Ed. note: longtime scribe and one-half of The Corner, Andreas Hale has always held no punches back when it comes to his critiques on today’s social climate. Never one to cut his tongue, Mr. Hale returns today with an op-ed on perhaps the most curiously contentious issue of the season: the living RAoF that is Rachel Dolezal. Without further adieu…
According to the Urban Dictionary, a studio gangster is defined as “Fake G’s that pretend to be from the streets by rapping about it.” In the 1990s it was the ultimate offense to profit from a lifestyle that clearly isn’t yours. For evidence of this heinous violation, look no further than Lichelle Laws. Laws (b.k.a Bo$$) sold a few hundred thousand copies of her 1993 debut album Born Gangstaz before a reporter from The Wall Street Journal revealed that she was a fraud who grew up in an upper-middle-class family and attended private school.
So you’re saying that she made some money spitting all that gangster sh*t but wasn’t a real gangster?
Well, clutch the pearls!
After being exposed and subsequently exiled, Bo$$ became a cautionary tale in the “keep it real” world of hip-hop.
Trying to be something you were not was totally unacceptable in that day and age. But, oh, how things have changed.
In 2015, 37-year-old Rachel Dolezal sold the NAACP and, apparently, those around her the idea that she was a “black” woman (read: not African American). After spending a year as the president of the Spokane, WA chapter of the NAACP and a self-described artist, activist, ethnic hair stylist, model and piano teacher, Dolezal’s world came crashing down when a KXLY reporter showed questioned her racial identity on camera. While still clinging to her tall tale, Dolezal’s Caucasian parents came forward with the truth.
Rachel Dolezal was born a white woman and (wait for it) still is a white woman.
Well, clutch the pearls!
After being exposed, Dolezal resigned from her position as the Spokane chapter of the NAACP’s president. This is where things get a little murky. Of course, there has been a ton of backlash, but there are also people coming to Dolezal’s defense. And today she is getting more press than ever before while sparking a nationwide debate about race, gender, identity and cultural inheritance. Chances are, she’ll stand to profit off of this storm of controversy in the form of a book, some speaking engagements and a Lifetime movie that stars Alia Shawkat.
If this was the 90s and Rachel Dolezal had been a rapper, she would be the equivalent of a studio gangster who’d be immediately ousted from the house of hip hop like Uncle Phil used to launch DJ Jazzy Jeff out the front door on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” However, there would be no coming back to hang out with Will Smith on the next episode after committing the critical infraction of posing as a black woman.
But these aren’t the 1990s anymore, are they?
Today, studio gangsters are a little more celebrated rather than condemned for their struggle, regardless of their lie-littered path to get there.
Rather than suffer a soul crushing defeat like Bo$$, Dolezal is more like Rick Ross. And I’d hate to pick on The Bawse but the parallels are so painfully obvious that they are difficult to ignore.
Like Rick Ross, Dolezal masqueraded as something she wasn’t and profited from it. When the truth was revealed and the smoking gun was found in the palm of his hand, William Roberts III profusely denied that the jolly and beardless man in a corrections officer uniform was him. And as long as he never, ever, admitted to being a full-fledged fraud (he’s manipulated the truth in a number of ways since then), he’d be appreciated for his work. Dolezal has put in work as an ambitious activist who devoted a great deal of her time as an advocate for African Americans. Shouldn’t she be applauded for her work?
Yes, but only if she admitted she was a white woman.
What makes Dolezal a studio gangster is the preposterous manner in which she is defending herself. Like Rick Ross, she was caught red-handed and has decided to put up a fight regardless of how the evidence was stacked against her. And as long as she maintains that she’s a black woman, regardless of what her biological parents may say and what the photographic evidence holds, there will be a sector of people who somehow are coerced into believing her story and, even worse, end up empathizing with her “struggle.”
“Overall, my life has been one of survival, and the decisions that I have made along the way, including my identification, have been to survive,” she said in a recent interview.
If I wrote an autobiography hijacking someone else’s life as my own, saw it became a critically acclaimed best seller that raked in millions and it was adapted to become a feature film, would you come to my defense after the truth came out that it was about someone else? Rachel Dolezal repurposed (read: stole) the African American struggle and made it her own for personal gain without having to truly live through the subtleties that come with being a black woman. More importantly, the damage was already inflicted and she’s garnering more attention now because of the dubious shield she has put up that accepts no accountability for appropriating the life of an African American woman. Simply put, she’s a method actress in blackface (word to Tropic Thunder).
Like Rick Ross, she already accomplished what she set out to do and she won’t have to give back anything she acquired along the way. Rick Ross will still have hoes tip toeing across his marble floors. Dolezal may not be as financially secure as the bearded MMG king, but rest assured that she has benefited pleasantly from her charade.
