Rachel Dolezal, the infamous white woman who claimed to be black while holding a coveted position in the NAACP, said she plans to name her son after African-American icon Langston Hughes.
The New York Daily News reports:
Dolezal, 38, revealed in August that she had gotten pregnant amid the outcry over her claims that she is black. She resigned from her position as the president of the Spokane, Wash., chapter of the NAACP after a Spokane TV station exposed her as the daughter of a white couple in June.
Dolezal, who now works as a hairdresser, declined to discuss the expected baby’s father but explained her choice of names in an interview with Vice on Monday.
“I’m naming him Langston because of Langston Hughes’ ‘Mother to Son’ poem,” Dolezal said. “Life hasn’t been easy for me at all, but I keep going. I’m still climbing, so don’t you sit down and stop. You keep going, and I want that to be a lesson for all my sons.”
Dolezal keeps Hughes’ “Collected Poems” on a chest in her living room, according to Vice. The Harlem Renaissance legend and outspoken civil rights activist’s poem “Mother to Son” is one of Hughes’ best known works. The mother’s trials serve as a symbol of African-Americans’ struggle for equality in the poem.
“Well, son, I’ll tell you: life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” the poem reads. “Don’t you set down on the steps ’cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now — for I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, and life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”
The flak over Dolezal’s race has prompted references to Hughes’ works before. North Carolina State University historian Blair L.M. Kelley mentioned the short story “Who’s Passing for Who?” while slamming Dolezal in an op-ed for The Washington Post in June. The Harlem-based story depicts a man and woman who fool both white and black people about their races until no one can say for sure whether the couple is white or black.
Kelley brought up the story to refute those who compared Dolezal to light-skinned African-Americans said to have “passed” as white during the Jim Crow era and the fight for black civil rights, the professor wrote.
“There may have been a role for Dolezal to play as ally in that movement if she had pursued it — but not as a white woman masquerading as a black woman,” Kelley wrote. “Absent the painful choice between second-class citizenship and a lie — and absent the threat of repercussions beyond embarrassment — her elaborate performance needs another name.”
Dolezal defined herself as “transracial” in a silence-breaking interview on NBC’s “Today” show. She has one biological son who is a teenager and a 21-year-old brother she adopted.
Dolezal told Vice a third of her friends no longer talk to her and choked up while recalling her birth in a teepee in Montana and her strict religious upbringing.
“I’ve struggled with depression to the point where I wonder if it’s even in my kids’ best interest for me to stay around,” Dolezal said. “I feel like I’m a liability to my own children.”
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