In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Dolezal, Part Six

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Dolezal and Storms Reback

Comments: Here we are, at the end of my look into Rachel Doležal’s failed attempt to persuade America that transBlack is a thing that exists and should be respected.  If you feel like you’re missing out and want to read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five before reading this entry, knock yourself out.  I’ll wait.

Reading and reacting to this book has been like watching a clown car catch on fire.  My overall perspective has been that Rachel is fairly clueless in how she comes across and painted such a negative picture of herself in this book that I can’t imagine why her co-author didn’t at some point intervene and explain to her how terrible she sounded.  But you know, that wasn’t his duty.  He was just there to finesse the book a bit, I bet. Rachel’s intelligent and a fairly talented artist but that doesn’t always translate into the type of writing skill needed for a memoir.  This book was meant to explain Rachel to us, to enable us to see her sympathetically and understand her perspective.  Instead, his book is a sobering look at a woman who absolutely refuses to get it, to own what she did, her transBlack ruse and staging hate crimes, her disingenuousness and her nastiness, her victim mentality and how dangerous she was.  And that’s a neat segueway into what this final entry is about: Rachel was a force of danger and Rachel will never be able to understand why she’s a pariah because this book is chock-full of examples wherein she proves her complete inability to see herself as she is.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Five

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments: We are nearing in on the end of my obsessive look into Rachel Doležal’s book. Just one more installment after this and it will be a short entry (comparatively, don’t laugh). I realize this may look a bit unseemly or even unhinged to any newcomers to this site but this happens to me from time to time. I get obsessed with a topic – anthropodermic bibliopegy, an obscure child murder in Germany, among others – and I gnaw at it like a dog with a bone until I reach the marrow. I’ll have a new obsession in a few months and will tl;dr the hell of it when it comes.

So two more remaining. If you haven’t read Part One, Part Two, Part Three or Part Four, and you find Rachel Doležal interesting enough to invest that kind of time reading an obsessive’s interpretation of her book, be sure to check them out.

Part Five is going to look into how it is Rachel tends to view dislike for her through the lens of racism or sexism rather than engaging in a hard, long look at herself, her behaviors and how she may be the sole person responsible for her many failures in life.  Rachel developed her love for black culture before her personality was solidly settled.  But now, as an adult who engaged in a race hoax and was publicly shamed, it seems odd that she refuses to examine herself and see if maybe, just maybe, the dislike people had for her when she was still trying to pass as black stemmed from a reaction to Rachel rather than a reaction to her race-appearance or sex.  This section will also look at how it is even as Rachel adores all that is black and acknowledges her status as a “transBlack,” she also seems to not really know who or what she is.  As you read how she discusses these issues, in places it’s hard to pin down what she really thinks about her genuine race while readers are able to see clearly how she is still informed greatly by her whiteness.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Four

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments: Now begins Part Four of my look at Rachel Doležal’s very ill-advised book.  If you find her as interesting as I do, be sure to check out Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

As I went over my notes after reading Rachel Doležal’s book, I had no intention of writing a multi-part article series discussing her book.  But I found myself marveling at the way her mind works and I just couldn’t stop digging. Most of the time, when a person pens a memoir, that person has developed a certain amount of self-awareness and can analyze their actions and their motives as they make sense of their life.  There are shallow celebrity memoirs that are just cash grabs and are meant to support the reality show trainwreck of the moment or take advantage of some celebrity scandal.  I don’t think anyone is reading the memoirs from all the women in the Real Housewives franchise with an eye to understanding what makes them tick or to see if they understand the Faustian bargain they’ve engaged in, trading away their privacy and dignity for reality show compensation.  You’re reading those books because your layover in O’Hare is four hours and you have time to kill.

Not so with this sort of memoir, or at least I’d hoped this would be different.  Rachel Doležal was and is still involved in a serious look at how race is constructed and perceived in the United States.  She engaged in what most of us believe is a long-scale hoax and in so doing outraged blacks, people of mixed race, and to a lesser extent transexuals and surely the reaction caused her to experience moments of deep contemplation wherein she came to grips with who she is, who she thinks she is, and who she wants to be.  Moreover, Rachel Doležal is a well-educated woman.  She has a Master’s degree, is well-read within her specific interests, and one presumes she is intelligent enough to know when she is bullshitting herself.  One presumes wrong.