What makes Dolezal dangerous is that she’s not stupid. Like any studio gangster, she knows the depths of the story she portrays and the life she has successfully pilfered. Dolezal is keenly aware of the struggles that African Americans have gone through and, despite all of that, has made a conscious decision to darken her skin color, put in a weave, read some books and become black, like she’s the real life incarnation of Majin Boo, or something.
(Ed note: or, the 2015 version of the Blackface classic, Soul Man.)
Don’t be fooled, Dolezal knows who she really is. Why else would she file a racial discrimination lawsuit against Howard University back in 2002 because the historically Black university denied her scholarship aid as a student because she was white? If she truly felt that she was a black woman – a claim that she maintains has been her mentality since the age of five – there would be no need for a racial discrimination lawsuit.
While this imposter has drawn the ire of many, do you know whom else this studio gangster should upset? White rappers. Although Eminem grew up in Detroit’s 8 Mile alongside a bevy of African Americans and studied hip hop culture, Marshall Mathers never claimed to be black. MC Serch should probably be pretty pissed off as well. As much as Serch has done for hip hop, you won’t ever hear him peddle this preposterous narrative about hunting for his own food, enduring physical abuse from his parents because of his black skin, receiving racial hate mail during college and setting up a “braiding service” to help black girls around him feel better about their hair (no, seriously, that’s her story). El-P may be one half of Run The Jewels and was attacking fascist America on 2002’s “Patriotism” before tackling police brutality and how passive many white witnesses have become on “Early” but he knows better than to suggest that he’s as black as Killer Mike. If he did, Mike would give his partner the PM Dawn treatment at their next show.
And those are just rappers. Regardless of whether you believe that hip-hop is a way of life, to many (sadly) it is still viewed as a form of entertainment where you can remove the ever so important elements of the culture and just focus on the rapping part. And, honestly, being a studio gangster isn’t nearly as heinous of an act as becoming a real life Kirk Lazarus with a cause.
Do you know whom Dolezal really sh*tted on? The white Americans who have fought side by side with African Americans for civil rights and never, ever had to fake it to be accepted.
Dolezal’s fairy tale is highly offensive to the likes Rev. James Reeb, Viola Gregg Liuzzo and Rev. George Lee. These are just a few white Americans who were in the trenches during the civil rights era and gave up their lives for the cause without ever identifying themselves as anything other than what they were born as.
Caucasian Americans have long been an integral part of the civil rights movement yet they didn’t have to identify themselves as “black” in order to put in the work.
Could Dolezal have been just as successful as a white woman? Who knows? But is she aware that there’s this crazy concept that you can be white and still recognize and fight against social injustice? There are these things called books that you can pick up and read or, better yet, you can surround yourself with people from other cultures to learn about their struggle. And, if your heart deems fit, you can fight for their equality as a white woman. But, in no way, does that transform your racial makeup.
The studio gangster comparison was a bit of an exaggeration because Dolezal’s story is far different than aggregating hip hop culture. You aren’t born “hip hop.” You are born African American and hip hop is a culture you can either accept or deny. However, you will still be first judged because of your skin color. Not the music you like, the people you choose to have sexual intercourse with, the way you talk, the clothes you wear, etc. None of that matters because those are traits you can only find out if you spend some time with a person. The cops that gunned down black men didn’t know they were scary; they assumed they were dangerous because of their skin color.
In real America (not the Halloween America that Dolezal lives in), being black is just offensive enough to get you killed. Has somebody told her that, once upon a time, people were made to be slaves because of their skin color? Or that being black was just cause for you to not be allowed into certain eating establishments? Or that, you know, the entire Civil Rights Movement was about black people being discriminated against simply because of their skin color? I’m sure she’s aware that Emmitt Till, Sean Bell, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Yvette Smith, Tarika Wilson and a litany of others were inherently feared and subsequently killed by police because of their skin color.
Of course she knows! But the lie sounds so much better than the truth. Adopting a struggle that you can discard when convenient doesn’t make you black. It makes you a fraud that chooses to play up stereotypical notions of black aesthetic. To be black doesn’t mean you have to be a civil rights activist who came from the impoverished confines of America who wears a weave of blonde braids and brightly colored nails. You can actually be a black woman if you are born from affluent African American parents, listen to Taylor Swift, go yachting and watch NASCAR. Although the term “don’t judge a book by a cover” is cliché, it’s far from the truth because people are still being judged by the color of their skin.
You can take off your weave but African Americans can’t take off their skin color. Maybe a cop should draw a firearm, shoot her unarmed ass and watch as Fox News shreds her character while crafting a narrative that somehow suggests she deserved to die. Then she’d truly know what it’s like to be black.
But I’m just a critic, who the hell am I?
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