Does Black Identity Only Belong to Black People?
by CelineG on October 19, 2015 - 10:39am
Katie Rogers wrote for The New-York Times an article entitled “Rihanna Defended Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Claimed to Be Black” which was published on October 6th 2015. The article begins by explaining that Rihanna had given an interview to Vanity Fair on the subject of her relationships and her experience being in a abusive relationship with ex, Chris Brown. However, in the interview, they got to discussing race and Rachel Dolezal. She explains that Dolezal was at the center of media attention this summer for, as she puts it, “appropriating black culture”. In the interview, Rihanna titled Dolezal as a hero and fans were shocked and could not believe that a woman of colour would say something like that. The author goes on to explain more depth about why Rachel Dolezal was such a controversial topic in the media. She was the former president of NAACP in Washington. During her time as an activist, she claimed that she was black and she changed her physical features like hair and skin colour to appear more “black”. When her parents revealed to the media of who she really was, many people were upset and angered and said she was appropriating black culture. When the subject resurfaced with the Vanity Fair interview, many people on social media were vocal about their opinions. One saying “Rihanna described Rachel Dolezal as a ‘bit of a hero.’ That hurt a bit.” Many shared the same position.
In my opinion, I think it is wrong for Rihanna to have called Rachel Dolezal a hero. Even though I feel as though I do not have a place to speak since I do not undergo the same experiences as people of colour, I think it is clear from people’s reactions that many were offended by what Dolezal did. Smedley writes in our coursepack that racial identity began in the United-States and African-Americans had to come to terms with the fact that they were viewed as inferior. Because of this, African-Americans formed an identity that belonged to them and differentiated them from white people. This is the foundation of racial discrimination and the superiority complex that some white people have. Taking this into consideration, it is obvious as to why black people would be offended by a white person pretending to be black. It is because it makes it seem like their struggles and discrimination are not important and not something to be taken seriously. As we learn in class, even though race is arbitrary and technically Dolezal can identify however she pleases, the effects of race are very real so by pretending to be someone you are not, you take away from people’s experiences of racism. Unfortunately, I do not think the article did a fair job of expressing the context of Rihanna’s comment so it is difficult to have an opposing opinion of the author’s.
Rogers, K. (2015).Rihanna Defended Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Claimed to Be Black. The New-York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/07/ fashion/rihanna-defended-rachel-dolezal-the-white-woman-who-claimed-to-be- black.html