Even as Rachel lauds blackness as something that makes her life fuller, causing her to feel more alive and more connected to the world, she devalues blackness with stereotypes and commercial interpretations of black beauty and worth.  As she derides “white saviors” she has no awareness that she is herself engaging in such antics.  I will later tackle the topic of “Rachel Will Never Get It” but much of what I discuss here today can also be subfiled under that heading. She just doesn’t see herself and her actions with any sort of clarity nor can she realize when she is stepping onto ground that is not hers to occupy.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Three

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments: This begins Part Three of my look at the memoir of controversial “transBlack” activist Rachel Doležal.  Be sure to read Part One and Part Two if you’ve missed them.  Part One dealt with the terrible childhood that caused Rachel Doležal to focus on and identity so closely with blackness as a means of escapism and as a means of finding a reference for the overwork and misery she felt.  Part Two discusses how I believe, as do others, especially journalists and various police departments, that Rachel Doležal staged many of the hate crimes she claims were committed against her. Part Three is going to focus on how Rachel engaged in some amazing mental gymnastics (thank you Alex for reminding me of that phrase) and weasel words to justify herself to a public largely appalled with her actions. I will also explore how deeply unpleasant and almost unbelievably nasty Rachel really is.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Two

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments:  Now begins part two of my look at Rachel Doležal’s memoir.  You can read Part One here.  There will be at least two more installments.

As I read Rachel’s memoir, I highlighted a lot of statements that at the time seemed to convey an idea of sincerity or at the very least attempted to explain earnestly why Rachel Doležal genuinely believes she is transBlack, a black woman born into a white body.  Rereading those highlights was a wholly different experience than reading them the first time.  Isolating some of her statements, reading them alone and with direct focus, transformed the experience of reading this book for me.

Rachel Doležal, when you look closely at her words, is telling you who she is and what she believes, and what she is telling you is at odds with the message she really wants to convey.  Rachel wants to paint a picture of herself as a victim, a hero for black people and the civil rights struggle, an honest, hardworking mother who feels such kinship with black people that she worked herself to the bone to promote black issues, a white woman by birth who genuinely believes she is black. Yet as I read many of the passages I highlighted, I began to feel that sort of stomach tingle that told me I was being lied to.  Several times I felt outright second-hand embarrassment at some of the things Rachel said.  As I culled and reread the highlighted passages, once I sifted out the information about her childhood and her family, the information began to fall into various categories, many of which overlap, but hopefully my logic will make sense as you read.  Since I’m no longer following a timeline as events unfolded, instead dividing Rachel’s interesting and very bizarre life into categories that describe her behavior, I will try to be clear as to timing and will be sure that I set up explanations for the context of quotes when needed.  If anyone ever needs clarification, let me know.

It was hard to know where to begin given the variety of categories I ended up with (“Rachel Sees Blacks As an Exotic Other,” “Rachel Is a Self-Impressed Asshole,” “Rachel Doležal Will Never Get It,” among several others).  I decided to just dive into the murky water with the longest category and get it out of the way because for the most part I see Rachel Doležal as a sad clown, a ridiculous human being who has ruined her life and the life of her family due to her delusions and pathological need to be at the center of attention. But there is a very dark side to what she did.  Today’s discussion is focusing on the more malignant, criminal side of what Rachel has done.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part One

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Type of Book: Memoir, political biography, fraud, race issues

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: I mark up books as I read them so I can discuss them and seldom does my opinion of a book or its subject change when I review those notes. My first read-through of this book I had a certain amount of sympathy for Doležal but when I went back over my notes I felt my sympathy fading. It’s almost like I experienced the ruse via her book – I saw what she wanted me to see initially but when I looked at specific statements by themselves a completely different picture emerged.

Less analytically, this book is odd because it’s written by a woman who claims she is “transBlack” and became a national disgrace for her efforts.

