I Drunk Texted Rachel Dolezal–And She Wrote Me Back

Until recently, the most exciting thing to come out of Spokane, Washington was the Martin McDonagh play “A Behanding In Spokane,” for which Christopher Walken played a racist, handless goon on the quest for his lost appendage. Ironically the play’s 2010 Broadway debut also stirred up feelings about race, just as the latest Spokane news has done around the country. But this new story is unfortunately very real.

We the people are obsessed with Rachel Dolezal.

Last week, the story broke that a 37-year-old woman in Spokane was portraying herself as black, when she is in fact white. If that were the end of the story, it would still be fascinating, but perhaps a bit more sad. What gives the story its more sinister and surreal feel is that Dolezal had climbed the ranks of social activism to become the president of her local Spokane NAACP chapter.

What was originally a local news story escalated overnight into the internet equivalent of when they feed the crocodiles raw chicken at the zoo. Each new story has served to further mind fuck us all. Her own parents were interviewed by Huffington Post to reveal that their daughter is at best deranged, and at worst completely full of shit. Her own brother decried her long con as “black face.” She attended Howard University (a historically black college) before she began her ruse. Videos of Dolezal storming out of an interview, sputtering when asked if she was really black have surfaced.

My personal favorite revelation was an old personal video blog in which Dolezal drinks wine, shows off a great manicure, and speaks vaguely about currency’s relation to white men, while gesturing to a painting of black men with various dollar bills glued to it. Or so I thought that was my favorite tidbit…

This past weekend, drunk on both intrigue and domestic wine bought in bulk, I sat scouring the internet for every last thing I could read about this discarded Lewis Carroll character of a woman.

Because the internet is basically a manifestation of our collective consciousness at this point, this led me to a very unexpected piece of information: Rachel Dolezal’s phone number.

(I won’t directly reveal the alleged number, because I still have some integrity, but I will tell you that it’s not the needle in a haystack that one would expect.)

I slammed my laptop shut. It was like when you see two people fighting in public and are encouraged to politely ignore them. It was like when someone tells you something awful about someone you don’t like, and you know the classy thing to do would be to keep it to yourself. But I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t keep it to myself.

Some might say that what I did next was shameful. But after reading the disturbingly self-righteous tweets of this impersonator, I felt that if she had no shame, I certainly need not have any.

After calling twice with no answer and a full voicemail inbox (perhaps from other novice investigators like myself), I realized that everyone prefers text messages anyways. I’ll have you know though, that if she had answered the phone, my plan was to tell her she won a free pizza, because finding out what she likes on her pizza would have been more revealing into who she is than anything she has publicly stated since her public outting. Also, waiting for a pizza that will never come is similar to how I think we all feel, waiting for an explanation that will somehow make this all make sense.

With a few bottles between us, my friend and I settled on the text, “But how did you get #4 hair? Asking for a friend,” because we too are enamored with how convincingly perfect her faux-black hair was, and are also smart asses. We pressed “send,” and waited for what we figured would be nothing in return, like typing out Morse code to an enemy ship.

At the end of the night with one eye closed I went back to look at the message, and I felt a tinge of guilt for harassing this woman who I didn’t know, and was in a hell storm of her own, albeit one of her own deceitful making. So I deleted the thread, went to bed, and assumed that would be the end of it.

When I woke up on Monday morning she had responded. The text simply read, “Lol…It’s complicated.”

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Before we get into all of the implications of that, let me first say that I was just as skeptical as you likely are right now about the legitimacy of the alleged phone number.

However, it was posted by Rachel, herself (which also helped to ease my guilt). It had an Idaho area code, where Rachel once lived. Her voicemail greeting sounded just like her voice in the numerous videos online, and said specifically that you’d reached the mailbox of “Rachel Dolezal.” Also when she responded, the text read that it was coming from an e-mail address, like when someone texts you from an iPad.

The email address was an official Northern Idaho College address, where Dolezal used to teach. It is either absolutely her (which I believe), or someone who has gone whole hog in pretending to be her.

Dolezal’s response was made up of an abbreviation, contraction and adjective, but the content of her response actually struck me as somewhat revealing. First of all, I think “lol” is kind of all of our responses to the situation.

