While my journey could have catalyzed a thoughtful discourse about race if it had been presented in a neutral or empathetic waymuch of what happened instead was knee-jerk reactionism stoked by a controversy narrative. This book is for those who feel empowered by—or who just want to understand—my story. AM: In the press and in your new book, you really double down on claiming a Black identity.
As I understand it, you both grew up in rural households where strict religious observance co-existed with abusive parenting. And you both found emotional comfort in the Black people you encountered in your youth, leading you to gravitate Rachel Dolezal communities of color.
Looking back, what do you see as key factors or experiences that shaped your racial identity over time? RD: My first encounter was within myself, the resonance I felt instinctually with Black as beautiful and inspirational. It felt like a long journey home. I started far away, and it just kept calling to me until I found my way fully there. Of course, feeling like I Rachel Dolezal then evicted in a sense in was painful.
AM: In several places, your book sounds like an Intro Soc textbook on race—for example when you describe the flaws in the traditional American belief in discrete, biologically grounded races.
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How were you first exposed to the notion of race as a social construct? How does it influence the way you think about your own Rachel Dolezal identity? RD: I first read about race as a social construct—a worldview—in graduate school. I was 24 and pregnant with my son, Franklin, at the time. Reading not only that race was a social construct but that this worldview pivoted off of the oppressive colonial era was somewhat of a great awakening. How does Whiteness factor into your identity now, if at all?
RD: Whiteness feels foreign to me. It was, awkwardly, how people saw me when I was a child Rachel Dolezal how some people Rachel Dolezal me now, so I have to interact with that disconnect at times. The very idea of Whiteness, upon which the worldview of race was built, established the propaganda of White as righteous, pure, and superior. RD: I can say for sure that race is a myth. I connect with the anger and pain toward Whites—my parents in particular and the White supremacist patriarchy in general.
Why do you Rachel Dolezal the media and the public took so much interest in your racial identity? RD: Media is fueled by controversy, and what greater tension is there in America than race?
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My story—as told by others—was Rachel Dolezal in scandalous terms, and nearly anyone who had something negative to say about me was given a microphone. I think people just need to talk about race, listen to others talk about it, and work through the many misunderstandings, judgments, and feelings associated with it.
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AM: Do you think there is a parallel between your racial self-identification and the gender self-identification of Caitlyn Jennerwho was heavily featured in the news at the same time as you were? I think courage and some degree of harmonizing the outer body with the inner self so people visually identify us, how we identify ourselves would be a commonality as well.
There is absolutely no parallel when it comes to financial resources, which are a real factor for cushioning a nontraditional self-identity; there we Rachel Dolezal ways Rachel Dolezal super-rich versus single mom barely surviving. AM: Your book gives readers a clear sense of what your intense bout of media scrutiny and public shaming cost you: employment, privacy, and even personal relationships. How have you coped with the scorn, the vitriol, heaped on you? RD: It has been rough.
RD: Black Rachel Dolezal seem to absolutely love or hate me, the same goes for many White liberals. First of all, based on your own experience teaching—or just in talking about race with people around you—what do you think is the hardest thing for Americans to understand that you wish they would understand about race? Now that such groups seem to be gaining a new, wider public legitimacy, what advice do you have Rachel Dolezal countering their power and their racist and anti-Semitic messaging?
RD: Be bold, but strategic and careful, too. Travel and gather in groups when possible, so the community can protect targeted individuals. What would you like to see racial-justice activists doing?
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RD: What issues relating to race are not going to be critical under a Donald Trump presidency? I think we might see increasing racial injustice in police brutality, education, healthcare, criminal justice, economic opportunity, and political power under Trump. I think it would be helpful if Rachel Dolezal was a focus on daily or weekly action plans and a way to streamline and connect people in the movement to achieve timely, thorough, and effective activity.
It is easier to get people to show up for public events than to show up for the hard grind of sacrificing time, energy, and resources to the cause on a daily basis. But, with some vision and organization—and maybe some awesome activism apps—it will be possible to keep people engaged to the Rachel Dolezal of making an impact.
If protests are the main focus, people can feel like nothing else is happening and lose interest.