Friday, June 12, 2015
On Rachel Dolezal and matters of [my] blackness: inital reactions
Reaction 3: There it is again. That voice. The one that speaks to my insecurities as a black woman that is not as involved in the black community or any community for that matter. The matter of realness as far as being black is concerned is something I continually get caught up in. I can hear it now in relation to Rachel: Yeah at least she’s down. She’s blacker than you. She was never neutral on anything as far as issues of blackness are concerned. Blah, blah, blah. Okay, okay, so I haven’t officially joined the club which usually means I haven’t decided to live by the black version of “Stand by Your Man” because that tune/mantra is total bullshit. Not joining any club when I don’t feel like I can be me in it. Also, I refuse to stand by oppression in any form no matter who is behind it. Selective in/exclusion is something I try to avoid/overcome. Maybe I am a black heretic among my people . Yet the black community I have witnessed is just as quick to do so among their own. My refusal to conform makes me suspect.
Nothing points to race being a social construct with real-life consequences than ideas that surround what it is to be black among black people. Usually it plays out like a series of check boxes on a resume:
-Hmmm…has been called a n....r by whites? Check. Knows who Billy Ocean, Freddie Jackson, and Luther Vandross are? Check. Grew up in a black church? Check. Sang in choir? Bonus points. Has temper/attitude. Check. Has angry black woman face. Check. Looked over for job opportunities. Check. Not taken seriously. Check. Not given benefit of the doubt. Double check. I see you did not check the Likes yams box.
-That’s because I hate yams.
-What about sweet potato pie?
-Also tastes like yams, which I hate.
-I see. It shows you also haven’t seen Devil in a Blue Dress.
-Or Harlem Nights?
-I don’t know if you qualify. Let me confer with my Council of Blackness constituents and we’ll get back to you on your Black card.
Never mind my skin tone. Never mind the fact that in situations concerning police that I consider my life to be at risk. When the guns are drawn I am just as likely to be targeted as any other black person, more so because of my darker skin tone. This makes me just as likely to be looked over in all respects from something as trivial as beauty to something as profound as dignity and the worthiness of keeping my life. Surely that makes me black enough.
So back to the matter of Rachel. Like most light/white skinned people and women in particular, she was given the benefit of the doubt in what I imagine to be all cases as far as her work and identity were concerned. Her identity credentials were never brought under scrutiny until now. Based on reactions, I imagine her being welcomed into the black community was all but seamless. Same with the work she did. No one had a reason to check anything, whereas the moment I open my mouth I am on the defensive because of the sound of my voice! Light/white privilege at its finest? Perhaps. But now light-skinned biracial women will also be put on the defensive regarding their identity politics, especially if blackness is part of it. Having to prove who you are, that you fit into these boxes in a lot of ways is total bullshit. It calls into question whether it should matter who you are if you’re willing to genuinely rep and do the work, especially if that work is that of being an ally to the disenfranchised. Do you have to be one to rep for one? Rachel seems to have bought into this, which is damaging for those that come after, light and dark-skinned women alike. I feel bad for the current turmoil she is dealing with. I wish that kind of strife on no one. Its hard to know the whole of the implications of this particular event. What will be the consensus? I am eager to know what other women of color have to say. Same goes for Rachel.
Until next time...