A stranger than fiction story emerged from our neighbours across the water in Spokane, Wash. last week, when a self-identifying black woman named Rachel Dolezal was accused of being white.
It appears Dolezal pretended to be of African-American descent when she moved to Washington State several years ago. She had become an adjunct instructor at Eastern Washington University in Africana Studies, and was recently named the president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Since the stunning allegations were published (and the deception backed up by her own parents), Dolezal has been dismissed by the university and has voluntarily stepped aside from her duties with the NAACP. Dolezal’s mother summed up the most tragic part of her daughter’s fall from grace when she noted Dolezal could have accomplished everything she set out to accomplish if she’d just stayed true to herself.
Indeed, the NAACP doesn’t restrict anyone from joining the organization based on race, and of course Dolezal could have embarked on her academic work without claiming African descent.
The reaction to this story shows people rarely accept deception, nor will they easily forgive when someone is caught being someone they are not.
The controversy brings to mind the words of Laozi, a philosopher and poet of ancient China: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
Let’s all strive to be a little more enlightened this week and offer Dolezal a bit of sympathy. She clearly lost her way and has a long road ahead of her before she rediscovers her sense of self.