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.
Based on evidence, investigations and Rachel’s own behavior, I assert that she made many of her claims up regarding racist threats or perpetrated outright hoaxes against herself. There are organizers in Ferguson who have likely received fewer legitimate threats than this small time activist claims she experienced in Washington and Idaho. The Spokane Valley and northern Idaho are the homes for several white supremacist chapters and compounds – undeniably the area has its problems. But for a long while many of the racist issues in the area revolved around Rachel Doležal.
Rachel engaged in these ruses because she has a victim mentality that she satisfies and perpetuates by assuming the travails of the black population in the USA. She also very much likes being the center of attention. When her victim tank grew low and her need for attention grew, Rachel seemingly had no problem making mountains out of molehills or creating entirely false situations. I do believe she was harassed – she courted the media in a way that ensured she would receive negative attention, so perhaps a couple of the incidents she reported happened, but police and journalistic investigations into some of her claims show that Rachel staged several of the hate crimes she claims were aimed at intimidating her.
This is obviously problematic for several reasons. The first is that she took time and police attention away from legitimate crimes. Another is that these sorts of hoaxes make it very hard for future victims to receive public support. We’ve seen this in action over the last few years using a specific example: nasty messages left to black or LGBT waitstaff at restaurants. A handful of people came forward over a space of a year or so and claimed that patrons at restaurants had written racist or homophobic remarks on the receipts and refused to tip based on racism or homophobia. Several of these claims were proven to be outright frauds and these hoaxes happened in such close succession that when a new case hit social media the immediate response was, “Not this crap again!” But some of those nasty comments left were genuine and the waitstaff who received them after being run off their feet trying to make nasty customers happy were out of luck if they wanted sympathy because no one was going to believe them. Rachel has muddied the waters for any activist in the Pacific Northwest who experiences frightening or violent pushback because of their advocacy.
The worst of the results of Rachel’s desire for attention and victimhood status is that she put her sons and her sister in danger. No other way to state it. Rachel goes on at length defending herself saying that no black mother would ever stage such things and frighten her children – I will address that in another category in another entry – but her “No True Scotsman” defense aside, that is exactly what happened. After she was outed her sister’s home was broken into and trashed. The handful of incidents that Rachel claims that I believe happened involve her kids. Her children were collateral damage in her quest to become savior of the black race and bask in the glory of being so very, very woke.
Here are some examples of what she reports happened to her when she was an activist in Idaho and Washington.
I generally quote directly from the book but this incident is too long for such treatment. According to Rachel, when she was working as acting director at the Human Rights Education Institute in Idaho, she was confronted by a group of Aryan Nations types, complete with swastika tattoos. They entered the building during the lunch hour and evidently no one else witnessed it. Hiding her panic, Rachel says she calmly led the group on a tour of the facility while deflecting their aggressive statements of anger at her work. At one point one of them demanded to know where her son went to school. The police were never able to run down those who evidently did this to Rachel but, with no witnesses and no overt threats, even if they had arrested the people Rachel claims confronted her, little could have been done. (Her calm when threatened while alone by a group of racists who invaded her workplace is interesting when you consider her reaction when members of the KKK protested MLK Day, but more on that later when I discuss Rachel as a force of outright danger.)
The HREI took her claims very seriously.
Responding to the hate crimes directed at me, HREI’s board of directors had security cameras installed in and around the building. Unfortunately, they weren’t working correctly when Donna arrived at the institute the morning of November 19, 2009, and found a swastika sticker that had been affixed to the front door sometime during the night.
Will it surprise anyone to learn that the cameras were not working the sole evening that stickers got affixed to the building? Rachel explains that the much beleaguered Donna didn’t set them to record. Still, it’s interesting that the sole time someone came and put a sticker on the door the cameras were off.
Franklin, Rachel’s biological son from her failed marriage, couldn’t play baseball because when Rachel took him to enroll him in the kiddie league, the man to whom she had to give her address and phone number was none other than one of the men who terrified her at HREI. According to Rachel, the rest of the parents were just fine having an Aryan Nations member, complete with a swastika on his forearm, in charge of all their personal information and having influence on their children. So no baseball for Franklin because evidently everyone in Idaho is a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer.
HREI later replaced Rachel and the former director later gave information to Spokane police regarding suspicions that Rachel had staged all the harassment she claims she received when she worked at HREI. No one could ever verify anything she said, everything happened when she was alone or when surveillance equipment mysteriously wasn’t working.
Her life as an activist was one long incident of stalking after break-in after vandalism, and the threats followed her from one state to the next, from one home to the other. She had a black boyfriend named Dexter who was a corrections officer who had lived safely in a largely white neighborhood for eight years without a single incident. Six weeks after Rachel and her son moved in with him for safety, that peaceful life was over.
But within six weeks of our arrival his house was burglarized. Thirteen thousand dollars worth of property was stolen. Once again, no suspects were found, but I felt confident I understood why we’d been targets. I wasn’t just perceived as Black but Black and uppity, thanks to my growing profile in the community. My suspicions were confirmed the next morning when we walked outside to get the newspaper and found a rope twisted into a shape all too familiar to America’s Black population. A noose lay on our doorstep.
