Last week, Rachel Dolezal was a relatively unknown part-time college professor and advocate for African-Americans in a small town in Eastern Washington. This week, her name is trending on Twitter and her story is drawing international attention, including this story posted by the BBC. Social media is ablaze with different opinions of her choices and behavior. Some are comparing Ms Dolezal’s racial identification with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identification. Others think such comparisons are unfair…to Jenner.
But, can I ask you a question? Why would someone, anyone, choose to “be” someone they are not? Forget the media hype and spin. Forget the rightness or wrongness of what’s been done. Step back and ask yourself the question,
What brokenness is reflected by this story?
Then, ask yourself what your is greatest fear? Besides public speaking, or (for Millennials) having your identity stolen, many people fear being exposed as an impostor or a fraud. How would you like to have your deepest secret exposed for all the world see…and weigh in on?
Based on the response to Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on power poses and how they shape us, many of us do fear being exposed…Amy describes her personal experience, and the experience of one of her students, in her TED Talk. Both of them felt like impostors, like they didn’t belong! And I’m confident many of us have felt the same way. I know I have.
We long for relationship…to belong…to be known. Yet, to be known we must risk exposure of the parts of us that we aren’t sure people will accept, even parts of us that we are sure people won’t accept – parts people have not accepted. Can you identify with that fear of being exposed as an impostor? I can!! As the homeschooling mother of eight, I know people make certain assumptions about me…I’m really organized, I’m really disciplined, I’m really patient, I’m really busy… And on some days, all those statements are true. But on other days, none of them are!! I can’t find anything, I waste time on Facebook and Twitter, I yell at my kids, I accomplish nothing all day. And I don’t want you to come to my house on those days!! I don’t want you to know that I’m broken, because then you might not like me anymore. Can anyone else relate to that? Or am I the only one who struggles with feeling like an impostor?
The reality is, though, all of us are broken…all of us are impostors in one way or another. We pretend to be confident when we’re afraid. We are careful about our appearance so that people will accept us. We choose or avoid relationships and activities because of fear of exposure…all of us, on some level, can relate to Rachel Dolezal.
What if we treat Ms Dolezal like we want to be treated? What if we recognize her behavior, whether we understand it or not, is driven by her brokenness, just like ours is? What if we extend grace instead of throwing stones? What if…
Broken tile photo © Marchauna Rodgers. Mask photo from istock photos.