I took a quick break from working on my Literature Review on black women’s writer identity (how coincidental) to tune into Netflix and finally watch “The Rachel Divide.” 

The documentary was beautifully done and showed her story of a traumatic childhood that led her to a deep interest in black culture and social justice. As well-intentioned as that may sound, it’s clear that she could have done the same work while identifying as a white woman, working sincerely and earnestly to earn the trust of her local black community, and all without creating additional trauma for herself and her own black son.

Her story is one of trauma and shows many possible ways that trauma can have a domino effect on whole lives- including self-identification, loved ones, and communities. 

I recommend watching the documentary with an open mind. Her decision to start performing her definition of blackness comes from a sincere place that is appropriation in its essence. Her son’s perspective shows a sadness and frustration that reveals his doubts about his mom’s honesty. The other perspectives shared also communicate skepticism and doubt that did not discredit the work that she was doing in her community but showed how her deceit (which stems from her trauma) made her seem insincere.

It was an interesting piece. I get intersectionality and the power to self-identify, but there are so many more questions that Rachel clearly avoided answering. 

She made a comment during the gender reveal of her new baby to her sons about the baby’s name. She said that she didn’t want it to be something that would jeopardize his ability to get a job. This coming from a white woman… who identifies as Black… but is really a white woman who is attempting to disguise herself as a “black” woman was a bit weird. Her own name change at the end of the documentary, though? Girl.

Rachel is actually a dope artist and when she isn't sporting some horrible wig, her braids are always fresh, but identity can be a monster when it stems from trauma. When it comes to the social construct of race, as a black woman, I have yet to hear an explanation of what it means to be and feel like a black woman from someone who is not. I was hoping Rachel would attempt to tackle that but no cigar. 

It is clear that Rachel hates her whiteness, but what she fails to recognize is that she is fully embracing her whiteness through the exercise of her privilege to choose to perform her idea of blackness. It’s amazing to me that she taught in an African American studies department because she clearly has a foggy understanding of black history and racial dynamics in America. Either that or she sees the repercussions of her "outing" as part of her “black woman struggle.”

I won’t be purchasing her book because quite frankly, I’ve seen enough. While her story is interesting, her identification ideals seem to be only a couple of the many problematic things that compose it. I wish her the best and I hope that she continues to march for black lives because -shouldn’t all white women be doing this anyway? As far as her sons, I hope they are not too traumatized growing up in the wake of her notoriety.

Are you going to watch it? Let me know what y’all think in the comments!