An Open Letter To: Rachel Dolezal

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Rachel Dolezal has been the name of everyone's lips this month. After having some time to reflect, Iolanda Neto writes to Rachel


Dear Rachel Dolezal,

Blackness is not your trend. The actions that have come to light this month seem to have been intended by you to generate sympathy, even though your shameful, deceitful conduct has harmed black people everywhere –  probably more than you realise. Not only have you silenced and subordinated the voices of black activists in Spokane, you have actively perpetuated falsehoods about race identity.

If you, after all, ‘identify’ as black, (a nonsensical turn of phrase, as anyone with sense could tell you) then it must surely go the other way, too. If black people are so tired of being marginalised, why do they not merely identify as white? It would seem that some have come close, as anybody who’s ever been called an ‘oreo’ will tell you. So why doesn’t everybody do it?

The truth is, race is nothing but a series of overlaps between culture, ancestry and biology. It’s not an ‘adopted identity’. It’s a fact of existence – and unfortunately, quite often an unhappy one for many people living in environments where casually racist turns of phrase like ‘oreo’ are commonplace. You are trying to claim blackness when you can freely strip yourself of the more troublesome aspects of this new found racial identity as and when you please.  This trivialises the pain that black people are obliged to suffer through no fault (or choice) of their own. There’s a fine line between trying to respect a cause and making a mockery of it – a line which you have long since crossed.

Yours sincerely,

Iolanda Neto

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