November 1, 2016
Of Rachel Doležal and the transracial groan heard round the world
by Ian Dreiblatt
Think back — a year ago today, what were you doing?
If you’re like most people, there’s a good chance you were recuperating from a serious candy overdose. If your name rhymes with “Sklonald Mump,” then you were threatening to boycott future GOP presidential debates in the event Telemundo was allowed to host one. And if you’re Rachel Doležal, disgraced former president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, you were admitting publicly for the first time that you were raised white, despite having for years described yourself as black.
Oh, 2015. We had no idea how good we had it.
Now, of course, everything is much worse. It turns out there’s a limit on safe candy consumption (more than 155 Snickerses will totally fucking kill you). Trump, we know, has had… an eventful year. And Doležal is, as promised, declining the blue pill: Michael Schaub reports for the LA Times that her book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World, promises to prolong our long, national dry heave at least until March, when it’s scheduled for publication by Dallas-based BenBella Books. It’s being co-written by Storms Reback — a not-obviously-real person who seems to love poker.
The issue is not just that Doležal identifies as “trans-racial,” which many agree is not a thing. A bigger problem is that she’s been, well, a jerk about it, snatching opacity from the jaws of transparency more than once when questioned about her background. Even in her confession last year, Doležal described herself as “biologically born white,” conflating the social fiction of race with the objective reality of biology, to the benefit of exactly no one. This doesn’t make her a monster, necessarily, but it ought to have suffused her public persona with enough roundly discrediting ick to spare us all a renaissance.
The truth is that America doesn’t have time to read a book by Rachel Doležal. We, as a country, have manifestly not got our shit together on questions of race, and the hour is growing late. In the next world, perhaps, outrage will be currency; for now, people are trying to live. Doležal’s self-abasing public conduct should rightly consign her book to the realm of candy-for-dinner and Trump-for-president — not necessarily unamusing, but decidedly bad for all of us.
Which is why I think it couldn’t be put much better than Zero Saints author Gabino Iglesias put it:
Every time you see/hear something about Rachel Dolezal’s book, go buy an indie press book written by a POC. It’s the right thing to do.
— Gabino Iglesias (@Gabino_Iglesias) October 29, 2016
We have, after all, got every sad reason to expect a monsoon of Doležalia soon, and it’d be awfully nice to look back a year from now and remember 2016 as a darker time.
Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.