On the off chance that you've been hiding from Twitter, you may have missed the Rachel Dolezal scandal hitting social media. Consider this your crib sheet.
It’s an upsetting, difficult question: If somebody pretends to be something they’re not, but achieves good through those means, does it matter that they lied in the first place?
For Rachel Dolezal, a Civil Rights Leader in Washington, who teaches Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University and is President of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), it does.
After presenting herself as black since 2004, she’s now come forward in an interview with FOX, in which she has admitted she knows she is biologically Caucasian.
‘I was biologically born white, to white parents,’ she said. ‘Sometimes how we feel is more powerful then how we are born… Blackness can be defined as philosophical, cultural, biological, a lot of different things for a lot of different people. I do think you have to walk the walk if that’s how you are.’
In June this year, Rachel hit the headlines when her parents gave an interview revealing that despite her outward appearance and choice of career, she was white – and actually had no black heritage at all.
‘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 bi-racial person and that’s simply not true,’ says her mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, in the interview with Krem 2 News. Adding that their daughter has black brothers, who they adopted, and was once married to a man of African-American descent, they claim that she began to change her appearance following her divorce, 11 years ago.
Dolezal spoke out at the time, arguing that the subject is a ‘multilayered issue’.
‘The question is not as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of complexities … and I don’t know that everyone would understand that. We’re all from the African continent.’
‘I would draw self-portraits with a brown crayon instead of the peach crayon,’ she explained in an interview with the Today Show following the scandal. ‘That was how I was portraying myself.’
‘I really don’t see why they’re in a rush to whitewash the work that I’ve done and who I am and how I’ve identified.’
Posts on Dolezal’s social media pages (screengrabbed by Buzzfeed) showed her discussing what it’s like to watch 12 Years A Slave in the presence of ‘white people’, and talking about letting her hair go ‘natural’. And criticism poured in, accusing her of ‘blackface’ and racism.
“It’s kind of a slap in the face to African-Americans because she doesn’t know what it’s like to be black,” says her adopted brother, Ezra Dolezal, whose biological mother was white and father half-black. “She’s only been African-American when it benefited her. She hasn’t been through all the struggles. She’s only been African-American the last few years.”
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And while the NAACP postpones Dolezal’s scheduled appearances for the time being, the Twittersphere was in uproar since the news broke.
Kelly Osbourne posted a photo on Instagram, captioned: ‘This has utterly shocked me!!! It’s a #WholeNewLevelOfWrong.’
But Mia Farrow disagreed, posting: ”trans-ethnic could be a real thing,’ adding, ‘we accept that a person can identify as transgender.’
Meanwhile, Cher took to Twitter to write: ‘WHY did Rachel Dolezal’s Parents OUT Their Daughter? It Was Cruel.I Don’t Know WHY She Chose Her PATH,But Who Doesn’t Want 2 have Blk COOL’
And singer Keri Hilson found herself facing a torrent of Twitter abuse when she wrote: ‘Let’s just all thank #RachelDolezal. Identity, pathological, & parental issues aside, she’s doing more than most of us do for ourselves.’
In a statement issued following the scandal, the NAACP confirmed it is supporting Dolezal throughout the scandal – and that it welcomes people of all races and backgrounds within the organisation.
‘NAACP Spokane Washington Branch President Rachel Dolezal is enduring a legal issue with her family, and we respect her privacy in this matter,’ says the Association. ‘One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.’