You've read dozens of thinkpieces. You've already debated her with your stupid friends from highschool on Facebook. You thought you moved on two months ago. Not so! I've finally come up with the perfect Rachel Dolezal joke that I am about to send off into the world, like a proud papa watching his kid drive away to an Ivy League school.
When I first heard about Rachel Dolezal – God, what was it? Nine weeks ago? – I had an immediate visceral reaction. “Woah, this lady is crazy!” I thought, cracking up as I imagined the seemingly limitless comedic potential. As a comedian, I knew there HAD to be something funny about Rachel Dolezal, beyond the philosophical, psychological, and cultural questions about what it means to be black, who is the arbiter of blackness, what does it mean to be your authentic self, and is racial identity biological, social, or some intricate combination of the two. But what was funny about Rachel Dolezal? That's what I couldn't crack.
During the 72 hours after the Rachel Dolezal story broke, I saw countless comedians take to Twitter and fire off their “hot takes” before moving on to the next target of outrage. But unlike some comedians, I'm not satisfied with just a “hot take.” I demand perfection. So I went down a rabbit hole, learning everything I could about Rachel Dolezal. I studied black history. I read about white privilege, gender identity and the transsexual movement, and mob mentality and public shaming. I even took a road trip to Howard University, the school she attended and later filed suit against for discrimination. In the Howard University library archives, I dug up old papers she wrote and broke her thesis to major news outlets. I then spoke with Rachel's former co-workers at the NAACP and shot the interviews on my iPhone. When I felt I wasn't getting the full picture, I used some creative Googling to reach out to Rachel Dolezal's ex-husband Kevin Moore. We spoke at length on the phone and in person, becoming fast friends. When I shared my findings with him, we agreed there was an excellent documentary to be made. Kevin put me in contact with Rachel's biological parents, who declined to be interviewed on film, but spoke rather candidly off the record. They pointed me to Rachel's friends in the art world, who had some insightful anecdotes to share about her character. I was proud of our work. The Rachel Dolezal story was not going to be just another chance to make a quick joke and then retreat back into my bubble, confident that reality had yet again aligned consistently with my existing world view. No, I was going to make a really fucking hilarious Rachel Dolezal joke.
The rough cut (working title: “Dolezal: Not So Black and White”) had garnered some interest from Harvey and Bob Weinstein, and Variety and published and unprecedented early review calling it a “frank portrait of a complicated woman, with hopes, dreams, a desire to do good, and a desperate need to belong,” but I was unhappy. I was no closer to my joke than I was eight and a half weeks ago! This put a strain on my relationship with Kevin. Unable to express myself, I turned to alcohol, frequently showing up to the edit bay loaded on Gordon's gin. Kevin found a release elsewhere, recording an EP of electronic music with bleak, haunting melodies that even an idiot could tell was his way of coping with isolation and abandonment. I felt like a bad friend and an even worse business partner. I graduated from alcohol to glue, taking huffs in the men's room while Kevin was negotiating to debut the film at Sundance. At my lowest point, I sucked our production assistant's dick in a CVS parking lot, and fired him immediately after he came. I was obviously falling in love with Kevin, and knowing he could never return my affection, sought out a stand-in to unload my feelings of pleasure and pain. There were a lot of things I hated back then, but what I hated most of all was the idea that someone could possibly love a person as self-destructive and broken as me.
Like many projects in the industry, the documentary died on the vine. The funding wasn't there for distribution, and while I briefly considered going to Kickstarter, I decided I didn't want to play Frankenstein and resurrect a corpse. The movie business got in the way of what the art was really about: a really solid Rachel Dolezal joke. I see that now. And I am proud to say that I checked myself into rehab and have been clean for two days. It may not seem like much, but every day is a challenge, and I'm taking it one day at a time. I met someone, too. He's like Kevin – handsome, brave – but he's better for me. He inspires me to stay clean. And he's the one that made me sit my ass down and write that Rachel Dolezal joke I've been talking about for the past – oh God, what has it been? – nine weeks. So here it is, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius – my Rachel Dolezal joke.
Have you heard of the non fiction book “Black Like Me?” Apparently Rachel Dolezal thought it was a how-to manual!