Rachel Dolezal is right: White self-hate is only logical, says US ‘academic’

Writing in the Huffington Post, a US author and “Director of P-12 Consulting and Professional Development at the Center for the Study of Race Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania”, Ali Michael, argues that she dan identify with Rachel Dolezal’s attempt to disguise herself as a black and renounce her white identity. Below, Michael says:

“I definitely experienced this. There was a time in my 20s when everything I learned about the history of racism made me hate myself, my Whiteness, my ancestors… and my descendants. I remember deciding that I couldn’t have biological children because I didn’t want to propagate my privilege biologically.”

Here is a slightly shortened version of Ali Michael’s column, originally entitled, I sometimes don’t want to be white either.

Rachel Dolezal is a fascinating case study in White racial identity development.* She is stuck in the immersion/emersion stage, in which White people, having learned extensively about the realities of racism, and the ugly history of White supremacy in the U.S., “immerse” themselves in trying to figure out how to be White in our society, and “emerge” with a new relationship to Whiteness. Only in the case of Dolezal, her way of dealing with the pain of the reality of racism, was to deny her own Whiteness and to become Black.

She is an extreme example of a common phenomenon. The “immersion” stage is typified by White people taking more responsibility for racism and privilege and often experiencing high levels of anger and embarrassment for racism and privilege, which they sometimes direct towards other Whites. They sometimes try to immerse themselves in communities of color, as Dolezal did. She’s not alone.

I definitely experienced this. There was a time in my 20s when everything I learned about the history of racism made me hate myself, my Whiteness, my ancestors… and my descendants. I remember deciding that I couldn’t have biological children because I didn’t want to propagate my privilege biologically.

If I was going to pass on my privilege, I wanted to pass it on to someone who doesn’t have racial privilege; so I planned to adopt. I disliked my Whiteness, but I disliked the Whiteness of other White people more. I felt like the way to really end racism was to feel guilty for it, and to make other White people feel guilty for it too. And then, like Dolezal, I wanted to take on Africanness. Living in South Africa during my junior year abroad, I lived with a Black family, wore my hair in head wraps, shaved my head. I didn’t want to be White, but if I had to be, I wanted to be White in a way that was different from other White people I knew. I wanted to be a special, different White person. The one and only. How very White of me…

Beverly Daniel Tatum has written that White people don’t choose to identify as White because the categories to choose from are loaded from the start. Traditionally, one can identify as a colorblind White person, a racist White person or an ignorant White person: those are the three ways White people get talked about as White. If those are the options, who would choose to identify as White? And so White people identify as “normal” and “Irish” and “just American” and do not self-identify racially. And that leaves us with a society in which only people of color have a race, where only people of color seem to be responsible for racialized problems. It makes it hard for all of us to know and tell our racial stories — because White people think we don’t have any. And it makes it hard for us to own our history, because we don’t see it as ours.

Many White people also feel like we don’t have culture, and this isn’t a coincidence.

Throughout the 20th century, countless immigrant groups abandoned the artifacts of cultures that racialized them as immigrants (language, religion, food, styles of speaking, gesticulations, family structures, traditions, etc.) in order to become White. And this was not just a matter of fitting in; it was about accessing rights that were reserved for White people: citizenship, land ownership, police protection, legal rights, etc.

The more one could cast off the markers of otherness, the more likely it was that one could become White. And so while the desire to become White is really the opposite of what Rachel Dolezal had, the process of becoming White that her ancestors undoubtedly went through in the great American star-off machine, may be connected to her desire to un-become White, to lose that feeling of being cultureless, of being part of an unidentified group, and to leave behind that identity that has no positive way to be. And lots of White people — myself included — do this in thousands of tiny ways as we appropriate the cultures of others (from Africa, India, Compton, Guatemala, Harlem, Mexico…) to fill in the blanks in our own.

Daniel Tatum said we need to change this. We need to give White people new ways to identify as White. Because at the end of the day, we need White people to see that we are White. When we recognize and own our Whiteness, we can account for our own portion, our one 1/billionth of responsibility for what White people have done throughout history. We can work with other White people to begin to challenge bias, ignorance and colorblindness. We can use our privilege to confront the sources of that unfair favoring.

I was lucky. The Black family I embedded myself in during my “Rachel Dolezal phase” insisted on my inherent goodness, and that of my family and even — I thought this was a stretch — of my ancestors. They helped me focus on my capacity to make change as a White person. They appreciated my desire to be Black, they teased me, they let me know in no uncertain terms that I would never be Black. I read James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Steve Biko. I swore off White authors. But the Black authors I read saw the immersion stage coming, and they reminded me that Black people don’t need White people to help them pursue liberation, that the job of White people lies with teaching other White people, seeing ourselves clearly, owning our role in oppression.

