Which Is Worse: Rachel Dolezal or Donald Sterling?
Published Thu Jun 18, 2015 9:20am PST
I'm a mind reader. I can prove it. I know what you thought when you read the title of this piece. "What?" you exclaimed with your nose scrunched and your voice inflected as though someone just told you Santa Claus had to use your toothbrush to scrub the bananas.
One is a White woman who got busted on video for pretending to be Black. The other is a White man who got busted on tape for hating Blacks. What could the Dolezal and Sterling stories possibly have in common? Nothing.
Well, one thing. For me, personally. And it's the only reason I put their stories together in this question. Both of these stories were something I saw on the Internet first thing in the morning. Both were stories that made me laugh out loud. I wish there were a way to shorten that phrase. Both were--I believed--unimportant stories that I quickly forwarded to a friend before they would--I believed--fall through the cracks of obscurity forever. And both were stories that actually became a big Blackin' deal.
Note to the reader: I'm Black. That doesn't make me the authority on all things Black. I like the TV show black-ish, some Black people hate it. They're wrong, but that demonstrates that there is no single authority on Blackness. I found both these stories funny and not a big deal, but the news says these stories are not funny and they are a big deal. So now the media got me feeling like I don't deserve my Black card.
Over the last week, social media and the talking heads have criticized Dolezal for co-opting Black culture, her own adopted brother referring to her deception as "a slap in the face". A "blackface" slap in the face. A slap in the blackface. Where I saw "Tee hee. This White woman thinks she's Black", pundits saw another ugly demonstration of White privilege. The accusations on Rachel Dolezal range from her being, at best, a cultural thief to, at worst, mentally unstable. Or vice-versa, depending on what a misappropriating sociopath considers the better of the two.
Rachel Dolezal made it to a high-visibility level of the NAACP. A White face was the face of Black people in Spokane, Washington. The social media circus has shown that this is not "tee hee". This is serious business. I didn't see that before. I know it must be serious with so many important people speaking out against it from the likes of Denzel Washington...
...to Brian Williams...
...to Yasiin Bey...
...to Keanu Reeves...
...to Maury Povich...
...to Denzel Washington.
So I apologize for taking the Dolezal story so lightly. I now see that it is no laughing matter.
In case you couldn't be bothered to wade through all the links above, let me assure you that they make a strong case that Dolezal's actions, while they may have been well-intended, are detrimental to the Black community and American society as a whole. Hell, those memes alone are proof of that. So, that being established, you can now unscrunch your nose and pass Santa the wash bucket. I'm asking which is worse: Dolezal or Sterling?
Obviously Donald Sterling is a jerk. Nobody is denying that. He was Black enemy #1 of 2014 until police killings started gaining traction. But is he as big a monster as Rachel Dolezal? Let's explore the parallels.
Race Hate vs. Race Love
Everyone knows of the infamous and, perhaps, illegal recording in which former NBA team owner Donald Sterling chastises his girlfriend for bringing Black people to watch the games. God forbid they be anywhere but on the court. Everyone was shocked by such blatant racism exhibited from a man who everyone already knew was blatantly racist.
While Donald Sterling can't stand the smell of African-Americans, Rachel Dolezal chose to be enveloped in Afraroma by attending historically Black Howard University. I didn't know White people could go to Howard University, and, apparently, neither did Howard. Rachel's brother Ezra suggests that after not being well received at Howard, Rachel "developed some self-hatred" and a distrust of White people. That's deep. It would have been so much easier for her to go the other way and develop a dislike of Blacks. But no. Rachel Dolezal is so pro-Black, she joined the NAACP to fight discrimination perpetrated by individuals like Sterling.
Speaking of the NAACP...
The organization doesn't look great in either of these stories, but one story is a "whoops, meh" for them while the other was a "dig a hole, 'cause somebody's about to get buried" type of deal.
Dolezal was the president of Spokane, Washington's NAACP chapter when her race was outed. The most influential Black organization in America--if you don't count Jay-Z and his Illuminati--did not know this woman was White. How? What happened? Did they switch the paper bag test to plastic?
