o-RACHEL-DOLEZAL-facebook

Why I Really Want to Stop Talking About Rachel Dolezal

 

This post was originally titled “Rachel Dolezal and the Audacity of Whiteness.” I was completely prepared to rage against the machine and rehash what everyone else has said about this ordeal. But, then, I realized that I am tired of Rachel Dolezal, whiteness, and all the intersections thereof.

When it came time to write that essay, I simply couldn’t bring myself to pen yet another piece decrying White Supremacy and its boundless nature. I couldn’t spend one more moment explaining why Dolezal’s  claims that she is a Black person are the epitome of her privilege as a White American. I couldn’t waste 750 words shouting into the ether that Dolezal is a conglomeration of one liners from Black movies, quotes from Black authors, and Indian Remy Yaki-ness.  So, I’m not going to do that. I’d rather talk about what Dolezal has done, the issues her farce has raised about blackness, and what it means for real Black people going forward.

From the moment this story hit the mainstream, folks have been writing in response. Some have taken issue with the conflations Dolezal’s acolytes  have made of race and gender. Others have been awestruck at the inconsistent and problematic presentations Dolezal sets forth in her differing interviews. Others still have been concerned with how Dolezal’s masquerade is harmful to actual Black Americans. There are so many think pieces about Dolezal on the internet. So much air time and web space has been dedicated to this White woman, posing as a Black woman, in the past few weeks. But why though?

As far as the media goes, White people really like to discuss themselves. I’ve said it before but, White folks seem to feel most at ease when they can simply be White amongst other White people enjoying whiteness. Therefore, I’m not really surprised Dolezal is the juiciest story these (predominantly) White news outlets have right now.

As for Black news outlets, I know that some media groups just have to cover this stuff. Unlike the personal blogs (like this one), they have no choice but to attempt to get “the latest scoop.” I respect that. I don’t like it. But I respect it.

However, it has been more perplexing to see the staggering numbers of Black people caping (definition: the act of putting on a cape to save this heifer like Clark Kent did for Lois Lane) for Rachel Dolezal. Rather than talking about her character, pretending to be a licensed pathologist, or pontificating about her intentions, I’d rather explain why our infatuation and, in some cases, defense of Dolezal is indicative of a deeper problem we (Black people) have with respectability, White Saviors, and the exploitation of Black women’s bodies.

Case and point: This White woman posing as a Black woman has been lauded by many in the Black community for “doing something for us.” In essence, she behaved like a respectable Black person should (even though she’s White) by leading and working with the NAACP. Their need to praise Dolezal’s White Savior Complex ignores the fact that while “doing something for us,” Dolezal also reinforced the very violent, very exclusionary act of silencing and erasing Black women’s experiences in the United States.

Her efforts to literally place her feet in Black women’s shoes meant that there were some Black women who went barefoot. She took up space in academia and in a prominent social organization when a Black woman – perhaps one who has identified that way since before 2002 – could have had access to those opportunities. Why should we continue rewarding this deceit with coverage and other accolades?

Even worse, some Black men have indicated that Dolezal’s caricature of Black women’s skin and hair is akin to the fashion and hair choices celebrity Black women make. Meme after meme has indicted Black women like Beyoncé, Ciara, and Mary J Blige for straightening their tresses or donning blonde extensions. Why? These men argue that these fashion choices are no different from what Dolezal has done to darken her skin and make her hair kinkier.

The problem with this line of reasoning should be obvious. There are two main issues with this claim. First, Black women’s choices in hair or makeup doesn’t make them assimilable into whiteness. The one-drop rule in this country has always set a baseline that any African-descendant lineage makes an individual Black. Second, and more importantly, Black women who do pass for White do so for survival purposes. Historically, “looking White” could mean greater access to employment opportunities, less risk of harm in public spaces, and opportunity to marry outside of one’s race without persecution from the law. Any argument which ignores these very real facts is just as ficticious as Rachel Dolezal’s identity.

Similarly, Dolezal’s embodiment of blackness strikes much the same low, underdeveloped notes as we have seen by the likes of Miley CyrusKaty Perry, and Taylor Swift. These disembodied, exaggerated mockeries of “The Black Experience” (as if there is only one) prove that Dolezal isn’t actually Black. Instead, she seems taken with the fetishized caricatures of Black womanhood. Her rise to fame seems oddly meta in that way. Frankly, every time Rachel does an interview, an angel loses its wings. And, sadly, the more hype we give her story, the more likely she is to get a book deal, reality television show, or other reward for her audacious whiteness at the expense of Black people.

