Race in America versus Race in Citizen: A Discussion on Race as Psychological Development

Captioning our conscious is the ever-ending foreword, “Race in America” whenever a hint of color lines border our news cycles. What we get when a white woman is at the center of this debate is an almost paradoxical investigation into a livelihood outside of skin color, which we find clothed in the privilege to claim she is not white, but black. The privilege to not only disclaim born ethnicity, but to identify specifically as black comes from 37 year old, Rachel Dolezal, born to both parents of Caucasian descent, with an adoptive brother whom she portrayed as her son as a part of the NAACP. Such a transformation embarks on the racial discourse beyond its social construct, considering the undergoing effects of the individual. When we see Rachel Dolezal, we not only see the trajectory of “race in America,” but a microscope of race in psychological stages.

Race in nature is an acknowledgment of skin pigmentation, and organization’s like the NAACP assist in its introduction as a social construct. Historically founded on the grounds to advance African-American life, its members comprise of black and brown individuals who initiate black leadership as a core of their success. Mirroring programs like FDR’s New Deal, the NAACP has been able to implement the idea of liberality, opening membership to diversity that welcomes Rachel Dolezal. Since joining in 2014, Dolezal reigned as the chairperson for a chapter in Washington, yet a past of discriminatory experiences followed her tenure. Dolezal’s work in the community can be taken in appreciation regardless of her appearance, familiarizing her with disclosures of any job for any member. NAACP’s structure for Dolezal is a unique reflection of the early integrating efforts for blacks and whites during the Civil Rights Movement, particularly during the days of Malcolm X when he would visit college campuses and white kids flocked to his speeches. The interest in Rachel, however, is not so much her desire for a place in the diaspora, but the active change in herself she finds necessary to find said work.

A young photo of Rachel Dolezal is a clear picture of a pale-skinned, smiling schoolgirl, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Blonde hair and blue eyes is not more so of a caricature than black hair and brown eyes, but a permanent change from blonde hair to black hair or blue eyes to brown eyes is. Physical attributes are not at all an implication of characteristics, unless you are a white schoolgirl turned black NAACP member. What Rachel’s individuality allows to call this change is “transracial,” which is an explicit view of race outside of the social norm. Dolezal’s intent on not only playing a role, but looking a part is reminiscent of those adolescent schooldays when we not only acknowledged black or white, but contended what it meant to be black or white. This portrayal, in the case of Rachel Dolezal, is what allows norms to be appropriated and misappropriated, whether we aggravate their meanings or not.

To break these norms of race, an individual must have a quota on the status quo, and both the individual and from where they come inherit this when forced with the status of who they are. Who Dolezal is to her parents is undoubtedly different from who she is to the NAACP, which still is a shadow of who she is to herself. Nonetheless, who she is to her parents has become pivotal to public perception of her pursuit of blackness as transformative psychology or mythological misappropriation. Rachel, based on appearance alone, is not the same young woman her parents remember, but her work ethic may still remind them of the young woman they love, and long to have back. To suggest that the public love a young woman the same way her parents do is in itself psychological pathology, but as we witness the extent of Rachel’s change, the importance of private reality heightens, which her parents offer as home.

Fibbing and fraud are not necessarily the same thing, as it pertains to cultural interpretation, however, the introduction of Rachel Dolezal’s parents bring forth ancestry that was not previously mentioned about Dolezal. Dolezal has a brother whom she claimed as a son during her activism, which makes coworkers and allies alike uneasy. Along with her parents, siblings have since rejected any notion that Dolezal is a black woman, even requesting that she takes a DNA test. The lie that is her ethnicity may be solely perpetuated by Rachel’s experiences with race, however, coupled with the lie that is her ancestry is a master accusation for evaluation beyond imagination.

There’s not so much a quarrel over Rachel’s born ethnicity, as it is why she has neglected her born ethnicity, and in result, has jeopardized her family. For what Rachel Dolezal’s reputation is worth, the public shame that is denying your race can be refuted through the complexity of racial discourse in America, which may comfort her family and friends in understanding the racial dynamic in their daughter, sister, and friend.


Sister Kahrima


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