Rachel Dolezal: Columbusing Blackness
For a few weeks now, I’ve been trying to write something about the colonizer mentality (aka ytppul ytppuling) but the words have been slow to come. The idea remained unclear until Rachel Dolezal’s latest interview with Ijeoma Oluo appeared in The Stranger (here). Suddenly, it all came together because Rachel being Rachel, her offerings opened new mental vistas for me. Rachel, I thank you.
When I write in strong terms about the 'performance of Whiteness' in (mostly, but not exclusively) American society, I do so knowing that I have White friends who may take offense at my generalization. I understand the offense you take but I cannot apologize for it. I’m drawing a conclusion from the evidence left by hundreds of years of behavior by millions of people. I don’t even know if it’s a generalization per se or just the drawing the obvious conclusions.
The inclination towards supremacy, towards reaping where one has not planted, is what I refer to as ytppul ytppuling (YY) or the colonizer mindset. YY is Whiteness moving in the world in the way it best knows how: taking the path of least resistance, typically right through someone else's most sacred of spaces, directly to its destination. Like marauding ants through your vegetable patch, yytppuling steals your blooms, your leaves, and ultimately, your entire garden. Call it the colonizer mindset at work if that language makes you more comfortable, same difference really.
YtppuI ytppuling is, to my mind, the perfect explanation for the phenomenon that is Rachel Dolezal. I hadn’t intended ever to speak on her, but she’s come back again, this time with a new book, justisplainin’ her Columbusing of Blackness. She wandered barefoot and unwelcome, with her braids, her tan and her new African name, right into the middle of my crisis of trying to explain ytppul ytppuling, essentially offering herself as a living visual aid. Thanks. I think.
Dolezal is a helluva character. My belief is that she has read just enough history to understand and appreciate the triumphs of Blackness, and out of an abundance of admiration, and perhaps a surfeit of jealousy, she has decided that she wants to be Black. Hey, I get it. I wanna be Black too…..oh wait.
I wish I could say that I sympathize with Dolezal but in truth, I don't.
Rachel is the worst kind of fraudulent operator to me. She is not Black. This is not up for debate to my mind. She. Is. Not. Black. What she is, is a thief. She has co-opted Blackness for its apparent (cultural) benefits and sexy cool points, while wholly sidestepping its social, economic, and legal burdens. Worse still, she traffics in within-race colorism on the sly. She knows enough to understand that if folk think she’s Black, she’ll receive the deferential treatment that Black folk often mete out to light skinned women of color. She’s been known to talk about colorism, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that she meant to tap into Black people's own strain of anti-Blackness. She may wanna be Black but she ain’t wanna be no midnight Black. Nuh uh, she wanna be Becky with the good hair!
And when she experiences disapprobation and rejection – not on account of being Black but rather on account of the obscenity of her actions – she turns around and claims discrimination. Jumping Jehoshapat, where to start?
Worse still than the absolute asshattery of her explanations of her Blackness, her position creates a universe wherein Blackness isn't real; it's just some accessory that one can don or doff at will. Or at least, she can. Black folk can’t take theirs off but that is of no consequence.
This whole episode is just more Darth Becky on steroids shit - White privilege, White cultural appropriation, ytppul ytppuling (aka colonizer mindset) bull shiggety: #ColonizerMindsetHardAtWork.
Rachel, from her clearly superior colonizer perspective, can decide to be Black and affect the pose; she can claim the benefits while escaping the challenges. As a White woman, she demanded inclusion (suing Howard University for exclusion on the grounds of race) and then when that failed, she masqueraded her way into inclusion. And she could do it all with a straight face, because whyever not?
In every way, Rachel’s story is the colonizer story: “Mine eye doth perceive it, mine heart doth want it, I, therefore, must have it.” Rachel wants Blackness and voilà, it is hers. The colonizer does whatever he/she must to have whatever her greedy little heart desires because it is all hers for the taking. She needs no permission and Lawd knows she will not tolerate your challenges to her logic, her excuses or her justisplanations!!
Darth Becky can center her White self even in the universe of Blackness because Whiteness is the center of the known universe. The world is Becky’s oyster and the Beckster is taking all the damn pearls. Deal with it.
The colonizer mindset, ytppul ytppuling, it’s a thing, a real thing. Rachel Dolezal is proof of that because there she is, reaping where she certainly has not sowed. This ladies & gents, is Rachel Columbusing Blackness, taking up where the original colonizer left off.
About the Author - Elle Sagar
I am a strategic thinker and problem solver. I have a knack for seeing the heart of an issue, clearing away all the noise and nonsense and hopefully making cogent arguments that go to the central issue under consideration. Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try. That's a lyric from an Ella Fitzgerald song and from the songbook of my life.
Read Some of Elle's Other Articles...
- Some We Will Have to Carry - Jesse Williams and the BET Award's Acceptance Speech
- Faux-Gility: When White 'Fragility' Is Something Else Entirely
- Understanding White Privilege: A 5-Point Primer
- Let Me Count the Ways - Donald Trump's Delusional Pitch to Black Voters
- The Finish Line of Faith
- A Hedge of Protection
- Are We There Yet?