In the wake of the revealing report that Spokane, Wash., NAACP President Rachel Dolezal has been disguising her true identity as a white woman for years, bell hooks took to her social media page to post a short but profound statement about Dolezal’s alleged misrepresentation.
“Q. Why waist time being at the bottom of a lengthy hierarchy of white women when you can be fast tracked to the top of the hierarchy of black women?”
hooks compared the former NAACP branch president to Iggy Azalea, a white Australian hip-hop artist who has been criticized for abusing her use of cultural appropriation in hip-hop and having no true understanding of the Black history behind the music genre. Legendary hip-hop artists such as Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip have addressed Azalea’s behavior toward creating music within a predominately Black genre. The writer also asked if Azalea’s behavior foreshadowed that other whites will take on Black culture and, as in Dolezal’s case, go as far to darken their skin and wear false hair resembling Black hair textures to convince the Black community that she is a part of their experiential struggles.
In hooks’ essay, “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” she writes, “Within current debates about race and difference, mass culture is the contemporary location that both publicly declares and perpetuates the idea that there is pleasure to be found in the acknowledgment and enjoyment of racial difference. The commodification of Otherness has been so successful because it is offered as a new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of doing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.”
Dolezal’s identity was questioned, if not revealed, by her mother, who spoke to the Spokane Review.
“Dolezal’s mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, said Thursday by phone from her home in northwestern Montana that she has had no contact with her daughter in years. She said her daughter began to ‘disguise herself’ in 2006 or 2007, after the family had adopted four African-American children and Rachel Dolezal had shown an interest in portrait art,” the Spokane Review stated.
“It’s very sad that Rachel has not just been herself,” Ruthanne Dolezal told the Spokane Review. “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”
NPR reported that the local Spokane station KLXY-TV looked up Dolezal’s birth certificate and found she was born to two white parents.