Well folks we are quickly running through 2018. It has been an exciting year so far in the film and documentary world and things keep getting better. Rewinding in time for a moment, within the past 3 or 4 years we have been inundated in society and media with this discussion about identity. There are countless discussions about how groups and individuals deal with race, class, sexuality, religion and ethnicity. There have been several figures in recent times that have altered their external identities to match what is going on inside. Celebrity examples including Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner and Chaz Bono have been widely accepted as brave individual's that live in their truth. No one, however has been more polarizing in the last 3 years than Ms. Rachel Dolezal.
"The Rachel Divide" (2018) is a new Netflix documentary about the rise and fall of former President of the Spokane, WA chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal. It is without question that Ms. Dolezal has been the topic of discussion at many round tables in recent times. This film gives us an in depth account of her life in the aftermath of her scandal and how she grew into the person she identifies as now.
Franklin Dolezal and Rachel Dolezal, "The Rachel Divide" (2018)
In 2015 Rachel Dolezal was at the height of her career as an advocate and activist for the civil rights of people of color. It is briefly noted during the course of this project that she was involved in several movements, marches and causes that helped to move forward the agenda of civil equality. Unfortunately this all came undone when Spokane authorities began receiving notifications about death threats and hate mail coming to the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP's main site. It was suspected that these pieces of mail were planted by Ms. Dolezal herself. This was the beginning of the end of her career as an activist. Many things came into question regarding who Ms. Dolezal was, her integrity, decision making, background and ethnic heritage.
In the months after, Ms. Dolezal was absolutely destroyed by the media, her colleagues and other branches of the civil rights movement. The documentary picks up at this point in time showing what her choices did to career, family and public life. What is most striking about this documentary is her adherence to the belief that one can identify with whatever they choose without social consequence. She never seemed to develop the idea that this doesn't work for everyone. Most of her closest peers and colleagues were willing to forgive and forget if she would only admit the truth that everyone sees before their eyes. Ultimately, she stuck to her guns at all cost and it costs her mostly everything.
The most powerful part of Ms. Dolezal's story is how her upbringing may have heavily influenced her present day decisions. The film discusses in part some the suffering she may have endured as a young woman. We see that through her suffering, she now causes her children to suffer. I will say, at 3/4 of the way through film it was really difficult to believe what may be real and what is fabricated, but the truth is undeniable when it comes to the social construct of race relations, skin color and how society chooses to deal with it.
I would recommend this documentary to further the discussion about identity choices and mental health. "The Rachel Divide" (2018) is a hard look at a mindset that seems to be taking root in different circles and subcultures. It makes for great discussion among family and friends. It's worth a watch.
Thanks for reading!