Availability:

Comments: When I learned Rachel Doležal had written a book I knew I was going to have to read it and discuss it in depth.  Because she’s rather topical at the moment, I worry discussing her will attract readers who are unaccustomed to the nature of this site.  I’m a person who writes, using far too many words, about things I find interesting and those things are often odd.  This site is mostly devoid of any political agenda, though I’m sort of a liberal, and I am looking at Rachel in terms of what she wrote in this book.  All political and social reactions I have to Rachel in this article are fueled by the text of her book, though I will use outside sources to bolster some of my own assertions.

Rachel Doležal has been all over the news again recently and I’ve done my best to avoid reading too much about her – even when an author or person I discuss here is currently in the headlines, I still prefer to analyze their work without a lot of outside influence. I’ve stayed away from her television appearances and have especially stayed away from The Stranger article about her (the buzz around it is killing me but I will remain strong until I’ve got this series finished).  I’m at my best when I’m not influenced by other people’s opinions. This is going to be another one of those articles I’m known for – going deep into a text while everyone stands back and tells me, “I don’t even know why you’re giving her this much attention, that’s what she wants!” Yeah I know but this is what I do – I pay lots of attention to things other people may think unworthy of such focus. .  Only my discussion on Anders Behring Breivik, the Utoya shooter, is longer than what I have written about Rachel Doležal.  I have no idea what that may mean other than that I find her very interesting.

So I read the book closely and I tried to research as much as I could about some of her more controversial claims.  At times verification was impossible and given that this is a book written by a serial liar and fantasist it’s hard to put much faith in anything Rachel says about her life.  I had to make what may seem like arbitrary decisions about what I choose to believe is true and what is more self-serving deceit.

It’s hard to make such decisions at times because I don’t think Rachel Doležal is wicked or evil in a calculated way. She’s just a self-centered, delusional, holier-than-thou, condescending woman who took her shtick way too far and refuses to back down, rethink, regroup, and move on.

There are several reasons why I initially had such intense sympathy for Rachel and part of that sympathy was fueled by distaste for many people who have gone after Rachel on social media. I was particularly interested in the transexual communities’ responses to Rachel and was shocked by the amount of paranoia some transfolk felt toward Rachel as well as some of their violent rhetoric. I was also ultimately concerned about the outright hypocrisy I found – it took less than ten minutes on Google to find out without any shadow of a doubt that one of the shrillest voices yelling online about Rachel belonged to a white man who was himself assuming a false identity. So ridiculous and egregious is his ruse that I wanted to out him but decided against it because I find doxing distasteful and because, like Rachel, he is so unpleasant as a whole that he is self-quarantining. If he ever shows up in public trying to affect social justice while wearing his disguise I may reconsider but for now I’m not interested in poking him with an e-stick.

Rachel is no different than any other liar or fantasist. People who wear a mask and engage in personality fraud on this scale have two interesting issues at play, and initially they may seem contradictory: self-loathing and a sense of superiority. Such people feel they are the smartest and most competent person in the room yet lack the ability to persuade others of their superior skills and knowledge. They can’t endure the ego blow that comes from criticism and do anything they can to avoid it.  If persuading others they are correct and avoiding criticism can be mitigated by lying about their pasts or creating a persona that to some degree shelters them from criticism, that’s what they do. But as they talk about themselves they always reveal their true selves. This book is chock full of the real Rachel Doležal and, like other serial fantasists discussed on this site, she has no idea what she’s revealed about herself, so focused was she on perpetuating the notion of herself as a blameless victim.

This book was such a bad idea. Even with a co-author, Rachel Doležal shares so much negative information about herself, information she doesn’t seem to understand is negative. I’ll show you exactly what I mean, using plenty of quotes from the book, occasionally linking to information online that helps gives perspective to the stories Rachel told about herself and others.

But before we begin, a quiz. Which of these two white girls born in the seventies is Rachel Doležal?
A: The girl on the left
B: The girl on the right
C: Trick question, one of these girls is clearly a black child!
D: All of this makes me very uncomfortable.

