On Rachel Dolezal, White Privilege, and White Shame

Rachel Dolezal Isn’t the Most Important Race Story in Spokane.

But she does seem to be an unraveling puzzle that continues to elicit curiosity, outrage, and comment. From Mia McKenzie’s discussion of Blackness and Blackface, to Kai M Green’s willingness to give Rachel a little more benefit of the doubt in discussing the similarities of race and gender constructs, to Lisa Marie Rollins’ explanation of what transracial actually means, plenty has been said already. It is a story with endless complexity.

While I find all of this interesting, what interests me specifically about this situation is the white shame of Rachel Dolezal’s identification as Black. In her interview with Melissa Harris-Perry earlier this week, Rachel Dolezal clearly self-identified as a Black woman. Her interview revealed a belief that all one needs in order to identify as Black is to “feel” and “live” the “Black experience,” which of course implies that she believes herself to be able to determine and author what is the “Black experience.”

Darnell L Moore, who believes that Rachel’s identification is indeed “cultural theft,” states that there is “a stark difference between racial indeterminacy, or the idea that race is not fixed and individuals may have multiple racial identities, and racial misrepresentation.”, What he points out, more importantly, is that:

The fiasco is a glaring example of white privilege in action.… Read more