Rachel has created quite a stir – after reporting herself to be a black woman, her parents, both white, publicly demanded she tell “the truth”. Now they want her to apologize for lying. It appears that other untruths are suspected on Rachel’s part – the story is so interesting that reporters are digging up her whole life looking for misrepresentations, lies, and oddities. She is the news of the week.
Today she addressed the racial issue, summed up in one statement delivered in an interview: “I identify as black.” That should finish off arguments about that part of her story, at least – in today’s world, we have now begun to listen to people’s own definition of how they identify themselves, in terms of gender and now race. She doesn’t see herself as lying about representing herself as a black woman. Rachel identifies as black, and being black is a fact for her.
Closure conversations do not need to explain “why” she feels that way or “how” she came to certain conclusions. They only need to include the appropriate elements from this menu of the “Four A’s of Closure Conversations”:
- Acknowledge the facts;
- Appreciate the people;
- Apologize for mistakes and misunderstandings; and
- Amend broken agreements.
She has done that for 2 of the 4 A’s directly, and she doesn’t accept that the other two might be relevant in this instance:
- Fact: She identifies as black;
- Appreciation: She applauds her colleagues at NAACP and the community of Spokane WA for their support and good work;
- Apologize? We misunderstood her: we thought her appearance, her body of commitments, and her assertions that she is black meant that she had black parents – that she was genetically black (if that’s a thing). Her parents (and many others as well) want an apology “for her dishonesty”. Was she dishonest? Or is she honestly living consistent with who she is for herself? There will be disagreement about this for another news cycle, I’m sure. Meantime, no apology needed, at least from her perspective (and that of many others as well).
- Amend broken agreements? She resigned from her position as president of Spokane’s NAACP chapter, even though the position did not require her to either be black or to “identify as black”. It is unlikely she will accept that she had an agreement to identify herself as being white because she has white parents. She will be heard – and argued with, of course – but she’s probably not going to borrow anyone else’s interpretation of who she is.
Rachel may have a few more Closure Conversations to deliver before the press is through with her, but this one could be complete as it stands. Every Closure Conversation should create enough completion that people can shift their attention from the past and focus on creating a future, with a fresh start and a new outlook. We will see whether Rachel’s “closure” allows a shift in perspective on the part of her community, which now includes all of us, to restore her credibility and to accept her statement of identity as a fact for which no apology is necessary.