op-ed: rachel dolezal getting a book deal to write about race is white privilege in all its glory

April 15, 2016

Rachel Dolezal, the black-passing white woman and former NAACP Spokane President who once sued Howard University for discriminating against her because she is white, is now writing a book about race.

“Nothing about whiteness describes who I am,” Rachel Dolezal told NBC, in a recent interview where she announced the deal. An interesting choice of words, as I can scarcely think of anything that reeks more of whiteness than feeling entitled to the experiences and identities of POC.

Post-Ferguson America has made it crystal clear that the black community is rich in revolutionary intellectuals, critical race theorists, and compassionate activists with culture-shifting voices. Particularly voices belonging to black women. Exposure of some of these figures has been absolutely stunning. But the fight for black liberation has hardly been lined with public acknowledgment, access, or reward. And while real black people, who were born into the struggle, are so often cut out of literary world and their perspectives as black writers don’t seem to be particularly in demand in the mainstream context, Dolezal’s imitation sure seems to be.

Some may argue that Dolezal’s obsession with blackness and her partially admirable activist work uniquely qualifies her to tell the stories of black woman and to host a conversation about racial dynamics, but that’s obviously not true. There are tons of black women just as and much more qualified and deserving of book deals on the same subject, like Roxane Gay, dream hampton, Issa Raw, Kara Brown, Hillary Crosley Coker, Feminista Jones, Lola Adesioye, Akiba Solomon, Natalie Degraffinried, Samantha Irby, Eve Ewing, Latoya Peterson, Jamilah Lemieux, Yesha Callahan, Jenée Desmond-Harris, and at least 90 others. Here’s hoping Dolezal’s most recent success will snowball into access and institutional support for black female writers in the literary world.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

Picture credit: Annie Kuster for the Guardian

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at erin@afropunk.com.