.

 

The reason people were pissed at Diablo Cody’s success after living as a stripper for a year is the same reason people are angry at Dolezal: her plight isn’t genuine. It’s fabricated. She can never truly understand the struggle and the cycle of the people she was emulating. She could back out of being black whenever she wanted to.

 

My first reaction about Dolezal, after I finished laughing, was to think: “What, is the pay gap not big enough for you? Being a woman wasn’t hard enough so you had to add minority to the list?”

 

I think Louis CK explained race best when he said, “I’m not saying that white people are better. I’m saying that being white is clearly better.”

 

Minority scholarships and affirmative action are set in place to help even out the unfair treatment black people often receive. Dolezal took advantage of that and found a way to make money off being black even though she’s white. That’s wrong.

 

She is the leader of the NAACP and is a professor of African studies, I’m sure other people wanted those positions. And in fact, she could have and should have earned those positions as a white woman.

 

I don’t think it was Dolezal’s intention to purposely steal jobs from black people. I’m sure growing up with black siblings and going to Howard University, she always had a special kinship with the black community. Obviously, she didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin or didn’t relate with her European descent or felt like an outsider in the black community she called home.

 

That doesn’t mean we get to call her a transracial hero; that’s ridiculous. She is not a hero who is finally living in the skin she always wanted. She’s a liar, and she’s delusional. She hid her background and family on purpose and used her new skin color to her advantage.

 

I cannot see how anyone can compare her to Caitlyn Jenner. If the former Bruce underwent a secret transition to become a woman and then went on to compete as a female in the Olympics, then I could see the comparison. In that case, she would be using her transformation to her advantage and lying about her past.

 

Rachel Dolezal’s lies do bring up a lot of questions about how white and black people interact with each other. Though what she did has serious implications, I hope we can all just see her for who she truly is: an inappropriate white lady to laugh at and then forget about.

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