I originally wrote this as a Facebook post a year ago today. I thought it was worth repeating…
Let me explain something to y’all. Maybe those who say, what is the big deal with this Rachel chick? Why are people more than a little bit irritated with this imposter? I think it would help if someone like me took the time to explain why I say I am Black, and why I take exception to someone who is saying they are when they are not. (Don’t worry boo boo, I feel the same when Blacks pass for white, but we can discuss it in another thread.)
I would like to explain why I know with my soul and my entire being that I am BLACK. In fact, I am unapologetically BLACK. I believed that I am wonderfully made, and I come from an amazing culture that has had a tremendous impact in the land of my birth. I believe that EVERYONE should be proud of the culture they are from, but I am not “African American” in the true sense.
I am not an African that came here as an immigrant and willfully became an American. I am not the daughter of African and an American. I am a sum of my parts, a combination that is unique to the American experience. Because of my history, the enslavement of some (not all) of my ancestors, my unique struggles in the home of my birth, I have a completely different reality than someone of direct African descent. While my blood is 74% from the motherland, my culture, my family ties, what I have always been from BIRTH, no matter whether if I lived around mostly Blacks or mostly whites, is BLACK.
Am I upset about this? Absolutely not. I would never change who I am for any reason. I would not co-opt another culture because I have never been, nor will I ever be, ashamed of my background. “Race” is a man made construct made to divide and hate. They’ve tried to use biology, evolution, anthropology, and genetics to make us look like we are not quite human. I do not play into the pseudo science of race. We are all of the same species.
When you talk about someone and who they are, however, you are talking about their cultural lens. I am not talking about a culture that you just adopted because you like it. It is how you were raised. What shaped your formative years. What your family and community gave as your foundation. The mentality that shaped your mind. Just like Italians, Greeks, and the French. You may have been born African, but if you are raised as a French person (say you were adopted by French parents), you identify as French. But because of RACISM, there will ALWAYS be some asshole who will come around and NEVER let you forget you are African, and not in a complimentary way. (Ask Sonya Bonaly, the skater who had “too much strength” to win a gold medal in skating.)
BUT CULTURE is cultivated, treasured, and often appropriated in the most disrespectful of ways. From my personal experience, Africans do not see us as the same as they are. We are Americans to them. Some are cool and nice about it, and still treat you well. However, many distance themselves from us for many reasons that are too multiple to get into here.
Is there a possibility that a racially white person can have a Black cultural lens? I’ve seen it a few times in my life, but usually I’ve seen the opposite. I’ve (also) watched Blacks, for whatever reason, see things from white cultural lens. But I digress. I’ll talk about how well that works for them later in this post.
I have witnessed whites who are culturally Black while visiting my cousins in the projects near my high school. I was standing in front of two sistas having a heated discussion. I was more than a little surprised (when I turned around) to see there were two white girls (twins at that) standing there. BUT the difference was, I never ONCE heard them say (or talk of) that they considered themselves Black.
I never saw them put in weave, tan their skin, or exaggerate Ebonics to the point where you could sense fuckery. Even when the Black people around them considered them to be Black, they never tried it. Do you want to know why? Because they knew that if they wanted to, they could change their diction, lie about where they lived, and most importantly, leave that first impression that they were white with anyone they pleased. That is the difference between living through a Black cultural lens and pretending to be Black.
The scary thing is this. You DO have people who are the descendants of Black folks walking around here thinking they are white. That is their cultural lens. Its really sad because we live in a country where they are told that they should be a certain way for acceptance and recognition, but that recognition never really comes. They are just just mocked and laughed at by whites and Blacks alike. Even when they tried (Allan Keys, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Tiger Woods and his “Caucublasian’ – I could go on forever), there is someone always there to tell you that you are not (white). (Remember Fuzzy Zeller after Tiger won the Masters?)
Don’t hate the player, though. Hate the game. Somewhere along the line, someone taught them that it was in their best interests. Don’t ask Black folks to fix it either. How can we fix something we did not create?
People want to blame Black people because we WANT cherish our culture. We make every effort to hold on to the last few shards of the religion and culture of our ancestors, not just from Africa, but who were here already! This was stripped from us to reduce our power, destroy our cultures, enslave us mentally, and destroy our families. This, people, was done by design. No one EVER questions why there is a Swedish, Greek, or Jewish museum (unless they are a shitty bigot), but they sure wanna know why there are museums devoted to our culture.
Then you get coon opportunists like Jesse Jackson (who should have KNOWN BETTER), who decide give us a label that we did not need. Did Jesse forget Africa is a CONTINENT? How in the hell can we ALL come from there? You came from a NATION or a COUNTRY in Africa. We have a right to define specifically who we are culturally, as well as geographically, if we wish. No one has the right to make you GENERIC!
When Rachel Dolezal claimed she was Black, she did lay claim to this from a cultural lens. Her formative years were not shaped by the struggle of actually being a Black person in this country. She could look at her siblings (who incidentally were being raised in a white cultural lens like she was, and THIS is why her parents do not get what she has done AT ALL.), and empathize, but because she was not raised through this cultural lens, she cannot sympathize. I mean really. The woman had to write herself hate mail in order to feign legitimacy as an “oppressed” Black woman.
Just stop now. I CAN’T.
Look at people like Eminem. Like him or love him, he came from a hard life. He raps about what he knows. That is why most people would/will not diss him or his experience. They have tried, but his staying power with all races should give you a clue as to what I am talking about. He’s been legit to the best of my knowledge, even when the media made efforts to discredit him. He never claimed to be anything other than what he was.
And I’ll leave you to make your own comparisons with that one-hit-wonder, Vanilla Ice, who stole his words from the men of Alpha-Phi-Alpha and his beats from Queen. He lied about who he was and where he came from for street cred. He gets no props from either side of the fence, and now he flips homes because nobody will pay him to be on any stage.
Maybe Rachel and Vanilla should get together and have some imaginary Black babies.