Rachel Dolezal and the Performance of Blackness
By now I'm sure you've heard about Rachel Dolezal. If not, just Google and read because there is an astounding amount of commentary about it. But it boils down to a white woman pretends to be a Black woman and is president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. Not an Onion article. Not a joke.
I had a 4 hour car ride with my mother to discuss it and I think most of my anger has subsided. And now I am left with a question: How does one perform Blackness?
For Rachel Dolezal that meant textured hair in ethnic styles, tanned skin, Africana studies and the NAACP. Is that the Blackness starter pack? Methinks not. For some folks, Blackness is Blonde weaves, Jordans and front stoops. For others, its red clay roads, tent revivals and biscuits and gravy. And for others, its cotillions, Black social organizations and etiquette classes. And for many, it's a mix of all of these and so much more.
But Rachel knew that in order to be undetected she must craft an identity with an undeniably Black aesthetic. And to this I say shame on us! Shame on the content creators that have been so historically lazy, showing a monolithic Black experience that this person was able to pull from Black trope column A and Black trope column B and present to the world Rachel, Woman in Black.
I did an interview for TCG's blog and I talked about diversity being a major issue (I'm always talking about diversity in American theatre). We need diverse representation! I will say it again, WE NEED DIVERSE REPRESENTATION! We need to see alternative Black girls and nerdy Black boys, Queer Black Folk and Black folk with disabilities, Black folks that agree and disagree. We need complex Black characters that both live up to stereotypes and completely shatter them at once. No one should be able to don some Senegalese twists and Kinte cloth and think they have the right to claim Blackness. It is more than that. I am more than that. And it's time that we show that!