South Africa is no stranger to white privilege, especially when it’s at the expense of black identities. First it was Anita Ronge, a white South African who like Rachel Dolezal thinks blackness is an outfit they can wear and benefit from when they please, despite how hard it is to actually be black. Rachel Dolezal, a white American woman who claims to be “trans-black” is in South Africa to give a lecture on non-racialism. Yes, a white woman is capitalizing off pretending to be black in South Africa, a country where racial tensions are high and the majority of the population is black, by giving a lecture about being black.
Rachel Dolezal is the literal meaning of “you’ve forgotten who you are”. I know we’ve gone through a lot lately as a country but really? Is that the savior we’ve been waiting for? Who knew that all along, the ultimate solution to racial tensions in South Africa is a white woman who pretends to be black for money? A country that boasts of proud Africanists like Robert Sobukwe and Thabo Mbeki invited a white woman who pretends she’s black for a living to come and talk about her privilege (sorry I mean non-racialism).
In an interview with radio 702 , Rachel Dolezal said, “We need some new vocabulary for plural identities or racially fluid identities, so I think that maybe trans-black is a good compromise because I was born to white parents but have an authentic black identity.” Now there are several ignorant things going on here, but I want focus on the fact that she claims her idea or vision or perception of what it means to be black, without actually being black, is authentic. How?
Being black is more than rocking Afros, more than how we speak, and more than a shared stereotypical experience. She implies that all you need is a tan, wavy hair and a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, and then congratulations, you’re black. Being black comes with historic imbalances in the way the world works for you. It comes with systematic oppression and very few options to thrive.
Not only is it wrong that she capitalizes off an experience that is getting actual black people killed, she’s whitewashing the history that black people have experienced all over the world – including the physical, institutional and inherent oppression. White privilege is an incredible thing. If Rachel Dolezal is authentically black, why and how is she capitalizing off it? Honestly if people are being paid for being black, we’re right here. Where do we sign up?
Standing in a garage does not make you a car, putting your hand on a hotplate doesn’t make you a pot, wearing a dashiki doesn’t make you West African. Rachel Dolezal’s reality is distorted. Pretending to know the injustices black people face and pretending to be a victim of racial crimes amidst people who are legitimately suffering is incredibly offensive if not disturbing.
Surely there are other ways to deconstruct racial barriers without taking away from the root of another group’s struggles and oppression. The white community needs to take her back, since we’re gladly relinquishing her from the black community.