Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: In Full Color by Rachel Dolezal

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not finish In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World. I hate even having to read it, then rate it without following through. When I don't finish a book, no matter how badly I want to, I can't help but feel as if I failed the writer. After all, the author did take their time to tell a story, get it edited, and bravely put it out there to be scrutinized. What could possibly be scarier and here comes someone like me, a so-called reviewer, doesn't even finish the book and has the nerve to give it a rating.

Yeah! I'm looking at you people who didn't even read this book... or get at least 67% in as I did and still felt that it was ok to leave a 1-star rating just because you don't like her. Shame on you. 

So... shame on me too right? Of course... but for an entirely different reason.

Yes my 2-star rating adds to the fray of poor ratings for this title, but at least I gave it a go. I at least fired up my Kindle in the hopes of providing an honest review for my Advanced Readers Copy. I remember being so excited when I was approved through Netgalley to review because I was/am one of the few black people who remained untainted by feelings of rage or disgust for this woman. I actually didn't understand why the black community was so up in arms...

After reading a little more than half of In Full Color, I too was a little... upset.

Rachel Dolezal opens up to us by sharing her upbringing with us. Dolezal had it rough. I won't deny that. She recounts her childhood living in a home of fanatical Christians who subjected her to hard labor and abuse no child (or person) should ever have to endure... 

Let me stop there because I'd like to mention how her parents, Larry and Ruthanne (whom she never refers to as Mom or Dad) were devout Christian Fundamentalists that Dolezal paints as the most ruthless pair of dotes ever. They made their children work as soon as they could walk. Not only did they subject them to hours in the fields in order to keep the family business running, they treated Rachel like the illustration her name signified. 

I was all ears. Reading her story made me sympathize with her. I even gave her a benefit of a doubt when she admits that as a child, she drew her self in darker shade after having been introduced to people of color through National Geographic. I figured, ok, just because a white child's favorite princess is Tiana, she doesn't necessarily identify as a black princess. It just is what it is...

But when she likened her experience (not in totality) to slavery, my eyes rolled. I mean... really rolled. Yes, Dolezal's childhood was fucked up. Her parents were fucked. And remained that way the entirety of what I read, but slavery, servitude, and her experience still remain very far apart on the spectrum of relativity. DCFS existed. There were teachers to tell. Sure, I know it's not that simple or black and white, but come on. 

After having survived that one hiccup, Rachel Dolezal continues to tell her story. And, I was still very much so interested. Essentially, I was hoping to be the one review in a sea of 1-stars to give In Full Color at least a 3-star rating. I still believed myself to be on the fence, maintaining an open mind to this woman and her journey to becoming... no... identifying as "black".

Before going to college, her parents adopted three black children in the hopes of supplementing their income. As a teen, who already loved blacks and their culture, pretty much raised them and tried to protect them from her parents. She learned to braid their hair, teach them of their history (since Montana was lacking in diversity), and coaxed them through racist happenings (both apparent and beautifully cloaked) brought on by her parents and the primarily white community they lived in. 

Part of me began to think that she suffered from an extreme case of white guilt and she needed to be our white hope. The other part believed that she really did see herself as an oppressed person and history has proven over and over again that no one can be more oppressed than the black American. 

In college, she was accepted by the few blacks there were and even married a black man. She had a black son... and adopted another... I'm grazing over these parts because I get it. As a youth, I wasn't that cool. I talked "white", was a nerd who loved to read, did not have the cool clothes, and the only friends who accepted me wholeheartedly were white kids. Up until 7th grade, my best friends were white and it didn't bother me that I wasn't accepted by other black children. 

Sorry, I must digress... with two weeks left in 7th grade, my 8th grade cousin was killed. He was wildly popular in his middle school and all of a sudden I was accepted in the black crowd. My point in mentioning this is because I was finally accepted by people who looked like me. I was amongst people who shared the same idols I did. Heroes that had our same skin color such as Whitney Houston and Patti Labelle. I found another me that had been suppressed for a long time. A me that didn't have to sugar coat the story of the Best Buymanager following me throughout the store or how I was constantly asked "can I help you?". Many chalk that up to great customer service. The children who now accepted me knew better.

That's why I had to stop with Rachel Dolezal and her tale of woe. I'm sure loving black culture is in her heart and she doesn't mean to ignite such... hate towards her. But I also see someone who hasn't found herself or what she's looking for.

What I've learned in the last few months after having put this book down, and reading comments on any news article with a hint of racial bias is: being black is not something you wear. It's not a kinky, curly fro you place atop your head in an effort to mask your true identity. Being black, African American in this country is not some cloak that magically disappears when the time is right. If that were the case, there would be no Philando Castile, or a "Black Lives Matter" campaign. We blacks don't need a great white hope, nor do we want to wallow in our own woe-is-me tale. Obviously, no one is listening. They say get over it. Slavery ended... get over it. You had Affirmative Action so get over it. Even the "thug" rappers or "lazy" athletes that disrespect our anthem are making millions. Just GET OVER IT already!

What's most insulting about Rachel Dolezal is that she can move freely between the color identity she wakes up that morning feeling unlike the blacks she identifies with. I get that she was hoping to start a discussion about being trans-racial but no matter how white I feel or identify being, I simply, could not ever, possibly be white. My melanin doesn't allow it. The greatest performer in ever, Michael Jackson, tried and failed miserably. When he died, he was seen as at least a black man. **

Copy provided by Benbella Books via Netgalley

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