NAACP's Rachel Dolezal personifies U.S. racial tension
The latest source of American controversy has been the ethnic identity of one of the NAACP's prominent leaders, Rachel Dolezal.
Dolezal, a Howard University alumna who teaches Africana studies at Eastern Washington University, used the leadership role she catapulted herself into to advocate for racial equality in America. Along with her efforts, she volunteered as chairwoman on Spokane's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and often spoke out publicly against the police brutality on unarmed African-Americans.
Committing herself to the advancement of the black community, there was one large gap standing between her connection to a community in which she had immersed her sympathy, education, and consciousness — she was white.
She slowly transformed her physicality into that of a black woman. Dolezal adopted kinky curly hair, a darker skin tone, and adorned African hairstyles such as faux locks and braids.
Dolezal's intentions were to refurbish her identity in order to truly resonate with the black community but, instead she only confirmed racial stereotypes and boundaries that are prevalent in society.
There's been articles comparing the level of her authenticity with Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, who admitted he's felt like a woman since his days as an Olympic champion. Nonetheless, his recent gender transformation was received with accolades.
However, Dolezal has not received the same response. Her adopted brother even accused her as the personification of "black face," which was a term used to refer to white actors of the early 19th century who would wear theatrical makeup in order to portray the features of African-American, or further the propaganda for social and racial stereotypes.
Yet, as America continues to peel back the layers to find out and expose the real Dolezal, a major analysis of racial and ethnic barriers becomes vulnerable.
What does it really mean to be black in America?
Normally, the assumptions associated with that question prompt responses of oppression, fear or death. Usually, though the answer gets pushed back into the logic composition of America's mind. Probing and challenging the precepts of America's society, the question is usually unconsciously awakened through controversy within the African-American community.
The recent stereotypes, and images being portrayed of African-Americans has ignited some of the realities surrounding the wars fought by the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s: white vs. black, good vs. evil, the oppressor vs. the oppressed.
As we continue to battle with these tug-of-war notions, the "BlackLivesMatter" trend has gone viral, exposing the overbearing force on African-Americans used by white police officers.
Thus, branding the "versus" stigma into modern-day America's conscience.
Growing up with four black adopted siblings, and attending a predominantly black university to study black art, Dolezal had a unique front-row seat to the African-American experience. There would only be a matter of time before the reality of who she was would directly contradict her muse.
I think the real issue here should be the barriers blockading Americans according to their race.
Why is it that someone like Dolezal felt the need to have to change her race in order to truly advocate for a community, especially when the NAACP was founded by a group of white liberals?
The answer can be found in the way that racial tension have been handled by America.
When Americans have issues regarding African-Americans, it is usually handed down to the black community. An American issue regarding African-Americans are usually handed back to the black community to handle. For example, the cases of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, three black men whose deaths took place at the hands of injustice, left a traumatizing effect on their communities and families. Change is still dangling in between frustration and fear. We've yet to successfully resolve those issues.
No wonder why a white woman felt she had to adapt to her surroundings in order to genuinely enact change.
That's what America told her to do.
Until we become united on equality, peace and distributing the notion of respect despite who you are, people like Dolezal are going to be the result of the fetishism of a community — wanting to sympathize with the oppression of a group of people but feeling like they can't until they completely reject who they are and pretend to be them.
Dolezal is in the midst of an investigative frenzy as the integrity of her advocacy and community efforts are crumbling before our eyes.
Hopefully, she will re-emerge, ready to triumph the racism that has erupted into our society, as herself.
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com