I’m not sure what happened with Rachel Dolezal. Maybe it was mental illness. Maybe it was a desire to connect to her adopted brothers. Maybe she felt safer and more loved in Black communities. Maybe it felt good to distance herself from the overwhelming oppressiveness of Whiteness — her own and that of her country and of her ancestors. But the lesson for me is remembering how deep the pain is, the pain of realizing I’m White, and that I and my ancestors are responsible for the incredible racialized mess we find ourselves in today. The pain of facing that honestly is blinding. It’s not worse than being on the receiving end of that oppression. – Ali Michael

 

*White racial identity development was first theorized and written about by Dr. Janet Helms.

 

  • sieg heil

    conveniently stayed in SA – not Congo – and would obviously went to Panorama Medical Clinic when in need of bad white medical help – not the local sangoma
    After all must be reading Marxpropaganda 24

  • WhiteOak

    We’re all familiar with Whites who take the side of non-Whites against Whites, and we’re probably all familiar with the fact that they are usually considered to be righteous and to have the moral high road. The reality, however, is that most of them are suffering from one or more mental disorders. The Oslo syndrome is the name used by Jewish writer Kenneth Levin to specifically describe the psychology of Jews who hate Jews, but theconcept applies to all groups as it is a basic human psychological phenomenon which is related both to the Stockholm syndrome and the Battered Child syndrome.

    We saw a similar phenomenon among American Indians, many of whom came to feel so worthless that they preferred to commit suicide rather than live as the worthless individuals they felt they were. In these cases, the psychological feelings of guilt, self-hate and worthlessness were so great that to relieve these feelings–this very real, but unseen psychological pain–these individuals just ended their own lives. Others turned to alcohol. Still others just suffered silently and simply stopped trying to live full lives. In most cases Indians blamed themselves and other Indians for their problems.

    There is a constant society wide drumbeat demonizing Whites. We constantly hear, for example, that Whites haven’t earned what they have and that they only got it because of “White privilege,” or that except for White racism and hatred of Blacks, Blacks would be leading better lives. This is nothing less than psychological abuse of Whites similar to what we see in cases of Child abuse. Whites are made to feel guilty for doing nothing more than being who and what they are by birth, yet any expressions of Whiteness or of their genetic identity or of feeling good about oneself are quickly denigrated as being signs of racism and White evil.

    As with all psychological maladies, there is a continuum of self-hate and some of the symptoms and expressions of the Oslo syndrome in Whites are more subtle and may appear to the casual viewer as being virtuous. For example, when you see Whites who are hypersensitive to perceived insults to Blacks and who then attack their fellow Whites verbally or physically for their “racism,” you can be pretty sure you are seeing a person with the Oslo syndrome. The lives of such self-hating Whites are ones of self-abnegation.

    So, what is a mentally healthy view of oneself? It is that you should be who you are born to be. Don’t ever apologize for being White. Don’t ever support non-Whites against Whites. Always remember, that you have every right to be who and what you are. You have every right to identify as White and to feel good about yourself. No one has a right to abuse you or insult you or attack you because you are White and if they do, you should not go hide in a corner but stand up for yourself in whatever way is appropriate, and which doesn’t put you in harm’s way. If remaining silent under the circumstances is the best choice for your survival and safety, then that’s what you should do. But, as you do so, never let the haters of Whites make you feel guilty and worthless for being White. You are exactly the opposite of that, just by being born White. You are an important person to yourself, your family, your ancestors and to all the rest of us Whites who are awake and aware. You are not alone. You are never alone. You are not the only one who feels as you do. There are millions of us. Never let the haters of Whites make you feel isolated and out of sync with what is right and just. Your survival and the survival of our people–as proud White people who don’t want to be blended away genetically, spiritually or culturally is never unjust or out of sync. You have a right to be yourself. You have a right to your genetic identity. This is your planet as much as it is anyone else’s and no one has any more rights to anything than you do. That dirt under foot? It is yours. That tree? It is yours. No one got deeds to anything on this planet from nature, and your rights come from nature and (if you to choose to so believe) from nature’s God.

    Develop the mental strength and self-esteem to withstand those who hate Whites. Stay White. Breed White. Live White. Never criticize other Whites who are also awake and aware. Never side with non-Whites against Whites. Do not hate yourself or your fellow Whites.

    (Above extracts from the article: The Mental Disorder of White Self-Hatred by H. Millard)