To Dolezal

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Rachel Dolezal, director of education & curator of the Human Rights Education Institute, discusses the offering of Human Rights Education Institute flags Monday in response to flags flown by local hate groups.

JEROME A. POLLOS/Press

In the summer of 2015, an event almost too shocking to believe, yet, somehow totally believable in America, created widespread use of a word, sure to make it in the dictionary, faster than whites seeking representation for claims they were victims of race-based, discriminatory hiring practices.

The word dolezal, Czech and Slovak in origin, meaning lazy — as of late, has come to mean quite the opposite. By popular usage the word is used to describe someone who works rather hard, going to extensive lengths to pose as someone they are not.

Practical examples include claiming to be descended from a royal line, to be Native American, or having a Native American grandmother or great grandmother, probably Cherokee, or claiming to be Mexican for the purposes of writing a best selling memoir about growing up in LA, and not common until quite recently, claiming to be African American. To dolezal, or to dozal for short, describes the act of expending a great deal of energy, time, and even money to coopt and perform another ethnic identity while concealing one’s own. This phenomenon seems to afflict those vulnerable to insecurities about their actual ethnicities, or those who believe that white American culture lacks a specific cultural identity, one with full rights and privileges so omnipresent as to be invisible.

In the recent past, one can find numerous examples of people of color, passing or attempting to pass as white to avoid racial discrimination, or to gain access to the aforementioned rights and privileges, but we can all agree that this behavior, while unfortunate, is excusable, while choosing to be white when its convenient, and to dolezal for a prestigious position that one could have earned as an ally is not.

dolezal

verb

The act of going to extensive lengths to pose as another ethnic identity while concealing one’s own

dolezal

adjective

He married a woman from India, but he’s no dolezal.

zalling (informal)

Verb

She married a guy from Mexico, and she is zalling like she’s Mexican.

Synonyms: wannabe, poser, fake, opportunist

Antonyms: sincere, true, truthful, ally

4 thoughts on “To Dolezal

  1. Lisa Anne Sinnett

    This is really painful. As a white woman who grew up and lived in communities of color most of my life, worked in communities of color all my life, whose children are biracial. It all hurts. I have no passport to enter fully in the communities where I was raised, where I have my deepest loves. Yes it hurts. And no, I don’t lie about who and what I am, but I would like to disappear into other places, yes. Erase the suspicion that comes with this skin. Yes. Have people ask me as many questions about my origins as they ask my children. And 27 years later, working in the community as an educator, as an ally, I am still here. Not always 100 per cent, because I can still hide under the wings of privilege, not be asked to divest, rest from the battle. It’s what I do sometimes. Thanks for writing this.

    Reply

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