Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whiteness and the Issue of Female Privilege in the Aftermath of Rachel: A Real Black Woman's Perspective

 There was something about the month of May and thus far, the first half of June, that seems to have brought out the worse in white female fragility, racism, and appropriation.

The news tumbled out as fast as the toys in my daughter's closet, faster than I could grab them all, tumultous in the landing on her bedroom floor, sprawled out for a thorough examination. I had to sit back and consider the space of whiteness and the accompanying fragility, privilege, and audacity that comes with it when connected in black spaces.

In it, I am unapologetically black and not wiping any white female tears of manipulation.

Space and expectation of the rights of control are what connected the white female encounters. From one trying to always tell black women what to do to another deciding a black woman's dedication to one deciding to be a black woman, all of them came from a place of overwhelming privilege and the assumption of power.

On numerous facebook posts, I and others dissected the lies of Rachel Dolezal as connected to black women. No one really cared that she loved black culture, as she claimed, almost everyone cared that she lied and that lie likely cost real black women an opportunity to speak up for their own people. '

Black women and black culture are not a costume to put on, no matter how many butt injections, lip plumping, perms, and orange spray tans one decided they can grab. This is a lived experience that can not be bought.

It took me a while to absorb the news and my personal experience with some white women.

Another life ago, I worked in a corporate setting for a tiny bullyish white woman whose only power came from being the privileged daughter of the first female artist of the company. She wielded that power in a foul-mouthed way with no one standing up to her. All it meant was years and years of her presence saw many promoted over her, bitterness wrapping her soul, and her bullying becoming more intense. A lot of black women encounter white female bullies that are a threat to their careers and livlihood. Rachel and Jeannette shared this in common.

Fast forward to this woman in the news and we see the same pattern of bullying behavior. She never gave a straight answer, positioned herself in a state with less than 2% black population and used that lack of exposure to create in herself a persona that was as fake as a three dollar bill. She was an opportunist, an obstructionist, and obstacle for her students.

The larger problem with this woman is that it makes a mockery of the last ten months that the issues of race has been discussed. She had an opportunity to use her professorship and her positions with the police commission as well as the NAACP to speak to the larger condition of black people. Her motives, as proven through her numerous interviews as a student's research subject and now, as a reality-wanna-be-celebrity, has been to be praised, not to be purposeful for black women. Even in her interviews, she was not a champion of social justice, she was justifying her blackface. Her twitter accounts were filled with her stereotyped responses to real black people (and some white) who were calling her out on her con. She became transracial and told Matt Lauer she identified with being black, nothing wrong with loving our culture, everything wrong about lying, stealing, and appropriating.

In the middle of the distractions that her media circus created, the cop from McKinney was placed on administrative leave, the other white woman, Tracy, is now on her interview loop trying to justify her racist rant against children. She was terminated from her position as a Bank of America contractor hired to manage home loan applications. The woman's power to decide is the backdrop of her "go back to your Section 8" racial slur against the black children who lived in the ranch subdivision. While Rachel was happening, the Dominican Republic decided to dust off an ugly part of its history and mass deport hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent in an attempt to white-wash it's population. Rachel missed talking about those black people, who have a direct tie to the United States (read about the Haitian Revolution and about Truillo, a mulatto dictator of the island). There was also another pool incident, much worse than McKinney, that an Ohio police officer broke the jaw of a bathing-suit clad twelve-year-old child. News about Tamir, continued discussion about the Kalif Browder suicide at 22 (he was of Haitian descent, by-the-way), and the tweets about the Charleston shooter and the murders in church were all noteworthy and missed because of the media fascination with this masquerading white woman.

There are lessons, however, in every disappointment, in every lie, in every narcassistic con artist.

Through Rachel, it forced a conversation of what it really means to be black in America. We are the only nation that rules that one drop (1/16th) black makes one black, that this drop kept countless fairskinned Americans in chattle slavery. It created the colorism issues that still resonate in parts of the country, it forced a division that should never have been there through the raped miscegnation of a people to create more product for their fields. It fulfilled the Law of Maternal Descent of 1662 and further castigated a shadow upon a people forced to be ignorant of their origins. Did we honor our French forefathers (mine was three steps from the French Crown and sent by Napolean to rule in Hispaniola before the Haitian Revolution), did we honor our African foremothers' heritage (mine was a mulatto from Santo Domingo, a free woman, tricked by a trader onto a ship promising silks from the Orient for little Hester's (a quadroon) birthday, instead, she was kidnapped to America - New Orleans - and forced into a placage or be threatened for the notorious market). Heritage is complicated, in America, it is a matter of that drop.

