walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

A VERY few remarks on Rachel Dolezal

My primary focus in the first couple days of coverage of this bizarre and still evolving story was on whether the hate crimes/death threats had any basis in reality. I feel like if you are faking up stuff like that, the correct next move on the part of a compassionate community is to quit finding you interesting to speculate about and start trying to get you whatever help you need to not do that any more, while easing you right out of the bright lights of Hey It's Almost Summer and We Need Some Juicy Gossip (<-- I'm not opposed to gossip. But picking on people once it is established that there are serious mental health concerns Seems Wrong to Me). My secondary focus was on claiming that what apparently was the opposite of natural hair for Dolezal was "Natural". That just seems like a violation on so many levels. I'm sure that was insanely picky of me, to focus on that part of it.

In case it isn't obvious, I care about The Truth. I don't think I'm going to find any truth in whether someone is one race or another. But I do think that we can find some of the truth about a particular person and what she did over time. When my husband asked if I'd seen the stuff about a lawsuit against Howard University for discrimination on the basis of being white, I went, no freaking way!


"At Howard University in Washington, D.C., according to the 2005 order, Moore claimed "discrimination based on race, pregnancy, family responsibilities and gender" while she was a graduate student in art."

"the appeals judge said Moore did not apply for an advertised position with the university, but rather “dropped off her resume and a cover letter … acknowledging her understanding that no teaching positions were then available”, according to the ruling."

Okay, so _that_ is very colorful, if my dear readers will excuse the pun.

And then, I ran across this, an opinion piece by Montel Williams (you remember Montel Williams. He was one of the two or three men running shows on the backs of genetic testing to determine fatherhood, back when genetic testing was expensive enough for people to be willing to put themselves through that kind of humiliation to get a real answer. Some of the best daytime television ever invented.).


He mentions his biracial kids and the transracial issues associated with their identity. He mentions the Howard University thing. He wished they'd asked a question about whether someone with her history of lying would have actually investigated claims of racial bias in the event of a police incident. And while he's picking on NBC in this case for playing soft to get the interview when the story is trending, he spends a paragraph on Fox and the Duggars and Fox's focus on whether something should have been leaked when it is the contents of the leak that were so important.

However, on a day when I really believe that Montel Williams is a font of wisdom and an oasis of sanity in a desert of craziness in which a few people are desperately trying to reassemble the liberal coalition of marginalized groups as it descends into a frenzy of self definition, redefinition and arguments of choice vs identity -- well, that is a day when I probably should just go spend a few more hours playing Farmville 2, because I'm just not sure about how good my judgment is today. It _might_ be really good, but I might really regret what I write next.


I am sad to say that this story is more appealing than playing Farmville 2: Country Escape.

Back when I volunteered at Brookline Public Library, I was reading shelves in Biography when I came across this gem.


I laughed and commented to the librarian that is was shelved incorrectly. Turns out the librarian actually believed that story (this interaction would have occurred sometime between 2004 and 2008). A later librarian reshelved it in fiction, possibly after the story finally broke widely.

I somehow completely missed the story of Tania Head:


I started avoiding 9/11 coverage relatively quickly after the event, and turned my attention elsewhere.

I'd never heard of this guy, but there's a link to him in the wikipedia article for Head -- along with a link to the Dolezal entry.


It has this quote, which seems sturdy enough to reuse more generally for memoirs which cease to be interesting at all once found to be false.

""Once the professed interrelationship between the first-person narrator, the death-camp story he narrates, and historical reality are proved palpably false – wrote Stefan Maechler – what was a masterpiece becomes kitsch."[1]"

These stories don't work as fiction because they don't make any sense.

Here is the NYT describing the aftermath of _Love and Consequences_ being discovered to be fictional. Its author was not claiming to be black, but she was claiming to be of an entirely different class (?) and to have had an entirely different upbringing than she actually had (she was a gang activist, so the invent-a-relevant-backstory motif is shared).


Going further back, there was this, which sparked the Satanic ritual abuse panic:


And yet, for all the commonality -- the invented backstory, the person of privilege who mines an oppressed group for sympathy and book sales or to become a big fish in a small pond, the exposure in which the allies initially defend the person and then the collapse of the organization(s) in which the fraud was involved -- I can't help feeling like the real parallel is Bernie Madoff.
Tags: daily activities, politics
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