There’s already a Dolezal on my stoep

Only the privilege of whiteness allows for such a brazen theft of black identity, write Tinyiko Maluleke and Liepollo Lebohang Pheko.

Johannesburg – In 1993, as Madiba’s new South Africa loomed, some people began to stock up on food in anticipation of a full-blown race war. This created a perfect, albeit unspoken, backdrop to Leon Schuster’s film, There’s a Zulu On My Stoep.

Although not to everybody’s taste, the film used satire to ease tensions and provide comic relief, especially for fearful white South Africans.

In the wake of the Rachel Dolezal saga in the US, a dose of Schusterian imagination may help black people perceive the many Dolezals on their stoeps.

If only the Dolezal saga was a simple case of one lost white female soul reaching out to humanity!

Some have suggested we should focus on her work at the NCAAP, where she apparently excelled herself. The alleged “depth” of her unspoken, even unconscious anguish has been marvelled at.

The supposed “authenticity” of her yearning for a new trans-racial and post-racial humanity has been pointed out as a crucial clue to understanding her.

Amazingly, the fact is she has lied and the integrity deficit has not been called out, even by the NAACP.

A surplus of post-racialists has quickly suggested that since race is a socially imagined construct with no biological basis, we should not focus on it too much.

In pity, some black people have called for the embracing of Dolezal since she appears sincerely to identify with blackness and genuinely wishes to be black. Wait. Not so easy – and not so fast.

While fully affording her all her human rights, including her relatively disadvantaged position as a white woman in white America, the first thing we need to do is stop thinking of Dolezal as an individual accident of history, possible only in the US.

Though hers may rank among the worst cases of social schizophrenia and identity theft, the proper response is not one of pity.

Dolezal does not deserve the congratulations being showered on her by those, including herself, who seek to make her lie a 21st century philosophy of post-racialism.

How privileged it is to have the freedom to appropriate “Native” or “Asian” or “African” cultures, attire or, and in Dolezal’s case, their very being. Yet people who are African or Asian were murdered because they were “other” than white and therefore deemed “uncivilised” and less than human.

Apart from being criminalised, blackness is still a mortal hazard, as illustrated by the racist attack on the Charleston Church in the US. […]

Read the full article on the Sunday Independent