‘Identity’ and the Rachel Dolezal controversy


By Daniel J. Bauer

Like many, I find the Rachel Dolezal controversy both fascinating and troubling.

Rachel Dolezal, head of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Spokane, Washington, resigned this week after an explosion of criticism over claims she has long made about her racial identity. In the past, she may also have pretended to be a victim of so called hate crimes. Credibility questions hover like buzzards over her head.

Ms. Dolezal’s parents produced a birth certificate several days before her resignation from her very visible post as an advocate for racial justice. The birth record indicated Dolezal lacks any strain of African-American ancestry. This contradicts the way she had previously represented herself. She is actually of Czech and German heritage, her parents say (now the Internet adds ��Swedish��), with some Native American roots. The rights activist reportedly stepped down from her post without remorse or contrition. Rightfully, she said in a Facebook statement, and has since repeated, any matter of her personal life pales in significance beside pressing issues for racial justice in America. She strongly insists that she identifies with African-Americans, and does not see herself as ��white�� (Caucasian). First there is the problem of identity. ��Identity.�� How do we define that word? There are thousands of people like me in Taiwan today. Rooted here for 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for 2, 3 years at a stretch, and having lived in Taiwan for more than 30 years, what and who have I become? I know what my identity was 40 years ago, but what is it today? Although I am still very much an American, in fact, during sporadic visits to my homeland over the years, I have truly longed to come back here. I feel more at home in Taiwan than anywhere else. Other questions remain. What choices do we make in our lives which, over time, reveal values inside us which may perhaps surprise us?