The woman who once opined that “cultural appropriation is a tricky subject”* faces multiple criminal charges including welfare fraud and perjury, according to The Associated Press.
Investigators in Washington state determined that serial appropriator Rachel Dolezal had misreported her income in order to receive public assistance for food and child care over a two-year period. Dolezal “deposited nearly $84,000 into her bank account between August 2015 and September 2017, without reporting it to the Department of Social Services,” the story states. At least some of that money apparently came from her memoir In Full Color.
Dolezal’s actions are indicative of a pattern of appropriation extending over several years. The woman who was born white apparently began presenting herself as black while in college, including being awarded a scholarship to traditionally black college Howard University. She later claimed in a lawsuit against Howard that the school had discriminated against her because she is white.
Dolezal later went on to head up the Spokane chapter of the NAACP while continuing to pass herself off as being of African descent until her white parents in Montana exposed her. In her memoir, Dolezal compared her experiences in the aftermath of that exposure to those of slaves during the early part of American history.
Dolezal has stated that she is bisexual and in 2016 changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo, a move which she admitted was made in an effort to avoid having to discuss the uncomfortable truth of her past with potential employers. She has also claimed that her biological father was a black man whom her mother claims to have never met, yet in a 2017 interview with The Independent she said, “I was born to white parents”.
Dolezal’s new first name apparently means “gift of God”, ironic in that her preferred heritage and gender were anything but. The appropriation habit is evidently a hard one to break.
*Dolezal, Rachel (2017). In Full Color: Finding my place in a Black and White World. Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books. p.91.
Header image Colin Mulvany/AP.