A Conversation about the Ethics of Rachel Dolezal Pretending to be Black


The internet has been buzzing all day about Rachel Dolezal, a NAACP leader who has been exposed for pretending to be Black. There is a full write up of the situation on the Huffington Post: “NAACP Leader Rachel Dolezal Allegedly Faked Being A Black Woman For Years”. This article features a conversation about Rachel Dolezal after reading the aforementioned write up on Huffington Post. With different perspectives, the conversation below (featuring students from Howard University) is about whether her alleged faking to be “Black” is wrong.

A Conversation about the Ethics of Rachel Dolezal Pretending to be Black

Lisa Satchell: I feel a lot of things about this. I’m mostly upset that she’s a graduate of my current University. Going to an HBCU does not make you black. You can help protect and fight for fair treatment, but never should that involve claiming someone else’s culture. As of now I don’t know what else I feel, because this is very confusing.

Alex Mckenney: I feel the same way. Some people are calling it a form of blackface

Lisa: I kind of feel that. Like how much does she have to do to her makeup and hair to keep up this charade?

Bryant Smith: Besides pretending to be African-American, did she do anything else harmful?

Lisa: I don’t think so! However, you can help the cause without impersonating the race.

Bryant: I definitely agree. But from what I’ve seen so far, that’s the only flaw she has had. And she’s arguably been more active then some black people. I’m not condoning her actions, but I’m not sure if I want to condemn her.

Lisa: I feel that. That’s why I’m so conflicted. I mean, we both know from going to Howard University that being Black is more than just our skin color. It’s a struggle and a culture. Not everyone, black or otherwise, feels that way.

Alex: The problem I have is that she co opted our struggle and identity without ever experiencing it until she started “passing” as an adult. Her doing this is communicating that blackness is a persona. A persona she can discard at anytime and one that she chose as an adult. Black people weren’t given that choice, and we couldn’t change it if we wanted to. I don’t know all the details, but as far as I can tell she has only benefitted from claiming the identity of a black woman, and that in itself should be enough cause to condemn what she’s done.


There has to be a reason for her pretending to be Black. Hopefully she comes forth with something. Who do you agree with from this conversation?

P.S.: Lisa Satchell, a participant in the conversation, is the Founder and CEO of Find Relisa Productions. She recently released her first short film dealing with #BlackLivesMatter that you can find here: Find Relisa Productions Youtube Channel. You can also follow her on Instagram @FindRelisaProd.


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Bryant Smith

Bryant Smith is the founder and owner of The Top Tea.

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