BRIAN PERRY/White like me

Last week I was checking my Twitter feed when I saw something odd: the name “Rachel Dolezal” was a hashtag. Rachel and I were contemporaries at Belhaven University.

By now you likely have heard her story: the Washington State NAACP black leader who was outed as white by her own white parents. The NAACP stood behind her noting that race is not a qualifying or disqualifying characteristic for leadership in the organization. She has since resigned.

I didn’t know Dolezal well at Belhaven. She was an exceptional artist who was committed to racial reconciliation and social justice. I recall her being a member of the Black Student Union, but I don’t recall any deception about her motives or her identity.

It is not unusual for people to re-invent themselves when they move to new communities. I imagine as she grew into her role advocating for civil rights and embracing the culture of the community around her – including dress and style – people would begin to see her as a “multi-racial.”

She may have encouraged that error and certainly didn’t correct it. Should she have felt the need to tell people she was white? Not disclosing that detail, and, according to reports, actively labeling herself inaccurately is where she seemed to get into trouble. Press reports of conversations with her parents and brother seem to show she was focused on maintaining that illusion; on maintaining a deception.

Madison County Journal

6/17/15