Another way of looking at the media horror show that is the Rachel Dolezal story
JUNE 16, 2015 — “White culture isn’t good for anyone, even white people.”
The words of my mixed-race ghetto skola mama sailed through my ears when the sci-fi horror movie called Rachel Dolezal unfolded.
As the white-skinned daughter of a mixed-race, disabled, houseless, single mama, I have always claimed my skin privilege. I have named its infiltration powers and the ways this deeply racist society, stolen by settler colonizers who look like me, have continued their legislative, education and institutional terror over every person of color.
I was taught early by my mama, and our life of struggle, that it was not only essential, but dire, that I use every ounce of my skin privilege so me and my family could survive.
From apartments to motels to broke-down cars to jobs to customers, the implicit racialized perception of “goodness” — my “honesty” — held by this racist capitalist society was used to hustle access for us. When we did get a little bit of blood-stained dollars together, I was sent out to rent an apartment or motel room in a K-Mart suit with a rent starter kit — a story. I was a single 25-year-old girl making $65,000 a year at a full-time job. It never failed. I would get the place.
We would run little surveys just for fun. My mama would go out and try the same thing and get heavily questioned, rejected, or just plain not called back.
The Rachel D horror show
So why was Rachel so afraid of her white-ness? Perhaps because it’s so evil, and in her twisted, fairy-tale desiring mind, she was empathing instead of owning.
Owning is hard. It means you have to swallow the hard pill of perpetration – everyday, in everything you do and walk and see and are. And yet what she might not have understood is this is the same confusion the saviors of NGO’s and non-profit industry workers and media producers, artists and actors who write, act, speak, create and profit off of poor people get.
We don’t want your fake empathing, saving, story-telling and/or helping — what we want is what you and your ancestors, stole from us and continue to steal from us so we can re-build, create, make and manifest ourselves.
Sadly, the Dolezal woman’s strange sci-fi theft of culture and identity, spray tans and hair weaves, will probably become more prevalent over the years as settler colonialists with fuzzy connections to gentry and colonial genocide begin to face their own positions of un-culture in an increasingly Black and Brown world. Not to mention when white scientists and corporations with profit margins and research grants figure out how to make robots and change DNA and morph faces and skin color for all the confused white people of the not-too-distant future.
The so-called Trans-racial process, or fronting, of Dolezal reminds me of all the people I have met over the years who front as if they are poor, wearing dirty clothes and not washing their under-arms and “squatting” when they have perfectly good homes with loving families across the country to return home to. But instead, like Rachel, they decide to “front,” to take up meager space, saying nothing about the people they are actively displacing, and stay in urban cities suffering from serious displacement crises, often adding to the displacement of hundreds of poor and working class people and people of color from their homes and neighborhoods of generations.
These are the hard lessons us poor White, Black, Brown and Indigenous, gentrified, houseless, disabled, bordered, colonized, and racialized poverty scholars at POOR Magazine’s PeopleSkool base our entire body of work around. Beginning with Theatre of the POOR about our multiple stories of trauma, racism, criminalization, houselessness, false borders, poverty industry pimping, colonial land theft and ableism from all four corners of Mama Earth, we teach young people with race, class, and formal education privilege how to un-pack their relationship to our oppression.
These lessons of truth taught to the descendants of the original land stealers, current perpetrators of Mama Earth’s destruction, academics and multiple poverty industry executives are nothing less than urgent. Forget the guilt, fear, or selfish appropriation, White people. As our insanely twisted corporate culture continues its drive towards hyper displacement, and destruction of Mama Earth, it’s more important than ever for people to understand, confront, and activate movement, change, and reparations, so we can all heal and actually repair our colonized souls.
To find out more about the upcoming session of PeopleSkool’s Decolonization/DeGEntriFUKation and Community Reparations Seminars in August email firstname.lastname@example.org