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In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World Hardcover – March 28, 2017
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“Finally, Rachel Doležal in her own voice and words shares her intriguing account and path of conscious self-definition, embodied in a life of activism. . . . Rachel forces us all to question what we have come to accept until now.”
—Bishop Clyde N.S. Ramalaine, author of Preach a Storm, Live a Tornado
"Rachel Dolezal’s early life memoir is not simply a narrative of radical activism. . . . It serves to critique the cultural straightjacket of traditionalist white ‘Protestant work ethic’ society. At this moment of alt-right reactionism, it punctures the fake nostalgia for an imagined pre-multiculturalism era of supposed purity and authenticity.”
—Gavin Lewis, Black British writer and academic
“The storm of vitriol Rachel received in the national spotlight was as cruel as it was undeserved. Her deep compassion for others shines through every chapter of her life and has clearly motivated her truly outstanding advocacy work.”
—Gerald Hankerson, president of the NAACP Alaska Oregon Washington State Area
“It’s absolutely necessary to know the whole story in order to understand the extraordinary racial journey that Rachel Doležal has made.”
—Ann Morning, associate professor of sociology at New York University and author of The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference
About the Author
Doležal began her activism in Mississippi, where she advocated for equal rights and partnered with community developers, tutoring grade-school children in Black history and art and pioneering African American history courses at a predominantly white university. She is the former Director of Education at the Human Rights Education Institute in Idaho and has served as a consultant for human rights education and inclusivity in regional public schools. She recently led the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission to promote police accountability and justice in law enforcement in Spokane, Washington, and was the President of the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP. She is the devoted mother of three sons.
Storms Reback is the author of three books All In: The (Almost) Entirely True History of the World Series of Poker, Farha on Omaha: Expert Strategy for Beating Cash Games and Tournaments, and Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker’s Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and children.
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And this is one of the biggest problems with "In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World," the autobiography of the infamous Rachel Dolezal, a woman who was found to have lied about many aspects of her life -- including her ethnicity, since she had masqueraded for years as a black woman. While technically well-written, the book contains so many fantastical, bizarrely racist and condescending attitudes that it's nearly impossible not to get angry.
Dolezal was born to a pair of farmers in Montana, where she claims she was discriminated against since birth as a "cursed" child with darker skin and hair (by which she means slightly reddened). According to her, her parents were violent religious fanatics who just needed mustaches to twirl, and she escaped this life by fantasizing about being black (with National Geographic magazines as her guide. Not kidding). Then her parents adopted four black children (according to her, purely for tax reasons), and left her to care for them.
Her fixation on African-American culture only increased as she went to college and made well-received artwork; she also became enmeshed in a doomed marriage and subsequent divorce that left her alienated from her family and friends. Once free, she began styling her hair and skin in order to seem more like a light-skinned black woman, and made a name for herself as an activist -- until it was revealed that she was not actually black, and the house of cards came crashing down.
It becomes obvious early in "In Full Color" that a lot of this story is not based in reality -- as a child, Dolezal tells us, she fantasized about being a weather-controlling magical girl in Africa. No, I'm not kidding. She fantasized about being Storm, because she saw black people as a strangely mythical race like elves.
And that vein of magical thinking seems to run through the whole book, constructing a world where all white people are wealthy and perpetually racist, and all black people are just OVERJOYED to be in her presence, and eagerly accept and defend her as being "more black" than some of them.
The only exception is her abusive, racist ex-husband and a rapist customer. In her eyes, the black people who accept and adore her are "good," and the ones who don't are "bad" and "self-loathing." And anyone she feels has done her wrong is the evilest of all -- her parents and ex-husband are so uniformly vile that Skeletor would have trouble being nastier. This is made even worse because Dolezal doesn't have the slightest hint of awareness that a temp job or farm chores are not comparable to slavery, nor does she realize how contradictory her beliefs are.
Technically, the book is written fairly well, although she often halts her narrative to pompously lecture the readers on African-American history or issues. But as it winds on, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable as Dolezal becomes more painfully "white-saviory," and unwittingly airs out a lot of very problematic issues. For instance, she often voices distaste for white people, Christianity (especially pro-life ones), and black people who don't conform to how SHE thinks black people should act, feel and think.
That last one is a huge sticking point. Dolezal seems to base her perception of African-Americans not on the reality, but the fetishized fantasy that she has concocted in her head. For instance, she seems to believe there is a global, uniform "Black" culture that incorporates all black people in all cultures and locations, rather than the reality that they are as culturally varied as any other ethnic group. And she seems to have decided that she is the one who determines what "blackness" means -- she condescendingly talks about some biracial girls "not knowing they're Black" or black people who are "self-hating" because they don't express it in the way she believes is right.
And so "In Full Color" becomes a wildly uncomfortable experience. And as you wind through a maze of half-lies and carefully-constructed half-truths (like her claim that an African-American friend is her "dad"), it makes you wonder precisely how many of her other tales (such as those of her allegedly violent and racist parents) are exaggerated or outright fabricated.
Despite her claims to be black inside, "In Full Color" exposes the cringiest type of white person -- one who thinks she can define and acquire the experiences of another ethnic group. My advice: go buy a copy of "Get Out" instead.