So I must admit I initially thought, like many people, that Rachel Dozeal’s misrepresentation of herself was absurd. As I watched my social media timelines fill with memes, sound bites, hashtags and photos I could not help, but to be amused. I’m not sure what was more fascinating, that she was lying about her race or the broad spectrum of reactions. While I’m not quite sure I’ve settled on one opinion about the matter, I must admit that I could understand how she found herself in a dilemma as a teenager. Evidently her family adopted four African American children into their home and began the process of a blending a family.
As I’ve recently remarried and am 7 months into my own blending process, I realize that there are developmental challenges in blending a family that must be observed closely and cautiously treated. Each member of a family organically takes on a unique role. As a child growing up in my family, the roles ranged from the baby of the family, the comedian, the boss when parents aren’t present, the cook, the taxi, etc.
Imagine the dynamic that occurs when a family faces redefinition due to a shift in circumstances. Instantly each member of the family unit is thrown into the process of adapting to their new environment. I imagine for Rachel being surrounded by her new darker skinned siblings must have created the perfect recipe for an identity crisis. Though her parents have been quoted in interviews saying her identification with black culture began in 2007, I would argue that it may have begun when her definition of family changed.
I am learning that blending a family requires affirmation in unique individuality. Without the confidence that each member possesses a unique offering to the blend members may find themselves emulating what they believe will make them more accepted. The beauty of blending a family is the intimate exposure to subcultures we may not have known otherwise. If we aren’t careful, we’ll allow that exposure to alienate us when it could enhance us.
Recently, the American news cycle has been consistently inundated with race-related news stories that have created room for division and misunderstanding. Using her intimate perspective of two cultures colliding Dolezal should have been a prime candidate for reconciliation. Unfortunately, the tense dichotomy between two ethnic groups has been thrust into the media with no resolution in sight. The silver lining of it all is that we're no longer able to ignore the discussion of race in America. Hopefully, the current conversations will yield to the ultimate hope of compassion, authenticity, advancement and unity of every individual regardless of their race.