Look, I am a white woman and have no idea the terror that a black person would feel at finding a rope in such a configuration on their porch. But I can say that this looks like a basic red and white polypropylene rope found in many American garages that has been haphazardly twisted by someone who has only the most passing idea of how to create a noose. Someone who wanted to instill fear would have formed an accurate noose, and would very likely have selected a rope that would fit the mental image of a noose – a sisal, plain rope – rather than use a filthy rope with a red stripe. If this noose was a genuine attempt to terrify Rachel, it was a spur of the moment decision wherein the person grabbed the first rope they could find, wound a few loops to give the appearance of a noose, and tossed it on the porch. Or, given the eventual conclusion that Rachel planted hate mail for herself, it’s not hard to imagine her attempting to create a noose out of an old rope and ending up with this.
The police actually hosted a “noose viewing,” letting the press come to the police station to examine the noose, and some members of the media didn’t seem to believe that it was a noose at all. Dexter thought I was talking to the press too much, while I believed I was just running damage control, trying to make sure the story the media was telling was accurate.
Can you imagine how angry she would have been had the press not come to examine the noose? And they reached the same conclusion I did when I first saw the noose – this was a weird noose to find in an area where racist groups gathered, where many outdoorsmen lived who were comfortable tying complex knots. One also presumes that these people could access instructions on how to make a noose online yet this messy tangle was the best anyone could create as a threat.
But the hell of it is, if just about anyone BUT Rachel showed me this and said, “I found this on my doorstep and I’m afraid it’s a racist threat against me,” I would believe them. But one presumes the police in Idaho, where the Aryan Nations compound is located, have seen what such people do when they wish to intimidate minorities. They too reached the same conclusion – this did not look like traditional attempts to intimidate.
Also, the notion that Rachel was courting the press too much comes up in her personal, work, and volunteer life. Often.
In June 2010, Franklin and Izaiah, who was visiting us for the summer, ran through the back door one morning, yelling that I needed to come see what they’d found while picking strawberries in the backyard. I threw on a robe and followed them outside. My heart sank when I saw what had spooked them. From the rafters of the carport hung a noose, and like the first one, the message behind it was clear. I called the police. The officer who arrived wrote up the incident as a hate crime. It didn’t matter how many times we moved: the hate always found us.
No pictures exist of this noose or if they do I could not find them. The police determined that the rope was of the sort used to hang deer carcasses when butchering them. Rachel represents that assessment as people insisting someone crept onto her property, butchered a deer and left the rope behind for her boys to find the next morning. Not the case. Rather, the implication is that the rope had been up in the rafter beams for a while and that wind or weather displaced it. Rachel moved often to stay ahead of the racists who were threatening her. It’s unlikely she had time or energy to so thoroughly investigate her property to know what was up in the carport rafters. Still, I am unsure if this happened. Without seeing evidence it’s hard to know. But I do note two things: her sons found the rope and were terrified, and trouble always found Rachel no matter how often she moved.
Other incidents followed. Rachel was elected to serve in the OPOC (Office of Police Ombudsman Committee) in Spokane. Her son Franklin called her during an OPOC meeting one evening because he heard someone outside the house and was terrified. Large boot prints were found in the snow outside the house. On another occasion, two people burst into the house when Franklin was home alone and the doors were unlocked. They told Franklin they clearly had the wrong house, they were dog sitters and had gotten confused, and left. Rachel had installed surveillance cameras and was appalled that even with their faces caught on video that the police didn’t arrest them. Again, it’s hard to know how true these stories are, but when it comes to her kids it almost doesn’t matter because her sons love her and believe what she tells them and they were scared. Did Franklin get frightened when someone innocently walked too close to the house at night? Did dogsitters really get confused? Or was he in danger?
Maybe the better question is this: if Rachel was living a nightmare where omnipresent racists found her each time she moved, leaving nooses and stalking her continually, why would she leave her son at home alone at night? Why would he ever be alone in an unlocked house?
Being a single mother is hard. Rachel was spread thin between teaching at two universities part time, being president of the NAACP Spokane chapter and serving on the OPOC. Sometimes moms can’t be with their kids – I was a latchkey kid. But I also know that if someone was leaving nooses on the porch my mother would have arranged for me to stay with a neighbor. Rachel was staging die-ins in response to the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, and other activism that brought her lots of media attention and local notoriety. Arranging low-cost or free after school care or care collectives for low-income minorities hardly would have had the same appeal for someone seeking attention. For a white woman pretending to be black, blackness was about the enacting the drama of violent racism for the cameras, of being a victim, of feeling persecuted by racists. It wasn’t about overcoming the economic constrictions that resulted in little black children going home unsupervised, regardless of whether or not nooses got left on their porches.
Rachel reported at least nine separate hate crimes she claimed she was victim of from 2009 through 2015, not to mention the others wherein there was not enough information to conclude the nature of the offense.