Lessons also included the place and plight of professional black (real, one drop, thousand drops) women who through time (this writer include) forced to withdraw, tone down, Europeanize, or diminish Africanness. The  hair was pressed or permed to appear more "professional" and those of us who decided to be natural were then seen as a militant, an other, a threat, a danger, despite our designer couture and well-spoken nature. Countless black women have been sabatoged by white women, their ideas and product designs stolen, their opportunities thwarted by tiny bullies like Jeannette. In the midst of the  Great Recession that remains for the larger part of black America,black women have been left behind, especially those of us of the Jones Generation, Gen X, and even a few Boomer IIs. We learned of the women with a touch more gray in our un-permed natural hair that are unable to gain the $90K gigs to talk about social justice, race, equity, gender, and inclusion because we are not the right shade (even our light, bright, and nearly white black women are underemployed, those with degrees and experience) or the right age (it is noted that Rachel, at thirty-seven, is of that entitled generation born just before the Millennials,the ignorant white one who still talked about First Nation people being born in tee-pees, her history the imagined fabrication of stereotypes).

History and place matters, that is also a lesson learned from the Rachel situation. The "sons" adopted by her family are of Haitian descent, The very same beleagured island that the European nations and the United States of North America decided to eternally punish because the enslaved blacks and Creoles said no more to the punishing plantation sugar canes, they rose up and defeated France (study the Haitian Revolution). Their punishment has been ongoing since declaring Independence in 1804. The children of Haiti suffered humiliation, hunger, and hopelessness. Many were raped by aid workers who came after the earthquake, many remain in squaller after the promise of houses with millions donated for that cause, many are uneducated as the continued quest for power remains a part of living in Hispaniola. The ones who live in the Dominican Republic now face nationlessness as many generations know nothing of Haiti. This writer, while very proud of my Haitian ancestry and proudly have my l'union fait la force flag hanging in my home, know that I would be devastated if I was suddenly nationless and deported to a land where we have not lived for generations. Even though the move for them is essentially over a mountain or crossing a road, it is a difference in language, many only speak Spanish, and a difference in customs, one side is very Latin, the other side, very African, Creole, and French. What a voice that Rachel could have raised to these issues, instead, she used the platform and  missed a learning opportunity for the nation, something a true professor would not have done.

Another lesson is in the very real work of white people to own the system it developed and the Rachels it created. Tim Wise has always written of race in America and the need for white folks to wake up to their privilege, he weighed in on Rachel. The Ferguson, Staten Island, Oakland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and now, McKinney protests communities have all raised the topic of white privilege and the white betrayal of silence. It was a lesson that could have been taught to the nation through the place of protected whiteness (after all, history teaches us it is the supposed virtue of white women that countless black men were lynched).

The lessons of Rachel Dolezal and the occurrences from May through the middle of June, will continue to bring forth the ah-ha moment and the pause to reflect. In it I learned about the dangers of female narcissists, demanding to command females, bullies, opportunists, racismcultural appropriation and definitely that the feminist movement is not a safe place for this black woman. We have also learned that everyone will have a day of rekoning if their motives are to deceive. Rachel certainly is having her's, she was forced to resign from the NAACP and the police commission is investigating her#blacktwitter went in on her, Goldie Taylor had a mock interview of her farce, even rappers are taking to the story because while she thought it would go unnoticed and that black people would remain forgiving, we can't, Charleston just proved that to us

 I learned that the only ones who will truly speak up for us are us and that at least for this one writer, I will keep speaking, writing, and advocating for our place, even if the seat at the table is not mine, but my future daughter's. I have to, otherwise, there will be more Rachel's shoving their way into a story that is not their's, garnering unearned opportunity and attention, and further complicating an already centuries old conundrum.


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