There was hesitation in writing this column. I mean, by now, you’ve likely read enough about the bizarre saga of Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who passed herself off as African-American for many years. Her deceit exploded on the world stage.
But in all the discussion, many have missed the point.
It’s not about the perplexing Dolezal family schism that went so public — families often fracture.
It’s not about her darkening complexion or her exotic hair — women often change their looks.
And it’s not about Dolezal’s claim on the Today show that she is “trans-racial” because her biological son and her adopted son (who was originally adopted years ago by her parents) are African-American and therefore she needs to be, too.
The point is she is a liar, delusional at best or dishonest at worse, in discussing her ancestry. She has been a chameleon when it personally benefited her to be one color or another.
Yet, once caught in her various deceptions, she refuses to admit anything.
Dolezal, 37, continued her ploy by telling NBC she has “long identified as black” and was “drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon and black curly hair” at the age of 5. (Her mother quickly disputed that.)
If that is true, then why, in 2002, did Dolezal play the white race card and sue the predominantly black Howard University for discrimination? She claimed she was denied a post-graduate teaching assistant’s job and scholarship aid because she was white, female and pregnant. Her suit was ultimately dismissed.
Her adopted brother, Ezra Dolezal, who is black and a proud member of the Army, told Buzzfeed that when he went to visit his white sister in Spokane in 2012, he discovered she had tossed her family background.
“She just told me, ‘Over here, I’m going to be considered black, and I have a black father. Don’t blow my cover,’” he said.
Ezra also alleges that Rachel, who married a black man in 2000 and divorced him four years later, had adopted a decidedly anti-white attitude.
She applied for and won a seat on the city’s police oversight board after identifying herself as white, black and Native American. Sometime before her baffling and complicated story hit the headlines, the Spokane Ethics Commission had already opened an investigation into whether she falsified that application.
In November 2014, Dolezal was elected president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. Now that her background has been revealed, she has been forced to resign. EWU says she is no longer affiliated with the university. Her lies finally caught up with her.
So, are Dolezal’s actions criminal? It’s not likely that the City of Spokane will seek to press charges if they find she lied on her government application.
But there are reports she may also have filed false police reports in two different states, Idaho and Washington. According to The New York Times, she has said she received racially motivated hate mail, suffered acts of intimidation and kidnapping threats against her biological son. The Times says her claims “had been greeted with considerable skepticism (and) … did not yield any arrests.” Filing a false police report is a crime.
Dolezal’s life appears to be crumbling around her, yet she continues to stick to her implausible tale.
And the media continue to trumpet every word. Ugly and unconfirmed reports have surfaced in which she is accused of poisoning her biological son against his father and causing her biological brother to be arrested on sex abuse charges.
In a massively transparent deflection, she has even cast doubt on who her parents are.
“I haven’t had a DNA test. There’s been no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my biological parents,” she told NBC during one of several interviews.
Can you imagine how that makes her parents feel?
I’ve read articles suggesting she may be suffering from a mental disorder called self-loathing. I don’t readily accept such excuses. Embracing black culture is not the same as being black.
I say Dolezal is an exposed liar who took away opportunities meant for minorities — like a professorship in African studies and an executive position in an important civil rights organization.
Shame on her. And shame on the media for continuing to elevate her story when it should be universally condemned.
— Diane Dimond is the author of Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.