I really thought that the Rachel Dolezal fiasco would go away pretty quickly. Honestly, I thought we’d all come together, make fun of her, get her out of the paint and go on about our lives trying to help the McKinney kids enjoy pool parties again. But the Devil’s Advocates and capes came out defending Dolezal, saying that she “can” identify however she wants.
And that’s absolutely true – Dolezal “can” identify however she wants. She “can” do whatever she damn well pleases. Because she’s White. And White people live in a such a world of privilege that they can do whatever they want. They can take culture, entire nations and enslave whole swaths of people with zero consequence. So creating a new Black existence is just another level of privilege that Dolezal’s whiteness affords her.
The question isn’t about what Dolezal’s privilege affords her (because the answer is “all of the above”). The question is can I identify as a White person if I want? What’s the application process for me enjoying all of the privileges Whiteness offers?
If Mike Brown had yelled “Wait, I identify as White,” would Darren Wilson’s bullet reversed trajectory and gone back into his gun? Would the Baltimore Cops have called for medical help for Freddie Gray if he had a White ID card of some sort? I don’t recall the racist McKinney cop checking to see how the students identified themselves before pulling his gun out.
If I get pulled over tomorrow, there’s no racial identification I can provide that would make a cop act more lenient towards me than any other person of color. Imagine a Black woman saying that she’d identify as a White woman. It’d be impossible because there’s no way for her to shed the injustices that America has burdened her Blackness with. So…
1. Rachel Dolezal can call herself Black and not have to deal with injustices society places on Black women.
2. There isn’t a single Black woman who can call herself white and erase the racism she’s undoubtedly faced.
For these two reasons, Rachel Dolezal is engaging in, benefitting from, and basking in the unending glow of privilege that not a single Black person on this planet could enjoy. That, people, is White Privilege.
And every time Rachel Dolezal speaks, announcing her desire to identify as Black while getting supported by a ton of Black men, she’s only proving that her privilege is real. And it’s a privilege that Blackness has never experienced.
However, the most troubling form of White privilege Rachel Dolezal is benefiting from is the blind support of Black men. I hate to say it, but I’m disappointed by how many Black men have abandoned their posts as Black women supporters to defend a woman who treats Black womanhood like its a Halloween costume. We’ve seen Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, D.L. Hughley and a bevy of your everyday tweeters act as if Dolezal is some honorable woman who deserves the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, the actual Black women who are in the streets protesting the murders of dead black boys across the country are challenged to “prove” their worth as freedom fighters. But that’s the effect of White supremacy that Dolezal gets to bathe in; Black America’s tendency to see the faults in our Black women while uplifting Whiteness. It’s a debilitating characteristic of too many Black men. (By the way, what would happen if she were a White man trying to be Black?) And in the end, this only serves Dolezal’s goal of being some sort of Black-faced savior.
It’s sad but I’m pretty sure how the story ends. Dolezal will become a wealthy woman in the end. She’ll have books deals, a reality show and a Tyler Perry movie. She’ll get her story trumpeted as a lesson on progress, sacrifice and commitment. And she’ll be able to identify herself as whatever she wants in some people’s eyes.
Because she’s White. And she can do whatever the hell she wants.