Ask Rachel

I don’t watch the news–the news is depressing. It’s one bad story after another, and the points of importance are pushed aside for the next sensational headline.

Instead I follow stories. I try to understand the exposition, the unwritten prologue, the implications of chapter three, the critical reviews of the page-turning epilogue. And lately, I’ve been reading from a new library–rather than merely perusing the shelves of LGBT identity, Jewish / American intersectionality, and the occasional op-ed on immigration, redistricting, and presidential campaigns, lately I’ve been reading about race.

Here I’ve found more stories, maybe, than I bargained for (and as I write this, I’m reminded of some good advice to beware of the danger of a single story): there are tragedies with names like Travon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice; settings as varied as McKinney and Ferguson and Baltimore; and narratives simple and complex, like Black Lives Matter.

But the story today that’s swimming through my newsfeed is none of these.

The setting is Spokane, and Rachel is her name.

We all know the tale of the boy who cried wolf, and unraveling in this fairy-tale sort of tumult is the Girl Who Cried Black, a modern-day Goldilocks fumbling through hair styles until she finds just the right one, Little Red who begs the question, who really is the wolf?

As in any good Grimm or Anderson, there must be a moral somewhere–but for the life of me, like Sherlock or Brown on page one, I can’t even see the pieces to assume the whole.

The quotes and excerpts I’ve seen so far are conflicting. I see one friend of color offended, another defending Ms. Dolezal’s right to identify herself as she feels, asserting that she’s presented as black for ten years, doesn’t that make it at least somewhat legit? And I’ve seen others in the middle, hung up on how realistic, how believable, she made her hair.

Me? I’m on the sidelines, watching, wary–for all these snippets, Rachel hasn’t come forward with her own story–her motives, her mindset, her own words. These, I believe, are the words we must wait for and listen to–openly and honestly.

If truly she feels black, if in her heart she feels more comfortable living as a black woman than a white girl, I don’t know why we have to rip away her reality, whatever her reasons.

But if she’s simply a liar, dishonest, then she’s crossed other lines. To mislead others about her parentage, her siblings or children, her experiences–especially when she claims to be a victim of alleged hate crimes and discrimination…well, that to me is unforgivable.

Then I’m back on the other hand, wondering if perhaps some of her stories are more fact than fiction, but even then, shouldn’t she only claim witness to her personal truths?

That, in a way, is the core of poetry: I shall bear witness to my life. I shall distill my stories into scenes as pure and pristine as the water that feeds you. Then, we can know each other. Then, we can realize our differences, our similarities, our shared humanity.

Born white or not, if Rachel wishes to live as a black woman, I don’t see why she can’t. But if she does, if she will, then I feel she must be honest. No more lies. No more hiding.

Then again, all these words are extrapolation. Until she speaks, we know nothing.

In the meantime, while we ponder, peruse, and inevitably forget, here are a few articles I’ve found especially provocative that I’d like to leave with you:

Rachel Dolezal exposes our delusional constructions and perceptions of race by Steven W Thrasher, the Guardian

Why Comparing Rachel Dolezal To Caitlyn Jenner Is Detrimental To Both Trans And Racial Progress by Zeba Blay, The Huffington Post

I Have Questions About That White Lady Who Maybe Pretended to Be Black by Kara Brown, Jezebel

Thoughts only come to fruition when they leave the nest of our heads, so I welcome each of you to share yours here, with me, with each other, so we can blossom together.

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