Honestly, I feel like Dolezal’s actions have shone a light on many of the issues we face in Black social movements and existence. We can’t quite decide if there are boundaries to blackness or, if there are, who gets to set them. Her elaborate Catfishing experiment makes it clear that blackness can and will continue to be infiltrated. This is not something that can be avoided. But, rather than offer more lip service, arguing against those who would like to give Dolezal credit which she did not earn, I’d rather start to work through the very important secondary effects her clandestine affair has had on what it means to be Black in the United States.

Suffice it to say, I won’t be writing about her in this space ever again. This was my first and last time. What I will say though is her antics raise important questions about who we are and who we choose to be. So, let’s stop talking about her and spend more time talking to one another about us.

This post was originally written for Water Cooler Convos.

Photo credit: Rachel Dolezal/Facebook

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

A Call to Talk About Things That Actually Matter To Black Folks

blackwoman

By Victoria Massie

I’m trying to do a better job of not writing when I’m heated. Much of this rooted in a deep sense of self-care. For this reason I ask that people redirect their energies toward something more productive. Rachel Dolezal is not novel. Every aspect of how she hit the stage, of how we know her name is based on the culmination of all the many ways white supremacy operates and has sustained itself since this country’s inception.

We have even found ourselves festering on each other’s flesh, conflating gender with racial identity, two modes of inscribing power inequalities into our everyday lives, but quite distinctly. While both are socially constructed, they are done so quite differently. You do not inherit a gender from your parents, or else you would only need one, and we would have very little reason to do the serious work of policing our presentation through our style and actions that gender inequalities requires. Not to mention all of the ways that race often erases the cis-gendered hierarchy. How often are black women and girls treated like men, not as equally women and girls as their white counterparts? This would a classic moments for scholars to revisit Hortense Spillers’ “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.”

Race doesn’t work like that. While there is no biological basis, biology has served as material manipulated to give salience to phenotype and consequently substantiate the modes of violence done in its name, and ensure them as inheritable. Rachel is not passing; she is embodying blackface, a living case of plagiarism, because passing has NEVER been fluid; it has never been a move from one end to another without cutting off some part of yourself for your “benefit.” That choice has never been as boundless for actually black people as it presents itself for this white woman. But beyond this, this conflation of gender and race, employs erasure by further erasing people who are already living in a very vulnerable state of erasability: our black trans siblings. We are sitting here debating ourselves for her, all the while draining ourselves, eating each other alive on the way.

My hope is that for self-care, put your energies toward talking about things that actually matter to black people: anything from McKinney; to Arnesha Bowers; to the 12 year old girl in Cincinnati who just had her neck broken by a cop while playing at a pool; talk about our Haitian siblings who have become stateless; to the young black girl who just earned over $3 million in scholarships.

For all the people who are actually black, we know that our lives are not debatable. That’s the core value of #BlackLivesMatter, or to #SayHerName. We need each other, and every second we continue to waste on her makes it all the more difficult for us to do the work to ensure our liberation, something most certainly will not come from white people who do not respect boundaries, who cross them to be us (shout out to Audre Lorde’s essay “Learning from the 60s”).

For all the black women and black girls out there, maybe the point today for #WCW is to love on yourself.

Photo: Generic/gtpete63

 Victoria Massie is an anthropologist and writer. For information, you can find her on victoriammassie.com.

New Series Shows the Beauty of Black Queer and Transgender Love

Black queer and trans* folks are often excluded from mainstream ideals about love and romance. Their deviation from the White heteropatriarchal “norm” means that many folks in these communities rarely see images of themselves reflcted back on the silver screen, in TV series’, or in other media in popular culture. That’s why NBC’s new series “Living Color: Love is Revolutionary When You’re Black & Transgender,” a first entry in the “NBCBLK “Love is Revolutionary” series is so timely and necessary.

In a world where trans folks are still murdered for merely existing, this series dares to spotlight the beauty in these loving relationships. While this will not cure all the issues many folks in the United States have had historically, and still have presently, with queer and trans* love, it is definitely a beautiful expression of visibility for individuals who are left out of the notion of love altogether.

Photo Credit: YouTube/NBCNews/Still

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Poet’s Explanation of “Black Privilege” Gives an Emotional Account of Black Life

A powerful poem by Crystal Valentine, student at NYU and activist, has been captivating watchers since it was posted on YouTube last week. Valentine performed the poem at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational where her team won the competition.

