By Anthony Maxwell
Earlier this summer, Rachel Dolezal, former Seattle NAACP President made headlines for pretending to be African-American. When the story was on New Growth Hair Magazine’s Facebook fan page, our followers were outraged that Rachel Dolezal pretended to be an African-American to secure a leadership role in the NAACP, used tanning lotion to darken her skin, styled her hair in traditional African hair styles, and claimed to experience oppression that she couldn’t have experienced as a white woman.
I understand why African-American women were confused and outraged by Rachel Dolezal’s behaviors. Some sisters told me that they thought she might have mental health issues, that she could be a COINTELPRO government agent, or that she just really wanted to be black. After lots of conversations and deliberation, I want to know whether the same rules that apply to Rachel Dolezal apply to African-American women? If so, why aren’t African-American women outraged at other African-American women who have behaved in ways parallel to Rachel Dolezal?
Rachel created outrage because she attempted to align herself with the African-American community and disassociate herself from her community. Are we outraged when African-American women align themselves with white society and dissociate themselves from our community? In an attempt to fit in with the African-American community, Rachel used tanning lotions to darken her skin. Are we outraged when African-American women use skin bleaching creams to fit in better in Corporate America? For the last decade, Rachel deceived people by wearing typical African hairstyles. Since 1913, African-Americans have been using chemical relaxers to straighten their hair. Are we outraged that African-American women use relaxers and hair weave in an attempt to fit into white society? As Seattle’s NAACP President, Rachel claimed that she was fighting for oppressed people because she was oppressed. Are we outraged when African-American women are unwilling to defend socially and economically oppressed African-Americans by denying that oppression exist?
During and after Reconstruction (1865-1877), former enslaved Africans straightened their hair, bleached their skin, and gave preference to lighter skinned people because it was required to participate in white society. In 2015, business, government, and social organizations do not require African-American women to chemically relax their hair, wear weaves, bleach their skin, or to produce lighter skinned children to participate in modern society. The irony with the Rachel Dolezal issue is that while Rachel was proud of her imaginary African features, a high percentage of African-American women don’t hold their dark skin, natural hair, full lips, and curvy figures in high regard. Based on Rachel’s actions, one can easily conclude that she appreciated dark skin, curly hair, African-American men, and dark skinned children. So why were so many African-American women mad at Rachel for appreciating what many African-American women are ashamed of?