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Why a woman's white lie is about much more than the issue of racism

By Lindy McDowell

Published 17/06/2015

Skin deep: Rachel Dolezal is under fire for her deceit
Skin deep: Rachel Dolezal is under fire for her deceit
Skin deep: Rachel Dolezal is under fire for her deceit

Weirdest story of the week has to be the one about American woman Rachel Dolezal, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the US city of Spokane. Ms Dolezal, with her dark skin and Afro curls, looks pretty much like the mixed race woman she has claimed to be for the last 10 years or so.

Unfortunately for Rach, her parents have recently scuppered this story with a bombshell revelation - a blonde bombshell revelation - that actually their daughter is pretty much 100% white. Her ancestry is what the BBC might even call hideously white. Northern European. German, Czech, Swedish.

In a photograph taken a few years back, the more youthful Ms Dolezal has long blonde hair and undeniably white skin. She could pass as a Von Trapp from The Sound of Music. Or possibly one of the Abba girls. She is very definitely not a person of colour.

Her parents are obviously not racists (which could have been seen as an excuse for her odd makeover). They say they have no problem with diversity. Down the years, they have adopted four African American boys.

One of her brothers, Ezra, has also expressed considerable bafflement as to why his sister might try to pass herself off as mixed race. He feels it is quite wrong. On a par, he says, with the much condemned practice of "blacking up".

Confronted by a television interviewer, Rachel did a runner. Asked if she was really African American, she mumbled something to the effect that she didn't understand the question, dumped the microphone and fled the scene.

To be fair, as the story broke, the NAACP was immediately supportive. After all, there is no reason why a white person can't head up an organisation campaigning for minority rights. Albeit a white person pretending to be of an entirely different ethnicity.

It's one of those cases which in many ways points up the whole insanity of racism. Why does it matter what colour anybody's skin is? Even if that shade is artificially enhanced?

Ms Dolezal maintains she "identifies as black". And why not? I myself identify as slim and unfreckled. There are times when we all do delusion.

But the disturbing aspect of this case is that it's not just delusional. It's also deceitful. Having postured as something she isn't, Ms Dolezal is now being investigated as regards her appointment to a police oversight committee. About that unfortunate oversight in not mentioning on the job application form that the only "colour" in her family tree was a minute trace of Native American blood.

You can understand how her employers might feel a tad unsettled that she had lied to them - and she did tell them more than a few white lies. She was producing fiction on a scale to rival the Brothers Grimm.

Is what she's done really all that unusual, though? Oppression chic - identifying with a group of people in order to present yourself as a victim (and Dolezal has been extremely vocal on how as "a black woman" she "suffered" from white racism) - is not confined to America. Or even to the race issue.

ms Dolezal's duplicity appears to be a whole lot more complex, though. She comes across as a troubled woman whose reinvention may have deeper roots than the desire to fit in with her friends and land a job in a field to which she was particularly attracted.

Maybe there came a point where the lies just all got out of control and she just went with the flow. Telling a few porkies on the CV is nothing new.

Rachel Dolezal just seems to have taken it a bit farther than most.

And she did manage to pull it off for 10 long years without anybody actually noticing. Which whatever you think of Rachel also speaks volumes about the stringency of her employers' background checks.

Lesson there for other potential employers. Don't automatically believe everything in the CV. Even when it's in black and white.

Sepp is the man to sort welfare budget

Sepp Blatter. What a guy! He may have taken a bit of a blattering over what Fifa may or may not have been up to during his presidency.

All the same. Old Sepp is a man with what Liam Neeson might describe as "a unique set of skills".

He managed to persuade the world's footballing nations that the ideal place to hold the finals of an supremely physical, energetic game watched by beer-swirling fans was a hothouse desert country. Without a drinks licence.

Plus, he presided over a Fifa which was impressively canny with cash. Bring Sepp here, I say. Maybe he could sort our welfare budget.

Just what would I spend £93m on... ?

Ninety-three million quid. Ninety. Three. Million.

What could you not do with that? The answer is that most of us have already worked it out.

In that brief happy period between buying the ticket and learning that some other lucky punter with the seven numbers we didn't have has scooped the lot, we are mentally splashing out on all those things that £93m could buy.

In our heads we can even afford to be outrageously generous. We'd give such large sums to friends, family and deserving causes.

Wouldn't we? In our imagination anyway. Ach, well. Maybe the next time.

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