In the poem, she gives a very raw and emotional account of Black life in America today noting how young, unarmed men like Trayvon Martin navigate  a world where they are always expected to conform to anti-Blackness. Similarly, she notes that young Black girls  face  a similar fate even though many people fail to admit it.

She says, “Black Privilege is always having to be the strong one, is having a crowbar for a spine…Black Privilege is being so unique that not even God will look like you.”

Valentine’s account is not only meaningful, it accurately depicts the conflicted nature of Black citizenship in America in the 21st  century.

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Kenwood Student and Magic Black Girl was Accepted into 26 Universities

ariannaalexander

Arianna Alexander, a graduating senior and current valedictorian at Kenwood Academy, is the epitome of Black girl magic. The Chicago high school student was accepted into 26 universities, including six Ivy League schools, and has been offered over $3 million in scholarships.

It was Alexander’s father who encouraged her to apply to multiple universities. When she began applying, it was his idea to continue to apply to more and more schools in the hopes of getting more than $1 million in scholarships. According the ABC Chicago, Pierre Alexander says “when the process got started and a million was achieved, let’s go for two. I said let’s go for three and she did it.” It’s not a surprise she was able to achieve such a feat given her 5.1 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

This future entreprenuer and Hyde Park native will be going places (literally) without the financial strain most college students face nowadays.

Arianna has chosen to attend the University of Pennysylvania in the fall. She plans to, one day, own several restaurants. Given what she has accomplished thus far, there’s no reason to doubt that she’ll achieve those goals too.

Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Melissa Harris-Perry Asks if Rachel Dolezal is Actually Black

MHP-nerdland-cisblackThe term “transracial” has been incessantly misused in the past week since the Rachel Dolezal story hit the mainstream media cycle. The President of the NAACP Chapter in Spokane has been, apparently, living her life as a Black woman for at least two decades despite having White parents. Not only has she been pretending to be something she is not, she has even lied about who her father is and used her adopted Black siblings as a part of her Black performance.

Claims that she might actually be a Black woman trapped in a White woman’s body have been used to defend her appropriation and exploitation of stereotypical mischaracterizations of Black women’s skin, dialect, and hair. But, no public intellectuals have entertained this notion. Well, until this past weekend.

On Saturday’s airing of the popular “Melissa Harris-Perry Show” on MSNBC, prominent feminist, author, and news host Melissa Harris-Perry offered the idea that Dolezal might in fact be “trans-Black.” And, she suggested that the term “cis-Black” could be a realistic way to conceptualize the contructive nature of race. Oddly, she was speaking with Stanford professor, Dr. Allyson Hobbs, whose iconic work on passing in America, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, details how racial passing has been used for survival usually by people of color. So, how exactly does this phenomenon map onto Rachel Dolezal? What exactly is Dolezal trying to survive by posing as a Black woman?

What is paticularly problematic about using this language for Rachel Dolezal is it allows for her story (one of lying, manipulating, deceit, and secrecy) to be conflated with the lives of trans* folks. While Dolezal has been living a lie, trans* folks are focused on the polar opposite. The goal is living one’s truth. This is where Harris-Perry misses the mark. And using the language of passing is both violent and harmful to the legacy of queer and trans* folks and people of color who have had to use this strategy for survival.

The hope is that Harris-Perry revisits this topic perhaps with folks who share the identities she addressed in the discussion. In this conversation, she is, in essence, silencing and erasing the very people she has noted as prominent agents in her activism. That is the most disappointing result of this baseless defense of Rachel Dolezal.

See the clip at MSNBC.

Photo Credit: MSNBC Video Image/Still

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

15 Mysteries We’d Like the Black Twitter Detective Agency to Solve

By Jayy Dodd

But it’s really none of our business…

RDMHP

1. Raven-Symoné and the Case of the Translucent American.

raven-symone

2. Where were you when Cash Money took over the 99 & the 2000

barack obama

3. How to know if you are “fahn”?

4. Did Rachel Dolezal try to ‘Single Lightskin Female’ Melissa Harris Perry? 

RDMHP

5. How did talking loud run up the light bill?

6. Is Tidal a product of the Illuminati?

Beyonce

7. How did Don Lemon become America’s Black Friend?

8. Was Talenti created by the CIA to take Black dollars?

9. If real men give birth to themselves, is Dame Dash an amoeba?

dame dash

 10. Is Shea Butter the new Black card?

 11. Which ancestor has kept Pharrell looking the same for 17 years?

pharrel

 12. Why isn’t everyday Black Out Day?

 13. How does one “fetty wap”? 

Fetty Wap

 14. Dance…soiree? 

giphy (34)

15. Who imports all this tea we are sipping?

nicki minaj

Photos: Giphy

Jay Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.

