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.
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.
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.