Dolezal has since resigned even though the regional NAACP stood by her. While it has no comment on her racial identity, the association expressed appreciation for Dolezal's history of advocacy. I can't blame the NAACP for falling for it, though. You try asking someone if they're Black and see if you walk away from that conversation feeling okay about yourself.
In the Sterling situation, you would think the NAACP's role would be one of crusader, not rewarder. But soon after the Notorious D.O.N.'s mix tape dropped, it came to everyone's attention that the Los Angeles, California NAACP chapter was scheduled to present Sterling with a lifetime achievement award. Sorry, I mean a second lifetime achievement award.
Of course, money was involved. Sterling donated to the NAACP which led to his 2009 lifetime achievement award and almost his 2014 lifetime achievement award. Some see it as corruption on the part of the NAACP. I see it as the NAACP taking a swipe at Sterling, saying he's so old he's lived two lifetimes.
Naturally, the Los Angeles NAACP chapter leader resigned after the controversy, just like in Spokane. It's almost as if a race-related story can only be humorous if the NAACP is directly involved and negatively impacted.
Betrayed By Loved Ones
Sterling was undone by his mistress who denies being a mistress, V. Stiviano. The V stands for "Vitch, you know you boinked that old man for goodies!" It's still unclear why Stiviano secretly recorded their conversation and why it was released. Some suggest she was planning to blackmail Donald, perhaps to get the money she would need to pay off his ex-wife Shelly who was suing her (and won). I think she was trying to create a reason to start the visor trend.
In Dolezal's case, she was taken down by a reporter but is getting completely undone by her family, particularly her parents. Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal were on every channel from MSNBC to WKRP declaring their daughter as White, whole White, and nothing but the White. Rachel responded with doubts that these people are even her biological parents, a move that, well... I'll cover how I feel about that in the next section. Daddy Dolezal--the White one, not the fake Black one from the picture--challenged Rachel to put her money where her mouth is with a DNA test.
The parents' media blitz raised more questions than Rachel's masquerade. Why are they so adamantly blowing her cover? And why now but never at any point in the last eight years of her charade? Of course, this couldn't just be some quirky little race-switching farce. The longer it goes, the more Dolezal dirt gets kicked up. Turns out Rachel's biological older brother is soon to stand trial for sexual assault of a child--a Black child--and Rachel's parents believe Rachel helped bring the charges against him. Now we know why their media campaign seems more like revenge than a money grab.
Donald is as honest as his bigoted heart will allow. Rachel seems estranged from the truth.
Donald Sterling's racism is so deep that he cannot even try to hide it. It comes out so effortlessly that his ex-wife had him tested for dementia. Where a dishonest individual would accept the mentally incapacitated tag as a way to save face, Sterling stood with the truth and fought to prove that he was in his right mind when he made every vile, disgusting comment.
Rachel Dolezal said a Black man in a picture was her father. He is not. When a reporter asked if she was African-American, she said she didn't understand the question. She did. On her application for Spokane's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, she identified herself as White, but also as Black and American Indian. She isn't. She mentored students under the expectation that she understands the Black experience. She couldn't. She reported receiving hate mail and death threats over the last several years. Investigations say doubtful. She has accused her family and her ex-husband of abuse. It's possible, but look at her record.
I gotta say, the thing that bothers me most about this Rachel Dolezal story is her stories. They are unending. Even after having been caught in lie after lie, she doubles down to defend her half-baked reasoning for the original lie. "I'm not necessarily saying that I can prove they're not [my biological parents]. But I don't know that I can actually prove they are." Are you kidding me?! That's what you're gonna go with? Somewhere, a birther is off in a corner sucking his thumb, wondering why he didn't think of that.
All the good she might have done for her students, for the NAACP, for the Black community now get put in question. Now, because she's a fraud, everything she has touched is open for speculation. It's not fair, but it's valid. Her lies have made a mockery of the organization that believed in her, unnecessarily tarnishing an institution that strives to advance the very spirit she so aspires to embody. Lying about her struggle does not help THE struggle.
So. Which is worse? Rachel Dolezal lying about being Black thereby making everyone question everything they ever believed? Or Donald Sterling saying a couple of ignorant things in the privacy of his own home?
It's Donald Sterling. C'mon, that man's an asshole. A White woman wishing she was Black? That shit's just funny.
~That Afraromatic Mofo~