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Straight No Chaser: Passing for Black

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston Al-Sarag


gloria_winston_al-sarag2My people, my people. Will we ever get focused on REAL issues? Will we ever protest, discuss, and come up with strategies to prevent REAL injustices? Will we ever stop to think that a person who wants to be like us is NOT the enemy? Some people really need to find something meaningful, and significant, to do.

What could I possibly be referring to? In an interesting turn of events, it has recently been discovered, determined, and exposed, that a white woman has been found to be PASSING for black. Some Negroes have been upset about it. Some have actually organized picket lines, called press conferences, and been more than vocal about Rachel Dolezal passing for black. Wow! She has been outed, and now, who will suffer for it? Leave the woman alone! From what I can see, and have read, as of late, she has done more to help some black people, than some black people being paid to do so have done.

Rachel Dolezal, formerly known as Rachel Moore, has made a personal decision to lead a life in skin with which she has identified. Why is that an issue to anyone but her? Why is it the black community, in particular, would spend five minutes questioning her motives, when the only person it appears she has hurt may have been herself, and her family? A family which she has chosen NOT to associate with?

When are we going to address the REAL issues in our own community, which begin with the weekly deaths occurring amongst young black males, in particular? When are we going to be as adamant about the mis-education of our your folks, which has led them to survive in the streets, because they have not qualified for gainful employment, or even understood what being a good citizen entails. This woman has tried to be a part of the solution. She is NOT the problem. When is our crisis-oriented leadership going to be able to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad?

In this community alone, we have had MINISTERS, men of the cloth, all over the place, and in less than a unified stance, allegedly concerned about the community. However, as recently as a month ago, two groups of ministers called press conferences, at separate times, on the SAME day.

All I could do is shake my head. I’m still wondering why they could not have come together, and addressed the issue TOGETHER. Rachel Dolezal, for all intents and purposes, has not appeared to have been as divisive, and has seemingly sought to unify her community, and everyone in it. We should be learning from this woman, not jumping on a band wagon that has been questioning her, or her motives. Her walk is what I see as significant. Her wanting to be BLACK has been personal, and appears to have benefited others, more than herself.

People who would like to call names have referred to her as a “fraud,” someone with no integrity, and a liar. However, they have been names that could easily be associated with some of those who have stood on pulpits on a weekly basis, and exploited their people, in the name of God. You all know what I mean, because all who have claimed to be called, have not been, necessarily. And, there have been those amongst us who have also PASSED for white, for whatever reason. Where is the outrage in that?

Every family whose gene pool has been infiltrated by Europeans has had that possibility. The first one in my family was named Susie Butler, a Great Aunt who taught school in Columbiana, in Shelby County, Alabama, in the late 1800s.

She disappeared from the family census, no death certificate on record, and, because of her light, light complexion, it has been assumed by the family, for decades; she simply found more comfort in pretending to be in white skin, and had been written off as PASSING.

There’s nothing new about PASSING.

In the case of Rachel Dolezal, she has reversed the trend, and left some folks in total shock. But, not me.

Many have speculated there has been more going on with Rachel than has been revealed. Yet, I applaud her courage, and have wondered what kind of parents would go public to humiliate their daughter. She obviously has had reasons for wanting to distance herself from her alleged European roots. She obviously has found comfort, and acceptance, with her hair being curly, and her skin being tanned. As a genealogist, I also know it is possible that her parents have it wrong. DNA tests may prove me right, or wrong, but it is possible that the purity of the white blood her parents have claimed, could be tainted with some African blood as well. Who knows? Africans did not confine themselves to Africa, until brought to the Americas. Historians also know that African DNA can be found in all parts of the world. Who is to say that one of, or both of, Rachel’s parents don’t have African ancestors? Genes have been known to skip generations.

Among her supporters has been Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In a Time magazine piece entitled, “Let Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be,” the basketball star went to bat for Dolezal. Abdul-Jabbar wrote that the African-American community should accept Dolezal, because she has proven herself to be a champion for African-Americans.

Perhaps, some of this sensitivity has come from her adoptive black siblings. Whatever the reason, she has been fighting the fight for several years, and seemingly doing a first-rate job, he wrote. Not only has she led her local chapter of the NAACP, she teaches classes related to African-American culture at Eastern Washington University, and is chairwoman of a police oversight committee monitoring fairness in police activities. Bottom line: The black community is better off because of her efforts.

However, the one thing I disagreed with in his article, is that if Rachel felt like a black person, and identified with black culture since she was five years old, then the lie has become that she tried to survive as a white person, and not vice versa.

But, if she chose to identify with, and evolve into a culture not considered white, what is the harm? I do see similarities with the same struggle, and transition for Bruce Jenner, who became “Caitlyn.” And, for this, he has been applauded, and accepted. In fact, he has been heralded, by some, as a hero, of sorts.

Bruce Jenner lived a lie, until recently, as have many others who’ve spent a lifetime living lies, which society may have found acceptable. However, the truth, held hostage from within, has been waiting to be set free.

If you have really been concerned about Rachel Dolezal passing for black, and have considered it a major issue in our community, then you need to go pass for white, because you have been clueless about the real issues in your community. Your time could have been spent helping to resolve problems far greater than this.