Obviously what Dolezal has done also stirs up a lot of anger and sadness, but ultimately a woman who is incredibly white (as evidenced by the childhood photographs her biological parents have provided), portraying such an adamant mirage of blackness, is funny.

It is funny because shunning your inherited white privilege for adopted marginalization is so desperate, it’s comical. The situation is also just what Dolezal added: complicated. This whole situation is so very complicated. That text message, if it did in fact come from her, is perhaps the most sane thing she’s said in ten years. Also in refraining from telling me to go fuck myself, or continuing to insist that her hair was a natural attribute of her blackness, but instead admitting that there was at least a story there, she kind of owned up to the whole thing.

I know I’m reading a lot into three words, but I think we’re all reading what we want into Rachel Dolezal. This story has been so unifying in the way that it has managed to reach so many, even those who don’t keep up with “guess what happened in this small town,” click bait-y news that has become its own genre of internet reportage. This is a story that will likely continue to mystify us all for a long time, especially because it’s not even over yet, as Dolezal only resigned as president of her NAACP chapter Monday in a vague statement that in no way addressed her deception. She continued to disappoint with equally meaningless statements yesterday on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.

She said things like “I identify as black,” and accused people of “white washing” her work, which only adds to the circus of semantics being thrown around about race because of her. If anything, Rachel Dolezal’s actions, statements and our rabid reaction to them have yet again pointed out one glaring fact: a good deal of white people still have a very hard time understanding race.

It is unfortunate timing that this is happening on the coat tails of Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, and the subsequent mass communiqué over how everyone feels about it, and what they think it means. It is clear that her big reveal has made a lot of privileged, straight, white people feel better about their privilege, because they think that accepting Caitlyn Jenner’s transition is the same as understanding the complexities of gender identity. With that prideful wind in their sails, they now feel free to misconstrue the whole thing, and liken being transgender to being “transracial,” a concept they have literally created overnight.

What is even more disheartening than the mountains of fart noise on the internet of white people trying to explain what it means to be transracial—which is a) not a real thing, except in regards to children being adopted by parents of a different race, and b) nothing that anyone who’s written about it seems to have experienced—is the fact that white people are so deeply uncomfortable with the idea of race, that an anomaly like Rachel Dolezal must be immediately explained away with a fancy word and forced acceptance.

To make it all the more convoluted, the overall insistence that if white people accept a white woman who pretended to be black (thus exploiting a community that’s continually fought to not be exploited) that they are therefore not racist, is so dreadfully blind. In fact, it seems like a good way to explain what being “race blind” is, another white concept used to address racial complexities that attempts to both nullify them with a faux sense of advocacy.

Rafi D’Angelo of So Let’s Talk About poked what I think is the hole to sink the whole transracial life raft when he wrote, “Only white people can claim to be another race on the inside and then “perform” that race because race operates with white as the default.” The only correct definition of “transracial” I’ve yet to hear is that it is a word used to describe adopted children being assimilating into a family of a different race. That, however, absolutely not the case for Rachel Dolezal, and if it is a term used in research on the psychology of adoption, it is being entirely misappropriated here.

Rachel Dolezal potentially has a great explanation for us, and just hasn’t received that transmission from her race altering alien mothership yet. It’s clear she is a seasoned performer and clever manipulator, so I’m still waiting for her to flip the script. Because it’s been revealed that she once sued Howard University for discriminating against her being a white woman, I’m sure that many people would try and make the argument that beyond the transracial farce, she had to pretend to be black to be taken seriously as an activist—or that it was a decade-long performance art piece to bring attention to the fact that we still can’t handle race. Well, those people are idiots, and that’s a crock of shit.

If the former is true, she has a very immature sense of justice. If the latter is true, she did nothing but undermine herself by completely bastardizing the experience of blackness.The most sensitive argument I’ve heard is that she is potentially incredibly mentally ill, and we should feel sympathy for her. If that’s the case, I’m sure we all hope she gets the help she needs, but the foresight and cunning required to pull off what Dolezal has for so many years points to something far beyond mental illness.

What is clear so far is that she is falling back on the ridiculous excuses that certain parts of society are crafting for her, rather than giving us anything of substance. Which is why I didn’t feel bad drunk texting Rachel Dolezal, and I was thrilled that she just might have responded to me.