I thought it would pass, but sadly, I knew if we waited long enough there would come a twisted moment that would reveal the sad dichotomy of race, privilege, and the media. Like always, the missed opportunity to objectively reveal the absurdities of race in America have resurfaced with the past week's news cycle crashing into Wednesday night's tragedy, a shooting at a black church in Charleston.
Rachel Dolezal needs to go away. This is not part of the real national discussion on blackness. I have listened to well-intentioned media outlets (including some reputable ones), bloggers, radio hosts, and even friends debate the value of Rachel Dolezal's self-proclaimed blackness. This clumsy dialogue is distracting at best, and a lazy headline that won't fade. Instead of highlighting this woman's feigned black experience, why aren't we asking about what is really happening in America? In case you missed it, I'll give you the five-second synopsis, which is more than the attention she should have been given: White woman living as a black woman and president of a Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is outed by her white parents as, well, white. This curly-haired, tan white woman believes so much that she is black, proceeds to claim similarities to Caitlyn Jenner's transgender experience because as a child she would draw herself with a brown crayon instead of a peach one, much like Jenner felt like a woman trapped in a man's body. She now wants a DNA test to prove her white parents are not her parents. She goes on an awkward media tour listing stereotypes as justifications for her blackness and the news and much of America gobble it up. This is not to diminish her work as an NAACP chapter president if she were a strong ally, but she has now come off as a mentally ill, privileged usurper of race in a modern day absurdist sociopolitical blackface.
Now, while distracted by this national headline, wanna know what you missed and when we should be talking about race in America on national news outlets? When mostly black pool parties are broken up by white police officers like it's a tactical operation a la some Mission Impossible movie. When a young black girl's jaw and ribs are said to be broken while assaulted by an officer. When a hate crime strikes at one of the most central bastions of black culture and experience, the black church. One of the most historic black churches in Charleston, SC, and the country, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was the scene of a hate crime, where a white shooter opened fire, so far killing nine people, including the church's pastor and South Carolina state senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Social media is aflame with pics and photos of the suspected gunman, and this time, I hope the media pursues the backstory on the people, now dead, who might have been cradling bloodstained bibles in prayer as they took their last breath, before claiming how mentally ill or troubled this gun-toting perpetrator might be. You know what's troubling? Even more troubling than allegedly saying, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country, and you have to go," before opening fire in a church? Being shot to death whilst at bible study in said church!
We can't walk the streets of our own neighborhoods. We can't be buckled in or have our rights respected when arrested and thrown in the back of a police truck, or locked up without trial, assaulted and beaten in an American prison. We can't be youth at a pool party. We can't be at church. We can't be president and really comment about these things. We can't breathe...
... WE CAN'T BE BLACK.
#AskRachel and #AskAmerica about THAT! This is beyond heinous, upsetting, and what are we doing to change the black experience because this is sadly a big part of it, not tanning, curly hair, and simply claiming you're black in front of Matt Lauer and Melissa Harris-Perry... and the media grants this white woman instant legitimacy and air time with her self-proclaimed credibility, while little black girls are beat up by cops at pool parties. Not every harmful offense involves bullets, violence, or bloodshed. Please pay attention, because in many sad ways, these are all hate crimes!