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Racial Identity, Misrepresentation and African American Culture

06/15/2015 11:46 am ET | Updated Jun 15, 2016
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The recent revelation of Rachel Dolezal's white identity after portraying herself as an African American has once again left us divided on racial identity and African American culture. The current Spokane-Washington NAACP president was recently outed by her estranged parents, who stated that their daughter is white and has no trace of any black blood in her. This revelation has left many in the African American community divided on the issue; some are outraged, while others are embracing Ms. Dolezal for her commitment to social justice, equality and African American culture. Whatever the arguments are, racial identity, just as it was in the early 1900s, has once again become an issue in the dialogue we are having about race, our racial construction, what is "Black" in America, what is the "one-drop rule," and what is the litmus test to be "Black?" Despite these provocative questions, the underlying issue remains Ms. Dolezal's commitment towards promoting social justice, equality and respect for African American culture, despite her color or racial identity.

Ms. Dolezal's racial identity should not be criticized by the media. I am quite sure that there is no racial identity requirement to be a leader of the NAACP. Founded in 1909, some of the organization's founding members were white. There is also no racial identity requirement to qualify as an African American studies professor. How many African Americans act white and have used their influences to promote Uncle Tom's policies, at the same time ignoring the black issues and causes that Ms. Dolezal has eloquently fought to bring to the mainstream? Why isn't there any media coverage of those individuals? Lost in the debate is Ms. Dolezal's continued commitment to promoting diversity training, improving race relations, curbing police brutality and acknowledging and respecting African American culture.

The current discussion that should be taking place should revolve around the acknowledgement of and respect for African American culture in a society that still ignores that black contribution to America. Ms. Dolezal has brought this issue, among others, to the forefront, and has reminded us that racism and ignorance are still alive despite our race and ethnicity. Many Americans refuse to come to terms that the history of the African Americans is a struggle against racism and oppression in a country that still today refuses to acknowledge and apologize for its actions and wrongdoing. Rachel Dolezal's commitment reminds us that we still have a long way to go before becoming a more racially tolerant society. The debate should go beyond race and ethnicity, and encompass a discussion on becoming an integrated racially tolerant society despite our race or ethnic background. Ms. Dolezal's commitment enables us to have more conversations about the truth, a need for reconciliation and America's acknowledgment of its wrongdoing. This can only lead to a more racially tolerant country where America can be enjoyed by all, despite race or ethnicity.

Without a doubt Ms. Dolezal's misrepresentation of her race has, unfortunately, had a negative impact on her many accomplishments towards justice, social equality, and commitment to promoting African American culture. Her work should not be tainted by recent revelations. All black and white racial comparisons are odious. Sadly the topic of race and ethnicity reminds us that we are far from a true melting pot, far from the achievement of a racially tolerant society, and far from the Dream.