TW: Racial violence and erasure
Last week in McKinney, Texas, the police broke up a pool party where one officer barrel-rolled onto a 14-year-old girl in a bikini, pinned her down, sat on her, then pulled a gun out on her friends. The video of this chaos made me sick for three days. I tried to write about it, but the pain was too intense.
A few days later it seemed as though my chance had fled. The media had grabbed a new story: Rachel Dolezal, the now infamous white woman masquerading as a black woman (at least for the last ten years), who headed the NAACP branch in Spokane, Washington until her family outed her.
Yes, it’s a strange story. But in all honesty, it’s no stranger than what happened in Mckinney, Texas. So I thought it’d die down quickly in light of the fact that a p̶o̶l̶i̶c̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶f̶i̶c̶e̶r̶ grown ass white man pinned down and sat on a half-naked fourteen-year-old girl and pulled a gun out on teens trying to help her. (I feel like I need to keep saying that over and over and over again because it feels like not enough people get how disgusting and violating that encounter was.) But that’s the thing: People would rather talk about Rachel Dolezal’s faux-blackness than the violence a little girl faced at the hands of a white man because of her real blackness, because Dolezal’s story is a lot less painful and personal for the country to confront. Many people find it unnecessarily painful to make any connections between a white man’s brutal behavior while “upholding” laws that are drenched in a history of slavery and racist violence that has made black women the subjects of harrassment, abuse, and sexual assault for hundreds of years. Unnecessarily painful for white guilt, but absolutely vital to understanding the generational pain, distrust, and outrage of the black American community.
Rachel Dolezal’s blackness does not mean more to the black community than our own.
What white mass media is saying through their abandonment of the Mckinney fiasco and extreme coverage of Dolezal is that Rachel Dolezal (a white woman) is a juicier scandal for the black community than what happened in Mckinney, Texas… and, although this is not the case, it feels like many Americans packed up and left camp with the cameras. The camp that has become a national community of marginalized black people struggling against white supremacy and systemic violence. The camp united in #BlackLivesMatter and putting their lives on the line to stand up against police brutality. The camp where the cameras should be.
Did you know that it took almost ten years of protesting for the Civil Rights Act to be signed into law, all while media and government persistently attempted to downplay and dismantle the cause?
#BlackLivesMatter cannot go away, but that’s exactly what all major media organizations are trying to do. They try to keep it about the individual victim and the hashtag, but turn off the microphones when people want to start elaborating on the system that is causing all of this pain and injustice. They undermine our pain by labeling murder victims and protesters thugs. They downplay our determination by interviewing coons as experts. And now they’re flat out ignoring injustice because they can sell a white woman in a wig. So stop buying it. It’s the old fool-ya-into-looking-at-this-hand-while-I-do-the-trick-in-the-other. Pay attention to Rachel Dolezal, not the baby high schoolers that had the police sicced on them. It’s a lot like when FIFA glued our eyes to the tv last summer, while Israel bombed Palestine 100 years back.
And then there’s all this talk like, “Well how is Rachel Dolezal not okay, but Caitlyn Jenner is?” So let me say this once: THAT IS NOT THE POINT. They are two totally different people, and we are talking about two totally different communities, and two totally different issues. The only possible connection one could make between Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner is this – Letting Rachel Dolezal be in the spotlight of black issues, is a lot like letting Caitlyn Jenner be in the spotlight of trans issues. ONLY the damage of the spotlight is similar: Trans people aren’t focusing exclusively on whiteness and transition stories when those in their community are still detained in torture-like conditions by the state and murdered on the streets by trans misogyists ; in the same way Black people aren’t focusing exclusively on a fraud in black-face when our people are still being harassed by the police, murdered by the police, and disproportionately shipped to jail. We are focused on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and abolishing the prison industrial complex. We are focused on protecting our women (including our trans WOMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) from phobic violence and police brutality, and we are focused on fighting against housing and job discrimination that still exist today.
We’ve got a lot going on – so if you’re focusing the spotlight on whiteness, you’re helping no one.
As head of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal presented a career dedicated to fighting for racial justices, but with her sheer existence she contributes to colorism (her blackness wasn’t challenged sooner because she was a “light-skinned” black woman, and her light “black” skin may have helped her grab the positions that made her career) and colorism is the dirtier, more insidious flipside to blatant racism. Making your career by taking all of the social obstacles black people face and then using them to exploit your whiteness and establish the hierarchy of your fake-blackness IS ADVANCING WHITE SUPREMACY, NOT BLACK PEOPLE….. even if it lands you in the top office of the NAACP.
So can we please stop contributing to it? Can we please let her go? Because right now Rachel Dolezal is making her money off of the sensationalism that is distracting the masses from THE ACTUAL struggles of real black people. Once again – we’ve got a lot going on and focusing the spotlight on whiteness is helping no one!
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) June 16, 2015
Hey #RachelDolezal! Since you identify as Black, come holla at “your people” on a Black TV network. We’ve got some different questions!
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) June 16, 2015
This is why people love us sooooo much for being soooo strong while not taking responsibility for being the ones who make our lives hard
— Lupita Nyong'o's Silk Press (@FeministaJones) June 16, 2015
There is a sexual dimension to a grown man overpowering a young girl belly down “face on the ground!” and getting on top of her half naked body. Racialized sexual assault by law enforcement has been happening in our country since law enforcement was the slaveowner himself.
What happened in Mckinney, Texas was not an isolated incident to be written off as a freak scenario. What happened in Mckinney is reflective of the serious and widespread issues of racialized police brutality, and the social criminalization of black youth…. to the point where much of mass and social media justified the white officer who sexually assaulted the young black girl and threatened to shoot and kill the children who tried to help her. The current events that seem to keep coming up “out of the blue” are in fact well-documented issues that go back to the birth of our nation. Rachel Dolezal, on the other hand, IS an isolated scandal… a unique, one-time scenario, that should definitely be noted, but not aggrandized.
So please, people, let’s get back to work.