Professor Joe Lowndes weighs in on Dolezal debate on MSNBC program

UO political science professor Joe Lowndes
UO political science professor Joe Lowndes

UO political science professor Joe Lowndes joined the national debate on black identity when he was invited to take part in a panel discussion on the MSNBC network this week.

Lowndes joined two other panelists on the “Nerding Out” program hosted by Dorian Warren on Wednesday, June 17. The topic was Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP chapter leader and Eastern Washington University instructor who recently acknowledged she is not African-American even though she had presented herself as black.

Panelists discussed whether Dolezal’s actions are like other forms of cultural appropriation or more like the stereotyping embodied by the concept of blackface. Lowndes acknowledged that the distinction can be a difficult one because Dolezal had committed herself to antiracist politics, but he said what Dolezal did was not honest and amounted to a kind of performance that can be seen as blackface.

“What she steals is black intellectual and political leadership,” he tells Warren. “So it’s not even just culture or dance or music or some other kind of appropriation but something that sits right at the heart of black politics. It’s almost, in a strange way, political blackface.”

Lowndes took part in three segments discussing different aspect of the Dolezal controversy. To view them, see “Rachel Dolezal and Race as a Social Construct,” “Rachel Dolezal and cultural appropriation” and “Why Rachel Dolezal is not like transgender people.”

Joe Lowndes is an Oregon expert in race, conservatism, social movements and elections. Learn more about Joe and find more UO experts on the Media Relations website.