The news has been abuzz lately about Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation. As a transgendered person, she made the decision at 65 to follow her heart and begin living life as a woman.
More recently, the news has been abuzz about Rachel Dolezal’s transformation. As a transracial person, she made the decision at 22 to begin living life as a woman of color … more specifically as an active and celebrated member of African-American society. She has stated publicly on several occasions that she is of bi-racial (and sometimes tri-racial) heritage.
There’s been a considerable amount of emotional upheaval, proving that the situation is far more complex than simply a case of fraud as some have called this.
Some people support Rachel Dolezal:
According to one of her adopted brothers, while working towards a Master’s Degree in Fine Art at Howard University back in 2002, Rachel complained that, as one of the few white students on campus, she was treated poorly by students and teachers alike.
From 2002 to 2006, Rachel lived in Virginia and despite her claims that she lived in South Africa, according to her adopted brother, Ezra, Rachel’s claims are fabrications. He says Rachel never lived in South Africa, and he says Rachel never visited the family when the family lived in South Africa between 2002 and 2006. One of the reasons Rachel didn’t live in South Africa with her family is due to the fact that in 2000, Rachel Dolezal married Kevin Moore (whom she divorced in 2004) who was a medical student at Howard University at the time. During this same time period, she was attending university, and working on a Fine Arts degree.
When the Spokane Spokesman-Review contacted Rachel Dolezal for comments regarding her biological parents outing the fact that she is caucasian, she stated that the reason for their comments had everything to do with having gained legal custody of her then-16-year-old adopted brother in 2010. Originally, the teen had petitioned the courts to be emancipated, however, the petition was dropped when the parents consented to Rachel becoming the teen’s legal guardian. Her parents, however, remained his legal parents according to the courts. According to media reports and interviews, she portrayed him as one of two birth sons.
In 2012, Rachel Dolezal moved to Spokane.
The twists and turns of this story continue. Rachel Dolezal claimed to be African-American as well as Native American, and admitted to having some white heritage, as proven by an application she made when applying to be added to the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission. Native American as well as African-American with a side order of caucasian? That must have made for an interesting childhood to say the least!
In an interview published on February 5, 2015 in The Eagle Life newspaper, it was reported that Rachel Dolezal was born in a “Montana tepee [sic]” and that as a child, she and her family hunted their food with bows and arrows until they moved away from Montana — first to Colorado in 1992, and then to Cape Town, South Africa in 1994 (referring to her mother and a step-father). She claims to have moved from South African to Jackson, Mississippi in 1996.
Well, the problem with that information is that, according to information provided by her parents, none of that is true. None of it. Zip. Nada. Squat. All of it is a confabulation on Rachel’s part according to her mother and father. What’s more, according to her parents, Rachel has never lived in South Africa … never. What’s more, her biological parents are still married to each other. In fact, despite Rachel’s claims of having a step-father, earlier this week, Rachel’s biological parents celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary (Rachel is 37 years old).
Did her parents ever live in a teepee? As a matter of fact, back in 1974, according to her parents, they did live in a teepee when they were first married and three years before Rachel Dolezal was born. There was no teepee living for Rachel, much less being born in one. And rest assured, that her biological parents are her biological parents, and she was born in Montana. Her parents provided the media with proof of that by way of a certified copy of her birth certificate.
Did Rachel’s parents ever live in South Africa? As a matter of fact, her father was stationed in South Africa from 2002 until 2006 when he was an employee of Creation Ministries International, and her mother and younger adopted siblings lived there as well. But Rachel didn’t live in South Africa, and she didn’t visit them while they lived in South Africa.
But what of the man she has publicly claimed is her father?
The man in the picture standing next to Rachel Dolezal is Albert Wilkerson. And who is Albert Wilkerson? He used to be a resident of North Idaho who volunteered at the Human Rights Education Institute at a time when Dolezal was in charge of the organization’s education programs. If this is her father, this is news to her parents who have never met Albert Wilkerson.
What Rachel has done is to establish herself as a spokesperson on race-influenced police violence, and is an expert on, and advocate for, the black community. Her expertise on African-American culture in the academic arena is impressive and respected.
On the flip side, what Rachel has done might land her in legal hot water according to a civil rights attorney who stated that if the scholarship Rachel Dolezal received was earmarked for minorities, using those funds when she wasn’t entitled to use those funds could result in legal action against her. After all, according to one of her adopted brothers, she told him not to “blow her cover.”
At this point in the story, the NAACP is supporting Rachel Dolezal, and have released a statement on the controversy.
Only time will tell how this controversy will play out. Will Rachel Dolezal be a hero or hated? Will she be remembered as a person who furthered African-American rights and addressed issues with a no-nonsense approach? Or will she be remembered as a pretender to the throne who used racism to propel herself into the limelight? Or will she be remembered in some other way?
UPDATE (14 June 2015): Rachel Dolezal has canceled the monthly membership meeting schedule for Monday, June 15, 2015 — a meeting that she informed the media that she would address the membership about the controversy that has erupted about her ethnicity. Lawrence Burnley, head of the chapter’s executive committee informed KREM-TV in Spokane has questioned Rachel Dolezal’s right to arbitrarily cancel the monthly meeting.
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