Pardon the stereotypical counselor question, but
“How does that make you feel?”
And perhaps more importantly, what do you think the way you feel says about you?
I’m going to share some reflections and some challenges today. I haven’t said a word outside of in-person conversations about this situation, and to be honest, a lot of what I will type today will be my own processing and sharing some thoughts I have yet to share with anyone.
When I first heard about her, I thought “what in the world?”
When I saw her parents, I thought, “why in the world?”
When I saw her, I thought, “I wonder.”
As a feminist/interpersonal/humanistic therapist, I have a great deal of empathy for Rachel. I see her as a person who is unconditionally worthy of my respect and positive regard. I see her emotions as valid, and I see her as someone who has a story. Her story.
I obviously don’t know Rachel.
I don’t know her motives, her personality, her psychosocial history, her middle name, or her favorite color.
I make no attempt to pretend I do.
But what I do know is what she has said, and what others have said who do know her.
And I have been most weighed down by the barrage of what people who have never met her have had to say about her.
I don’t know if there are other people who feel that they were born the wrong race. I don’t know if other people so strongly reject their own culture and heritage that they take on another. I don’t know how much family dynamics or emotional problems have resulted in what we see.
However, the more I sit back and listen, the more I think I see something that isn’t there – but is. Like an apparition staring us down from the corner of the room.
Rachel held up a mirror to ourselves, and we attacked her.
Whether our response has been that she can’t feel this way, she isn’t like Caitlyn, or she lied, we stopped short and refused to see her, and see us.
Regardless of if she has been deceitful. (And I genuinely do not believe she intended to be deceptive.)
Rachel broke a more.
Rachel, a woman, has lived for years as someone we don’t believe she is – because there is no evidence, only evidence to the contrary in our eyes.
She went from one category to another, and we have made damn sure that she should know she belongs in the former.
We have called her names, made horrible comparisons, diagnosed her with Axis I and Axis II disorders, and chomped at the bit at every new juicy detail.
But I still come back to…
She is Rachel.
She is worthy of my unconditional positive regard.
She is a person. She has a story. Am I hearing her? Or am I hearing her parents?
Or am I hearing the media?
Or am I hearing the sounds of racism, sexism, other-ism in America?
What is it about Rachel that ignites such a passionate outcry?
No, that answer won’t do.
Look even deeper.
What emotion do you feel?
Does it remind you of anything?
When was the first time you felt that way?
When did you first realize you were different?
What was that like for you?
Rachel holds a mirror up.
I think it’s kind of like the second gate in The NeverEnding Story. Atreyu had to face the scariest image of all – himself. Only when he looked, it was Bastian, reading.
When we look into the mirror that Rachel Dolezal has forced us to, I wonder who we see.
How much hatred we must have, or wait – maybe it isn’t hatred – what if it is fear? Rejection? Discomfort?
What would it cost us to love that person we see in that mirror and change the things we need to?
What would it cost us to do something about the real issues of race in this country, rather than picking apart a woman for whom race may matter more than any of us dreamt?
What would it cost us to stop pointing fingers and start working?
What would it cost us to listen to what Rachel has said, and to love her, and to just leave it at that?
I know, we would have to focus on ourselves again.
That damn self.
I think we would rather stare at our screens, watch it all unfold, and munch on our popcorn.
But aren’t we better that that?
Or at least, can’t we be?