13 Songs That Are Perfect for Your Carefree Black Girl Summer Playlist

By L.G. Parker

giphy (2)

For the black girls braiding hair all summer, the black girls looking up MFA programs for hours after work, the black girls who get misgendered,  the black girls who are stepping outside of their comfort zone to wear that two-piece to the pool, for the black girls who sometimes forget to take their medicine, the black girls looking for the right swimming trunks for the summer, for the black girls spending their first summer doing political organizing, the black girls working through depression, the black girls working a minimum wage job to get their first car, for the girls working through shame, the black girls dealing with the cat calls, the black girls spending the summer developing their start-up, for the girls gearing up for their first summer as a mother, the black bois with the sharp fades, and the black girls looking to have a good time after a rough spring and winter — press play & turn it up.

1. Nicki Minaj — Feeling Myself (Audio) ft. Beyoncé

2. D’Angelo — Everybody Loves the Sunshine

3. Kendrick Lamar — Blow My High (Members Only)

4. Lion Babe (feat. Childish Gambino) — Jump Hi

5. Beyoncé — Flawless (Remix) ft. Nicki Minaj

6. Fetty Wap — Trap Queen

7. Kendrick Lamar — i

8.     #shine!☀ x @brikliam

9.     Beyoncé — 7/11

10. The Internet — Dontcha

11. Lianne La Havas — Unstoppable

12. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment — Sunday Candy

13. Janelle Monáe — Yoga

L.G. Parker is a poet and writer living in Richmond, VA. She is a Callaloo fellow and regular contributor to Elixher Magazine, Blavity, and the Black Youth Project.

Why I Won’t Watch the McKinney Video

McKinney

By Arielle Newton

Confession: I have not watched — nor do I intend to watch — the video from McKinney, Texas. From what I gathered from my various social media feeds, the video shows a cop viciously pinning down a 14-year-old bikini-clad Black girl who was attending a pool party.

Why haven’t I watched the video? Short answer: self-care.

Triggers are very, very real. And in my commitment to Black cultural empowerment against a forever-adapting system of white supremacy, I find myself triggered quite often. Especially as I approach my pro-Black activism with a consistent Black feminist lens.

This isn’t the first time I’ve actively, strategically, and directly avoided topics that cause me great pain, anxiety, sadness, and frustration. I haven’t spoken on Caitlyn Jenner and the growing white-centered dialogue about “womanhood” because nothing about her journey speaks to mine. I haven’t analyzed the Brelo verdict because that gets me angry as hell. And I haven’t put forth an opinion on Chris Brown’s mythical light skint woes because … why bother?

Actively avoiding certain topics comes with great risk, both personally and structurally.

As a blogger, consciously remaining “ignorant” drastically reduces my ability to produce content, which ultimately weakens my capacity to grow BM’s readership. For example, in regards to McKinney, I could offer an analysis that suggests part of the reason why the image of a Black girl penned down by a G.I. Joe-wannabe angered so many was because she was in a bikini, thus creating a layer rooted in the historic and current hyper-policing and -sexualization of young Black girls in some manifestation or other.

But I can’t thoroughly explore such a thought because I refuse to click on any links or play any videos in which her image is so unsympathetically smeared.

Structurally, should we remain silent about the most egregiously racist and anti-Black provocations, then our voices aren’t heard at all, and the system of white supremacy remains unchallenged or unaccountable. And we all know that’s a big ass problem.

So where do we draw the line? Short answer: I have no idea.

Deciding which images we post, what recent events galvanize us, or what videos we share is — without question — subjective. We all have our triggers, stemming from our custom-made lived experiences. We respond to events differently, are focused in specific issue areas, and are more motivated by some things over others.

So I guess I can only tailor that question to me.

I find that I’m quick to share heinous incidents of anti-Blackness, especially within the scope of police brutality. I’m quick to respond to negativity. And while it’s important that I do, I’m challenging myself to create space for positivity.

So for me, I’ll be more intentional about sharing videos and writing articles that shows the majesty of Black brilliance. I’m charging myself to lift up Black creativity and cover Black talent. That’s my commitment to the digital space.

So here’s a video of a Black community in Harlem who successfully ran off an undercover NYPD who tried to arrest a Black girl. May this video spur inspiration of what Black Girl Resilience and Resistance looks like.

Photo: Screenshot/Youtube

Arielle Newton is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennials.