Sunday, June 14, 2015

A thumb-sucking article about the whole Rachel Dolezal mess

Rachel Dolezal giving a speech and pretending to be black.

You all know the story. If you're reading this, it means you have a functioning Internet connection, so you could not possibly have missed it. Rachel Dolezal, president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, has been "outed" as white by her baffled biological parents. Apparently, by altering her hair texture and skin color, Ms. Dolezal has been falsely but successfully presenting herself as African-American for years. Now, the truth has come out, and the Internet is up in arms about it. Wherever you go on social media, there is Rachel Dolezal's face, usually accompanied by scolding editorials. Time and again, we see side-by-side photographs which document Ms. Dolezal's shocking metamorphosis from fair-haired, pale-skinned little girl to kinky-coiffed, mocha-complected woman. And then, of course, the questions arise. Why? How? A quick search on Google Trends shows that the previously-obscure term "transracial," which had been seriously waning after peaking in popularity in April 2005, has shot up to unprecedented heights in June 2015. This must be attributable to the Dolezal story. Currently, Ms. Dolezal is being pilloried from one end of the web to the other, from Twitter to BuzzFeed to the Huffington Post.

While I do not endorse Rachel Dolezal's actions, I do think it's worthwhile to pause during this Internet feeding frenzy and ask ourselves a few basic questions. Had you even heard of Rachel Dolezal a week ago? Have her actions directly harmed you or someone you know? Has the Rachel Dolezal story shaken you to your core? Are you truly, in your heart of hearts, outraged by what this woman has done? If you answered any of these questions with "Nah, not really," it might be time to cut Ms. Dolezal some slack. I think this story is less about race and more about our desire to feel better about ourselves by shaming the shit out of someone we don't know. As modern media consumers, we're all like bloodthirsty lions with insatiable appetites. We need a continual supply of fresh meat to keep us satisfied: hippos, antelopes, giraffes, baby elephants, you name it. In that context, Rachel Dolezal isn't a person; she's a buffet. Dig in, everybody! Plenty to go around!

I'm sure you've said and done stupid things, too. My own life is a never-ending blooper reel. The difference is, I'm not famous or important, so the rest of the world didn't really care. But, still, that doesn't change the fact that I did these stupid things. I'll own up to being a moron. Won't you? So before you read -- or perhaps even write -- the latest "Rachel Dolezal is worse than Hitler" article, remember that stupidity is the bond between us all. We are all brothers and sisters under the dunce cap.