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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

You-cant-sit-here-rachel-dolezal-and-her-search-to-find a table

Gather round everybody, I want to tell you guys a story. Growing up, I was a pretty decent basketball player. I was so decent, that in my sophomore year of high school, I was moved to a prestigious boarding school to play ball and better my grades. The move to the boarding school from my public school was hard. I was used to hanging out with my friends. I’ve known these people for about 15-years at that time and they were all I knew at the time. The school I was now attending was majority White.

In fact, I was just 1 of 7 Black people in the entire school.I learned early in my life about how people with similar feelings and traits will group together. Most of the 7 would hang out together. We were all for the most part from the inner city and being in this new environment was new to us. We clicked with those who we felt were like us.I learned the hard way how that kind of kindred spirit would bother some when some White kids told the school principal that they had a problem with some of my Black friends sitting together during lunch. They believed that we were being in actuality, racist by not integrating with the rest of the students. He was genuinely angry about that. I felt the way that our headmaster dealt with it, not only help me understand how people think, but it’s helping me understand to a degree a situation that’s going on in the world today.

My principal at the time sat down with myself and some of the White kids who had the issue and told us all point-blank, “People sit with who they’re comfortable with. Deal with it.”

That story kicked me in the ass years later when I heard the story of Rachel Dolezal. Dolezal the one-time head of the Spokane Washington branch of the NAACP was yanked out the closet by her parents who let the world know that the woman who many believed to be an African-American woman was in fact a White woman.

This news shook up the organization and people in general who couldn’t understand how she could have such thinking. The general assumption was, “How can you just assimilate into another race like that?”

That’s when I thought back to that moment in the lunch room.
 Growing up as an African-American man in America, I’ve always knew what I was. When filling out applications, I was sure what box to check. It was never a question in my life what color or what race I was because it showed on my skin. I don’t live the issues that Rachel does. Listening to her interview with Matt Lauer this morning, you don’t hear a woman who seems to be bent on deception. You hear a woman who honestly feel like her vision of herself didn’t register with what others saw. She honestly saw herself as a Black woman.

She never spoke about the moment when she realized that she was in reality, a Black woman. She did mention that she remembers being a girl and coloring characters brown as opposed to using pink or another color. It would seem like she’s been feeling a dissociation between herself and her White parents even then.  How she really got to the moment of honesty where she felt that the skin she was in was wrong is still unknown. What we do know is that she really believes this. Almost like George Costanza on Seinfeld, this isn’t a lie because she believes it. There’s no doubt in her mind that she is a Black woman. The doubt lingers in everybody else.

And that is where the problem lies. The real issue here isn’t her perceived deception of the NAACP. That’s something she and the organization has to deal with. The key point that makes her story interesting is her belief that she is in fact a Black woman. We all know there have been stories about Black people who spent their lives passing as White. I’m suer many of us have seen the movie, “Imitation Of Life.” What those Black also did was live in fear of being caught. They were doing it because it was easier than being constantly discriminated against. They chose to separate themselves from their families and friends all in a hope to assimilate into a society that said everything about you was wrong. That’s not why she did this. Apparently, this was all a choice of hers.

The disclosure of Dolezal’s parents that Rachel is really White and her own arguments that she is really Black brings up a new set of questions that I feel many in the world and certainly many of coming up in this new generation will certainly feel. The more we blend races and cultures, the less people feel aligned with just one.

Take Raven Symone for instance. The former Cosby show star and current co-host of ABC’s The View has come to her defense for a good reason. Symone doesn’t consider herself as a Black woman either. Matter of fact, she doesn’t consider herself anything other than a person. I’m sure hearing about Dolezal’s issues made her feel comfortable. No matter what you feel about what this woman believes is her truth, she’s not alone. She might be the first to have to deal with the backlash of deciding to abandon you’re the race or culture you were born into for an adopted one, but she’s not alone. Every friend who we consider Black because they listen to rap music or they walk or talk a certain way, they might be feeling how she feels. Like the people who they should line up with, doesn’t.

There’s an ambiguity going on right now amongst a lot of people where they not only don’t want to be put in a box, but are going out their way to break out of that box. While Rachel wasn’t trying to be the face of a new generation, she inadvertently did just that. Her open defiance when it comes to what she will be considered will serve as a landmark moment for many who like her feel like they don’t fit the box that many want her to check.

Where she goes from here is unknown. Her career with the NAACP is over since she resigned last week from her post. Her grassroots efforts will certainly be looked at skeptically by many as she continues her “mission”. What she will do is serve as a pioneer for people who feel like just her, like it or not.

Look forward to hearing more racial and cultural confusion as the years go by. As we move forward, put this in the back of your mind. People sit with who they’re comfortable with. While Rachel will have to deal with the issues that will ultimately come from her decision about her life. What we do know is that, there is a table in the lunchroom that are full of people who think and feel just like her. They will welcome her in with open arms because they get it. She sided with who she felt comfortable with no matter how uncomfortable others will feel.

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