To paraphrase Solange Knowles, when it comes to Rachel Dolezal–the disgraced president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP who lied about being Black–I’ve tried to wish her away, tweet her away, pray her away, and write her away, but she just won’t leave. After being unmasked as a fake Black woman in 2015, Dolezal went on a media blitz that hasn’t ended yet.
To promote her book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World, Dolezal has been on the interview circuit once again, but her recent chat with writer and editor Ijeoma Oluo for The Stranger is THE very last article on Rachel Dolezal you’ll ever need to read–I promise.
Oluo begins the piece pointing out the absurdity of Dolezal’s current predicament, which includes a name chance from Rachel Dolezal to Nkechi Amare Diallo.
“You change your name from Rachel Dolezal to Nkechi Amare Diallo because everyone in your lily-white town (Spokane is more than 80 percent white) now knows you as the Rachel Dolezal who was pretending to be Black, so you change your name to NKECHI AMARE DIALLO because somehow they won’t know who you are then,” Oluo writes, noting her own sister’s name Nkechi. “Even if there were 50 Nkechi Amare Diallos in Spokane—trust me, as someone named Ijeoma Oluo who grew up in the white Seattle suburb of Lynnwood—you’d have a much better chance of getting a job interview if you changed your name to Sarah.”
After spending hours with Dolezal, Oluo comes to the realization that the former professor doesn’t actually love Black people like she claims. Her supposed connection to our culture is something sinister, Oluo concludes.
There was a moment before meeting Dolezal and reading her book that I thought that she genuinely loves Black people but took it a little too far. But now I can see this is not the case. This is not a love gone mad. Something else, something even sinister is at work in her relationship and understanding of Blackness.
There is a chapter where she compares herself to Black slaves. Dolezal describes selling crafts to buy new clothes, and she compares her quest to craft her way into new clothes with chattel slavery. When I ask what she has to say to people who might be offended by her comparing herself to slaves, Dolezal is indignant almost to exasperation.
She is done folding clothes.
“I’m not comparing the struggles, okay? Because I never said that my life was the same. I never said that it was the equivalent of slavery, of chattel slavery. I did work and bought all my own clothes and shoes since I was 9 years old. That’s not a typical American childhood life,” she says. “I worked very hard, but I didn’t resonate with white women who were born with a silver spoon. I didn’t find a sentence of connection in those stories, or connection with the story of the princess who was looking for a knight in shining armor.”
She almost spits out the last sentences.
I am beginning to wonder if it isn’t Blackness that Dolezal doesn’t understand, but whiteness. Because growing up poor, on a family farm in Montana, being homeschooled by fundamentalist Christian parents sounds whiter than this “silver spoon” whiteness she claims to be rejecting.
Dolezal feels she is different from others who would genuinely compare their hardships to slavery: “But those people are not aware, they haven’t been black history professors,” she says with a voice trembling with indignation.
I want to remind Dolezal that she is a former black history professor who has degrees in art, not black history, African history, or American history, but I don’t. I’m trying to not get kicked out of her place early.
How Oluo was not only able to engage with Dolezal–for hours–without yelling that she’s a lying-ass-liar was a feat unto itself. But the conversation between the two women was not only completely fascinating, but it’s also–hopefully, please God–the end of our need to talk about Rachel Dolezal ever again.
Read Ijeoma Oluo’s entire chat with Rachel Dolezal, here