Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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The final word on Rachel Dolezal

There’s a great, almost overly generous interview with Rachel Dolezal here. For new readers who wonder why I’m fascinated and repelled by Dolezal, this old blog might help you understand.

My view on it is that Dolezal is an utter and complete charlatan, a phoney who uses pseudo-academic language to disguise the fact that she doesn’t understand whiteness, and class, never mind blackness. There’s a telling passage where Dolezal says

“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.””

Guess what Rachel? Lots of poor white kids have jobs, earn money, and supplement the family income. It was an integral part of my upbringing. I’m not claiming it was a good thing; I can trace lots of things, from my poor money management skills to aspects of my sexual preferences, to those experiences. Unlike Dolezal, the story I took away was not that I needed to appropriate someone else’s experiences or race as my own, but that I needed to understand what these experiences told me about what it was to be white, and poor. I knew that the Famous Five weren’t kids from my street, and I knew that most kids didn’t go to boarding school or on skiing holidays. Class loomed large at every turning, and I understood its reach into every part of my life.

Sometimes, as I write, insights pop into my head. This one is about being that kid, with money from his two jobs in his pocket, needing to buy new studs for his rugby boots, a new schoolshirt and wanting the latest single from the record shop that was two doors down from the sports shop, three doors down from the school outfitters. My mate pointed out that it was easy to shoplift studs from the sport shop, since they were loose in a box; you could palm ten, and pay for six, and I’d have the money for the single. I made my choices on the basis of what I thought right, and what I was scared of; I was more scared of being called a shoplifter than I was scared of not being cool at school because I didn’t have the latest music.

Rachel Dolezal is an intellectual shoplifter, choosing to address tough choices and harsh experiences by stealing from others. That really is all there is to it.

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This entry was posted on April 20, 2017 by in Uncategorized.

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