The correct answer is B, but “Shut up, Becky!” would also be an acceptable answer.

My Dead Pets Are Interesting by Lenore Zion

Book Title:  My Dead Pets Are Interesting

Author: Lenore Zion

Type of Book: Non-fiction, memoir, humor

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Because my dead pets are also interesting, and because this is probably my most self-indulgent discussion to date.

Availability: Published by The Nervous Breakdown Books in 2011, you can get a copy here:

Comments: When I finished reading Stupid Children by Lenore Zion, I knew I’d need to read everything she’d ever written.  She writes neurosis so well that it was alarming how well she pulled it off.  Now after reading My Dead Pets Are Interesting, it’s clear Zion is writing from a place of experience.  I’m pretty calm and well-adjusted these days, or at least I look that way.  A lot of the time I play up my quirks as I write, but it’s undeniable that as a younger woman I was a complete basket case and that even now I’m a bit more nervous and loopy than the average woman.  I sit on the OCD spectrum (contamination and cleanliness and I’m certain Mr. OTC will die in a car crash if I don’t give him a goodnight kiss every night before bed), am depressive and have a sleep issues that would kill you if you had them.  I’m not exaggerating.  On the upside, pictures I’ve posted online about my soul-crushing inability to sleep have been used in articles about insomnia, so I’ve got that going for me.  That’s how I know I’m better now – I can see the upside from time to time. Plus when you get older the shit that tired you when you were a kid no longer has the power because you’ve endured it long enough and now know it’s just one of many potential personality types and that neurotics are far thicker on the ground than anyone realizes when they are in their twenties.

Zion herself is a neurotic, and engages in a lot of the same behaviors I engaged in when I was younger, behaviors that seem pathological and inexplicable to the balanced person, but make utter sense to those of us who have the albatross of obsessive anxiety hanging from our necks like… well, like an albatross.  I get what she has to say and find the humor in how she relates her mild hysteria to her readers.  For those of us who are fellow travelers in neurosis, there is a truth and compassion in Zion’s writing that reminds us that we are both not alone in our affliction and that, in retrospect, almost everything is funny if you look at it the right way. 

Oiling the Slippery Slope

Mr. OTC and I were felled by a particularly tenacious flu virus and I’m not even close to being back on my game, but there’s something bothering me so much that I feel like I need to discuss it now, in an abbreviated form.  I will throw down hard on this topic in detail and with tons of links when my mind is clear and my home is recovered from a couple of weeks of neglect.

Are you, dear readers, aware that this month Amazon removed from sale over 150 books written on the topic of Holocaust revisionism and denial?  If you are aware of it, does it bother you?

News sources state a handful of books were eliminated for sale, but the number is far higher.  When I write my examination of what free speech in a genuinely free society means, I will list them all.  Interestingly, simply being published by Castle Hill is enough for removal because Amazon removed books Castle Hill publishes that have nothing to do with Holocaust revisionism.  Funny, that.

There is a perniciously stupid meme in modern America wherein we state that the only freedom of speech we can expect not to be violated or limited is that which is explicitly granted by the government.  The reasoning is Americans can only expect to exercise freedom of speech and press as granted by the government, therefore any cultural or corporate attempts to silence free speech and the press are acceptable in a free society, that this is a form of censorship that is somehow allowable since it is outside the purview of the government.  The American left has used this meme, this absolutely false belief, to bolster their attempts to deny work to people whom they consider bad, to contact employers, schools, families and churches of people whom they consider bad, to deny access to ideas they find bad, and now they’ve managed to deny access to an entire school of thought because where Amazon goes so do all the other booksellers.

When you use methods of intimidation to eliminate ideas you find distasteful, you are engaging in censorship.  When you pressure booksellers to stop selling books you find distasteful, you are engaging in censorship.  Such methods do not violate the Constitution to be sure but they definitely are censorship and censorship is a threat to the principles of democracy that are the very foundation upon which we have built American culture.

