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#RachelDolezal and the Meaning of White Privilege

06/16/2015 03:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2016
ASSOCIATED PRESS

I was going to write this nice (well, at least I thought it would have been nice) piece that asked what we have learn from the Rachel Dolezal kerfuffle. One of the things I planned to write is that we have now discovered the limits of and in our use of theory. I was going to talk about how we just did not have a theoretical concept or just plain language for a person who, by all accounts, did not perform blackness, did not just simply pass, or took it off whenever times got tough. Dolezal was someone who self-identified as and "believed" she was/is black. Melissa Harris-Perry even asked the question, "Can she be black" to start a serious dialogue about the construction of race.

I was going to write that piece, but when I sat down to work on it, news broke on the Smoking Gun website that while a student at Howard University, Dolezal brought suit against the institution charging the school with discrimination on the account that she was white. Dolezal, known then as Rachel Moore, charged the school with "improperly blocking her appointment to a teaching assistant post, rejecting her application for a post-graduate instructorship, and denied her scholarship aid while she was a student."

If this is true, then one could now ask again the question that many already asked, "Why did she feel she had to mislead people about her race?" Indeed, some wondered why would she want to pass as a black woman? However, could it be that in light of the suit against Howard alleging racial discrimination when she was "white," she felt that Blacks somehow and in some way get more privileges than whites do? Could she be one of the people who believe "that anti-white racism is a "bigger problem" than what African Americans face?" Does she believe that the only way that she could find success in her chosen field was to become a Black woman?

If so, then Dolezal presents another set of problems.

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