I’m conflicted about Rachel Dolezal— even with all I’ve read, seen, and heard of her story. I feel sorry for her children (because the fall out drove them to the brink of homelessness), and I’m curious about the perspectives and opinions of the students’ lives she touched at Eastern Washington University.
If we believe her, then we may believe that race, like gender, is on an ever-evolving spectrum. Dolezal would be, pardon me: Nkechi (“gift of God”) Amare Diallo would be, trans-black.
When we grow and change, that growth should be celebrated. We shouldn’t be held hostage to the memory of who we were and what we did, forever. We should be given space to evolve and to heal. We should be given an opportunity to make amends with and for the community we’ve disrespected.
I think we should have this right even if we are never forgiven.
Given what we haven’t learned have learned about consequences, justice, and reform over the years, I think we should be greater advocates for restorative justice.
To learn more about restorative justice:
- Restorative Justice in School: An Overview
- Center for Justice & Reconciliation
- Restorative Justice Collaborative of Houston
- Restorative Justice: Resources for Schools
- When Restorative Justice in Schools Works
Consequences foster teachable moments. We need them to become better people, and we need them to hold us accountable. We need them to teach us when we’re wrong.
Although shame can be momentarily effective, its usefulness is temporary. The same can be said of punishment. In the long-run, no real good can come from shame.
I believe these things and more, but also this: She oughta be ashamed of herself.
That mariachi band (and the kickstarter to pay for it) was a move after my own heart!
The Cliff Notes on Dolezal, BB, and PP
Rachel Dolezal rose to fame in 2015 when news broke that she had been “passing” as a black woman for years, even though she was white. Her parents released her birth certificate and several childhood photos to prove she was living a lie.
- Dolezal resigned from her position as Branch president of the NAACP shortly thereafter.
- Eastern Washington University fired her.
- Her local newspaper column was removed from the police ombudsman commission.
- Media raged when it was revealed that she sued Howard University in 2002 for discriminating against her because she was WHITE.
- She lost most of her friends and professional connections.
- As of February 2017, she was feeding her family with food stamps.
- In March of 2017, it was reported that she changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. Of West African origin, “Nkechi” means “gift of God.”
- In May of 2018 she was accused of welfare fraud, perjury, and false verification for public assistance. She has claimed that she is now on the verge of homelessness.
- In March 2017, Dolezal published a memoir titled, “In Full Color: Finding My Place In a Black and White World.”
- In 2018, Netflix released a documentary about her: The Rachel Divide.
To this day, Dolezal still believes she is black.
Jennifer Schulte rose to fame in 2018 after she called police because black people were barbecuing at a park in Oakland, California. The video was released on YouTube on April 29th and went viral soon after. You can read more about BBQ Becky here.
Since the encounter, Schulte has been evaluated by the police for an involuntary 5150 psychiatric hold and “BBQ Becky” memes have spread across the web.
Most recently, Allison Ettel rose to fame last week for calling the police on an 8 year-old African-American girl for the crime of selling water to nearby passersby to raise money for a trip to Disneyland.
Ettel argued that the little girl did not have a permit to sell water on the street, and that this action was illegal.
Ettel contends the event was not racially motivated.
In an interview with CNN affiliate KGO, Ettel’s representative, Richard Laermer, argues, “What would you do if you were trying to work and someone was screaming outside of your window on a hot day when there’s no air conditioning?”
Since the incident, Alison Ettel has been dubbed “Permit Patty” by the internet.
Ettel creates cannabis products for her company TreatWell, and according to SF Gate, Ettel may not have a permit for some of the work she does herself.
Many businesses have decided to cut ties with TreatWell. She has also been fired from her role in an upcoming documentary called Lady Buds—a film about women in the cannabis industry.
Do We Need Consequences, Punishment, and Shame?
Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner was an American behaviorist, author, and psychologist. He is best known for developing the theory of behaviorism which looked for a more objective way to measure and study behavior. He first studied rats as they interacted in their environment. Later, he created what’s known as the “Skinner box,” which was a tool used to facilitate operant conditioning.
The behaviorist movement began in 1913, and behaviorism is a psychological approach that states that all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment. It’s most concerned with scientific and objective methods of investigation. It assumes that we are born with a blank slate and that we learn new behavior through classical or operant conditioning.
Classical conditioning theory refers to learning by association.
Operant conditioning theory refers to learning through rewards and punishments for behavior. You can learn more about operant conditioning here.
I work with children regularly, but I don’t have my own. In the limited time I spend with them, I can tell you with absolute certainty that we need all three!
In some cases, I’d argue that it’s better if we initiate shame ourselves than if it’s initiated by other people, for us.
Consequences can be inevitable. They can occur with or without our blessing. In its most neutral since, it is a result or effect of actions and conditions. There’s much debate surrounding whether consequences work for children. The argument is that while they work for stopping behaviors, they don’t teach us to make better choices in the future– which is arguably the most important part.
We tend to use the words punishment and consequence interchangeably. Behaviorists often distinguish between natural consequences (that occur without parental intervention) and logical consequences (which parents engineer and which function as consequences).
In order to be effective, logical consequences should be connected to the original behavior.
Why We Need Consequences:
- The Effective Use of Consequences
- The Most Effective Consequences For Teenagers
- Logical Consequences Teach Important Lessons
- How To Make Consequences Work
- How To Give Kids Consequences That Work
Why Consequences Don’t Work:
- Why Consequences Don’t Work
- Why Consequences Don’t Work—And What To Do Instead
- Truths About Consequences
- When Consequences Don’t Work
- When Kids Don’t Care About Their Consequences
Punishment refers to a change that’s meant to reduce the likelihood that a certain behavior will occur again. Punishment is focused on reducing or eliminating undesirable behaviors. Positive and negative reinforcement, on the other hand, are designed to increase particular behaviors.
Those who oppose punishment (and punitive consequences) argue the following:
- Punishment makes children focus on their own suffering, not on the wrong they’ve done to someone else. The effect is that punishment makes children more self-centered.
- Punishment makes the child feel bad about himself/herself, as opposed to feeling bad about the particular behavior. It can work like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- It encourages children to lie and be deceptive because they don’t want to get caught (i.e. punished).
- Punishment fosters resentment and negatively impacts our relationship with our children.
- It creates an external locus of control and doesn’t help children learn to manage and deal with complex feelings and emotions.
- Punishments increase misbehavior.
Punishment can be effective if it a) immediately follows the undesirable behavior and it b) is consistently applied after each offense. It is ineffective when it induces pain, is not related to the offending behavior, or is not applied appropriately and consistently.
Shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
- Those who oppose shame argue that it’s ineffective for those of us who don’t care how we’re viewed by others.
- Shame can be a form of punishment and can force the offender into isolation. In isolation, the offender doesn’t grow and develop better cues.
- Those who are stigmatized are more likely to develop anxiety disorders and become depressed. If we internalize it for too long, it can affect our identity.
Nevertheless, some argue that the social shaming of racists is working.