Last week I sat down and started to write a piece about Rachel Dolezal. I had come across her story online, like many, and was simultaneously intrigued and appalled by her actions. When it comes to finishing the piece I find myself struggling as it now seems so insignificant in light of what’s happened in South Carolina.
What resonates within me is the fact this woman, a white woman, chose to live her life as a black woman which is so blatantly disrespectful to black people. She reported hate crimes that allegedly happened against her “because she is black,” when for her, being black is the way she decided to present herself to the world. She is a woman that’s been playing dress up for a decade.
What bothers me about her story is that she appropriated the black experience which I’m sorry, no white person can ever fully comprehend. There is a saying you have to walk a mile in ones’ shoes and Rachel Dolezal, for whatever reason, did just that. However, at any point she could quit perming her hair and stop tanning and she’d go back to being treated like any other white person. For black people (and other minorities), the world is not always a safe and welcoming place.
The reality of racism’s presence in today’s society was made abundantly clear Wednesday night when Dylann Roof took nine innocent black lives, at a church no less, solely because they were black. The fact he felt he had the right to take a person’s life due to their race? It’s horrifying and tragic.
While there has been progress made throughout the years towards equality there is still a long ways to go. Racism is still very much alive. People are still targeted, mistreated, and killed because of the color of their skin. That’s why the whole Rachel Dolezal story bothers me, she crossed a line by presenting herself as something she is not. She could have been an ally to the black community while being herself. Her actions are disrespectful to people who live their daily lives never knowing if they are going to be discriminated against (or worse) because of the color of their skin.