The usual gadflies insist that Amazon and other booksellers have the right to limit books they sell.  They’re correct.  Amazon has that right.  But should they use that right, and when they do should they be answerable for what they decide?  What does it mean when the largest book seller in the USA can effectively throttle access to large swathes of thought?  Books advocating Holocaust denial were removed at the behest of Yad Vashem, and Amazon contacted authors and publishers with the following statement:

We’re contacting you regarding the following book: Book Title Redacted. During our review process, we found that this content is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale.

Will it surprise anyone that Amazon did not elaborate on what content guidelines were violated?  Shouldn’t the largest seller of books in the United States be willing to explain why it is that after 20 years of selling these books they suddenly did not meet content guidelines?  Or are you sanguine with this move because Nazis are bad and Holocaust denial is bad and therefore it’s fine that Amazon and Yad Vashem have decided unilaterally what data you can be trusted to read?

Do you really feel okay having forces who have no idea why you want to read a book telling you that the ideas the book espouses are too dangerous for you to see, therefore they have taken the paternalistic step of ensuring that you don’t become a rabid anti-Semite because you chose to read Arthur Butz?

The people who seem the happiest about this wretched development are those who should oppose it the most. People who are terrified of fascism applaud this measure because to them it is a nail in the coffin to ideologies that feed from antisemitic, fascist beliefs.  But censorship is one of the first steps down the slippery slope into authoritarianism and fascists love themselves a book burning.

Because Amazon and other book sellers have decided you are too unreliable to process information, you now have no easy way of countering Holocaust denial because you will not know the meat of the argument and you will not know the references and sources used to reach those conclusions.  You have been denied your power of response.

That is what happens in a free society that does not tolerate censorship: we trust our citizens enough to process information for themselves, knowing that presentation of ideas and response to those ideas are the cornerstone of open discourse and that democracy cannot exist without it.  Amazon and Yad Vashem think you are a child who cannot judge information for yourself.  They think you are such a weak thinker that having access to Holocaust revisionist texts means you will become a vicious anti-Semite.  They think that you are too stupid to read an idea and form a response, so they took care of it for you.

That’s how it boils down: a corporation on behalf of a concentrated single interest group has engaged in the ultimate paternalism.  They have patted you on the head and told you that you cannot decide for yourself what you think.

Antisemitism is foul.  I have no use for it.  And I have never read a Holocaust denial that I could not easily refute, though I admit I have not read many.  It is undeniable that racism and antisemitism have caused grave problems and that both are offensive.  I personally find racism and antisemitism offensive.  I find a lot of things offensive.

But that’s the cost of doing business in a free society.  You will be offended.  Identity politics may have convinced you that you are not expected to endure feeling offended but what they don’t tell you that the cost of never being offended involves censorship and that you have no assurance that your single-interest approach to democracy will not be the next ideology determined too dangerous for the American people to read.  Being completely silenced is the ultimate offense.  Be offended by that prospect. This isn’t about Holocaust denial, antisemitism or fascism – it’s about who decides what is acceptable and unacceptable for you to think, to read, to say and to believe.  The genius of the Constitution is that it prevents any one person from being the decider for all, and an open society finds single interest deciders anathema.

You’re either a whinging child, begging for the government or large corporations to control the dissemination of ideas and man’s independent thought because you cannot tolerate people making decisions about what they read, or you’re an adult who is willing to permit all ideas access to the democratic marketplace, however offensive they may be, remaining engaged in the cultural arguments that promote democracy.

Antisemitism flourishes in a censored society.  Democracy cannot exist in a censored society, regardless of who is the censor.  Censorship, even if it is not initiated by the government, oils the slippery slope into fascist authoritarianism, fear of which fueled this very bad decision on Amazon’s part.

I do not need Yad Vashem or Jeff Bezos to make decisions about what I read and how I interpret it, nor do I need them to guide me through the moral decisions I make regarding controversial topics.  Neither do you.

MrsMisanthropy and Other Fan Video Channels

Because I’ve had a number of people land on this site looking for what happened to MrsMisanthropy over on YouTube, I wanted to share that she’s back!  I have no idea what happened to cause her to shut down her channel initially but she’s been busy uploading all her old content over the last few weeks.  Here’s her new URL: https://www.youtube.com/user/prefevetler/videos.

