Author Sherman Alexie and journalist Tonya Mosley had plenty to say about race Friday on KUOW’s Week In Review. On Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, who passed as black:
Tonya Mosley: As a white woman, she has the privilege to say, ‘OK, we are in a post-racial society where you can be anything you want to be.’
We are not. I cannot be white. I just did a DNA test a while ago, and I found that I am 38 percent Irish. Could I ever identify as a white person? No. In this country we had the one-drop rule, and because of that, if you have one drop of black blood, you're considered black.
Sherman Alexie: The thing that shocked me was that white people were taking her seriously. White people were apologizing for her, white people were empathizing with her. This is white liberals by the way. White conservatives were having the same reaction I was: ‘Do you know who is this crazy woman?’
She in some way symbolized this post-racial nirvana where everything is blended and beautiful, which is the utopian white liberal belief.
Connecting the Spokane case to the fatal shootings of nine people at an AME church in Charleston, South Carolina:
Tonya Mosley (On attending a black mothers’ group): No one was just plain old black like me, like with a black mother and a black father. Everyone was Filipino and black or white. Or Native American and black or something else and black.
But they identified their children as black. They identified themselves as black. And it wasn't until we got into that deeper discussion about this whole issue within our country – you have to kind of shut off those other parts of yourself if you have any type of black blood. …
I'm probably feeling really down right now because of what happened in Carolina. After I put my kids to bed last night, I sat down and I read all of the news articles finally. And I just sobbed. I thought, I just want to live in this country.
I just want to be able to potty train my son and go to my daughter's concert that she's having this afternoon. I’m just tired.
Sherman Alexie: In the context of what happened in Charleston, white conservatives disappear blackness with violence. White liberals disappear blackness with cultural appropriation.
There's an interview with Rachel Dolezal in the Eastern Washington University magazine where she's posing in front of one of her original paintings, and it's a triptych of images. The middle image is apparently completely forged from a painting by a 19th century painter named JMW (Turner) called "Slave Ship" and it's a forgery. …
So she goes way beyond being black, she goes into the idea of taking something and completely appropriating it….
After this, one of you white people is going to come up to me, and you're going to say, ‘My great-grandmother was something.’ You're going to say it to me. Even though I am pre-mocking you. You are so deaf to your own privilege that you're not even hearing me right now saying this to you.
I have Scottish ancestors. I would never go to Scotland, walk up to somebody Scottish and say you know what, you and I have a lot in common.
On what to do:
Sherman Alexie: This afternoon I want Nikki Haley and the South Carolina legislature to stand up and say that they're immediately removing all Confederate flag imagery from official state buildings. That they are renaming all the freeways and highways named after Confederate leaders and they are demolishing all the statues erected in honor of Confederate soldiers.
The elimination of the romanticization of the Confederacy in the South is the very first basic step toward this.
If you look at the map, it's highly likely this guy fled from Charleston on a highway or freeway named after a Confederate general.
Sherman Alexie and Tonya Mosley were guests Friday on KUOW’s Week In Review, which was broadcast live from the Northwest African American History Museum in the new City Council District 3. You can listen to the whole show and read about what people in the audience had to say at kuow.org/programs/week-review