There is something comedic and pathetic about the story of Rachel Dolezal. Ms. Dolezal, 37, is the president of the NAACP local chapter in Spokane, Washington and a part-time Africana Studies professor at Eastern Washington University. It turns out that after claiming for years that she was black – including on applications, posting pictures on a Facebook page of an African-American man she falsely claimed was her father, and insisting that her adopted brother (who is black) was her child – Ms. Dolezal is actually white. Her birth certificate proves it. And her biological parents, Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal, have confirmed it.
“Rachel has wanted to be somebody she’s not. She’s chosen not to just be herself but to represent herself as an African American woman or a biracial person. And that’s simply not true,” Ruthanne Dolezal said. Her mother said Rachel began to “disguise herself” in 2006 or 2007.
This interview shows Dolezal being caught in her lie. It also seems quite likely that her claim that she’s received racially motivated hate letters and pictures was a ruse. (Police are still investigating, but say that whoever placed the mail must have had access to the mailbox, as it was not processed through the regular mail.)
The reason this story is significant is that it so perfectly represents the absurdity of the American Left today. There’s the obsession with racial and ethnic politics, to the point that this very white woman would attempt to start a “new life” in which she airbrushed out of history her real father, invented a black father and began to darken her skin and hair. It wasn’t enough to support a political and cultural cause; she had to pretend she was black. She had to be part of the African-American sisterhood, to the point of re-inventing who she is. That is what gave her validation.
But that’s not all. Ms. Dolezal, in a later interview, was unapologetic about her deception. Indeed, she still maintains she’s black, even though she’s white. We don’t really understand, you see, the “definitions of race and ethnicity.” Which, according to Dolezal, don’t have anything to do with race and ethnicity. Or even reality.
In part of her world – the progressive, academic world of the left – words are emptied of objective means. It’s necessary to jettison “logocentrism” and “structuralism.” Everything is determined by “narrative.” You get to make things up as you go along. Barack Obama, who is also a product of the academy, shows the same tendencies. So has Senator Elizabeth Warren, who claimed to be Native American even though she was not. Words are infinitely elastic; they mean only what you say they mean.
Except, of course, they don’t. Words have actual meaning and objective truth exists, even if people like Ms. Dolezal denies it. White really isn’t black. It tells you an awful lot about the times in which we live that this proposition has to be defended. But here we are.