She’s also linked to two other accounts associated with her videos that may be serving as back-up in case she ever loses content on YouTube again.  Over on Vimeo, she’s Atrocity Exhibition (a suitably Oddbookian name to be sure) and she’s MrsMisanthropy on Google+.  Several people had found a Google+ account for “MrsMisanthropy” but there was not enough content to know if it was her or not (and again, no idea if MrsMisanthropy is really female but I think of her as a women and will until told otherwise).  Bookmark the other links in case she leaves again.  I will update my links to her videos sometime today.

While she was gone, I spent time looking for other fan video makers whose musical and cinematic tastes were interesting and I found several.  For now I feel I must share one specific video-maker and the films behind his fan videos because one of his videos triggered a month long endeavor that I feared was going to be a godless one.  I feared I would not be able to find the originals behind the clips used in Piperbrigadista’s fan video for “Synthetic Potion” by a band called Noir for Rachel.

As I was sifting through the videos on this channel, I was immediately drawn into this one because there is something about the woman’s face that makes me want to keep looking at her.  She appears as if she was confronting a voyeur, or maybe just a run of the mill Peeping Tom.  Her face is so serious and beautiful in a manner that reminds me of Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Lauren.  So I watched and listened and became entranced by the song and even more so by the video.

The song reminds me of what would happen if you crossed early Duran Duran with early Cure and made it all instrumental.  I loved the song “Synthetic Potion” so much that I did something I’ve never done before – I bought an album off Band Camp.  The album, entitled Witches, is a righteous purchase.

The video created a strange obsession in me to run to ground the movie these clips were taken from.  The scene beginning at 1:05, ending at 1:48, was incredibly compelling.  The woman was not confronting a voyeur, but if she was, the experience became something else entirely for her.  She sees this disheveled looking man standing outside the window of her home as she is wearing a dressing gown and underwear. After looking at him for a moment, she reveals her lingerie-clad body to him and waits for his reaction.

The woman in this scene conveys so much with her eyes, mouth and a simple tilt of her head.  Before she opens her dressing gown, she steels herself up.  She raises her chin and takes a small step back, never taking her eyes off the man.  She waits for his response.  Seconds pass, and you see a bit of trepidation pass over her face and she begins to list very slightly as she stands.  She takes another small step back and tilts her head in what looks the beginning of a shrug, an expression of disappointment and rejection.  Then before she completes the dismissal, he steps forward and she does too, leaning toward him.  Her expression only changes a bit but that bit is expansive in its depth.  Her lips show a minor, almost imperceptible sneer of power, her eyes focus on him with even more intensity as he touches the glass.  She’s received the reaction she wants and she wanted this reaction because she wants him at least as much as he may want her.

It was so compelling that I spent a month trying to find this film.  And I finally ran it to ground but only after hours spent searching. 

TL;DR

That is the online acronym that suits this site best: TL;DR – too long; didn’t read.

With this in mind, that is the title of the upcoming compendium of the best of Odd Things Considered that Nine Banded Books is publishing.  Chip Smith is pulling the best entries from the sites that became OTC and will be releasing what I suspect will be a massive doorstop of a book sometime in June.

It’s early days but I’ll share more as everything comes together.  I hope to have some new content in the book so that loyal readers here will have something new to read if they decide to shell out their hard-earned dollars and buy my book.

If this book didn’t have my name on it, I would buy it for the cover.  The cover would be my price of admission.  Seriously.  This is the best cover in the history of books, don’t deny it.  The cats, books and I come courtesy of Josh Latta, and Kevin Slaughter designed the layout.  It’s humbling to know that people I respect so much and whose work has delighted me worked/are working on this book.

Imagine five more cats in this drawing and this is pretty much a photo-realistic portrayal of life at Chez Oddthings.

So, just sharing some good news.  More book discussions around the bend, plus a couple of film/book combos I want to tackle, involving Bob Flanagan and Ron Athey.  Good times!