Now we come to the NAACP/EWU (Eastern Washington University) “War Pig” mail.
In March 2015, a package addressed to me but lacking a return address and postage was delivered to the NAACP’s post office box. When I opened it, I found an article about me from The Inlander, photos of black men being lynched and used for target practice, photos of white men pointing guns at the camera and handwritten notes issuing threats and signed “War Pig.” Two days after I received this package, Franklin and one of his friends were accosted a block from our house by a white male who called Franklin the N-word.
I believe Franklin and his friend were called a nasty epithet. Unfortunately such things still happen far too frequently. The rest is made up. No one but a keyholder for the post office box could have put mail without a postmark or postage into the box. All post office personnel were investigated and none of them put the package in the NAACP post office box. It was an inside job. By Rachel’s own admission in the video that went viral, after the first War Pig package, the NAACP Spokane chapter closed the post office box.
A month later, I received another package from War Pig – same handwriting and signature and, once again, no return address – but this time it was delivered by the postal service directly to the NAACP office on West Main Avenue instead of our PO Box.
She gave it straight to the police without opening it. I personally would have opened it if I felt the police were being lax in protecting me. I would have wanted to know what the package contained and if there were overt threats against me or my children. But I guess she may have feared something deadly or gross was inside? Unsure but her reaction doesn’t ring true for a woman who likes to portray herself as a fierce mama bear and a protector of black people in general.
A week later another package from War Pig showed up, this time in my faculty mail box at EWU. Once again I opted not to open it and gave it to the police. These last two packages contained postmarks indicating they’d both been mailed from Oakland, California.
“But wait, you verbose cracker!” I can hear you saying. “How could she have false flagged herself in Spokane if there was a postmark from Oakland?” Dear reader, will it surprise you that Rachel was in Oakland days before the second package was received at the NAACP office? I do not know what the postmark date was on the package she received in her faculty mail box but even without that data this is all very interesting. Why would someone in Oakland be mailing hate packages to a Spokane activist? How did that person manage to slip a package without a postmark or postage into a locked post office box in Spokane? Did that person travel from Spokane to leave an untraceable package then went back to Oakland to send packages with postmarks? Or is it more likely Rachel slipped that package into the NAACP post office box without thinking through the implications of it having no postage or postmark and then sent herself other packages when she had that trip to Oakland in order to deflect attention away from her earlier mistake-filled false flag?
I believe the latter.
Rachel may have seemed to have a dark night of the soul wherein she considered her real place in this world after all that happened to her.
I wasn’t a white woman, but no one saw me as a Black woman either, so how was I supposed to proceed. If the whole world rejects you, what’s the point in sticking around? Life is already too difficult and too painful to take on the added burden of being without a community, quarantined in solitary confinement psychologically, intuitively and emotionally.
Was there a place for me in this world?
Clearly she felt there was because after making this statement, she went on the talk show circuit, found out she was pregnant, had the kid, wrote a book and went on the talk show circuit again. And here we are.
But as for her new baby, Langston, she’s not above putting him in harms way to become a victim again. After being disgraced and thoroughly mocked, after claiming people taunted her with nooses and threatened her through violent mail packages, she put pics of her newborn son online. She was surprised, SHOCKED even, when trolls made racist and violent remarks against him. You can also file this under “Rachel Will Never Get It.” Of course no one should say terrible things about a baby. But there are white, suburban, completely tapioca-bland mommy bloggers who have decided to stop putting their kids’ pictures online because of trolls and none of them are the current laughingstock of race politics in the United States. It’s not victim blaming to suggest that a woman with Rachel’s history might have realized crappy people would take her son’s picture and edit terrible things onto it or make racist comments. It’s unfair that victims have to make themselves safe from aggressors but until we find the troll gene and eradicate it from the human experience, you either wise up and keep some things to yourself or you share everything and stop complaining when there are consequences.
Does this come across as “whitesplaining?” Maybe but bear in mind Rachel’s white too. It’s just one white girl analyzing the really dumb decisions of another white girl. I worry I might be “childless-spaining,” if there is such a thing. I don’t have kids and don’t have to engage in difficult decisions of how to make enough money to support that child while ensuring the child is taken care of when I am working. There are thousands and thousands of working moms who are single and married who have to make similar decisions. I have to think the vast majority of them, after receiving implied threats of violence, would not be leaving their children at home alone at night so they could attend an ombudsman committee meeting. Rachel put being a liaison between Spokane police and the public before the safety of her child.
Or she knew all along he was never in danger because she was responsible for or made up the majority of the harassment and threats she claims she received. All in all, I really prefer this interpretation, not just because it fits neatly into what I think of Rachel Doležal’s character, but also because it means Franklin and Izaiah were never in harm’s way to the degree their mother says they were.
Part Three will be up on Tuesday, and we’ll look at how Rachel’s book reveals how she is a master of weasel words and bizarre justifications as well as illustrating how she is an absolute asshole. Later installments will discuss how she has made a fetish of blackness, her white savior syndrome, and how she was dangerous when pretending to be black, among other topics.