Everyone knows who Rachel Dolezal is. She’s the hot new face of the grey area of racial politics. She’s even caused for a cultivation of a new word “transracial.” A word that, to my dismay, is probably going to stay around in the lexicon for a while.
But this article isn’t about the new vocabulary. Instead, I took a long hard thought about why Rachel Dolezal feels she is black and what circumstances of living drove her to that conclusion. And the conclusion that I came to is that this was the inevitable result of a country (and soon to be world) that is being taken over by the culture of urban America.
Culture is always created by either the youth of the country, it’s poor, or its outcasts. The mainstream therefore either has to draw from these cultures or transform it into an easy mode of consumption. America is no exception to this rule. The 2000’s have come to be heavily influence by urban culture. The once impoverished have become icons of the entertainment industry. With entertainment becoming more and more the most prominent form of expression it would be hard to dodge the urban influence. So how does this effect Rachel Dolezal? Easy, all her heroes are black now.
Rachel Dolezal turns on the radio and she hears music influenced by urban culture. Rachel goes on the internet and sees how every woman wants to be Beyoncé. Again and again Rachel is bombarded with urban culture, blackness over and over. So she begins to absorb it and internalize it. Instead of the fear that some people face with other cultures, she decides to reform herself to what she sees as the dominant urban culture.
But then something happens. She sees what happened to “tourists” like Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus who get ridiculed for being culture vultures and how quickly they get ran out of the public’s face. So she attempts to take her venture a step further and skips the tourism and just goes native. Rachel Dolezal represents those myths that we thought only existed in movies. The John Smiths of Pocahontas or the Jake Sully’s of Avatar. However much like those before her she was doomed from the beginning.
Instead of entering the culture as herself, she chose to just become a caricature of it. Using a foundational lie, her really being black, to reap the benefits of her new culture. And then when she was outed she refused to back down to her reality. This cowardly stance shows her real fear towards black people. That somehow black people would reject her for herself. But she is the one who has now made that distrust, she’s not outed as a farce and there’s no way for her to go back. Though her actions mimic those movie myths, she missed the point. That those who wish to “go native” do so as themselves and then become immersed without losing their identity or lying to the culture.
This fear may have come from the rejection of her family, if the news stories of abuse are true, so she was afraid to be what she is. So she needed a new identity, one so radical from what she already was. If that is true, then I can understand Rachel I can see why she’d want to abandon that environment. However, she overlooked the value of truth in her identity which was her ultimate pitfall. A pitfall to which most of us can relate.
So ultimately Rachel Dolezal has become a mirror for society. A mirror of a society where personal identity is splintered and governed by pop and social media. Two platforms that have become dominated by urban memes. So the mainstream must mock her because she’s done what they could not. Overcome her fear of the other and join them. Sadly she just went about it the wrong way.