Over the weekend we talked about the plight of Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP representative who turned out to be considerably whiter than her public persona would have indicated. She’s run into some hard times and is concerned about becoming homeless in the near future, despite the fact that she has a new book coming out. One part of that story touched upon a detail which I admittedly didn’t pay much attention to at the time. Dolezal mentioned the difficulties she had encountered in finding a new job despite the fact that she had even changed her name to escape the intense media scrutiny she had been under.
So what was the new moniker that she chose? The Daily Mail came out with an exclusive this week providing the answer. Rather than going with Jane Doe or Mary Smith or anything else which might’ve flown under the radar, let’s just say that she went with something a bit more unique.
Rachel Dolezal, the former head of Spokane, Washington’s NAACP chapter who claimed to be black before her parents ‘outed’ her as white, officially changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo in a Washington court in October, legal documents obtained by DailyMail.com show.
Nkechi, short for Nkechinyere, is a name that originates from the Igbo language of Nigeria and means ‘what god has given’ or ‘gift of god.’
Diallo, meaning ‘bold,’ is a last name of Fula origin. The Fula people are a Muslim ethnic group thought to have roots in the Middle East and North Africa, who are now widely dispersed across West Africa.
Nkechi Diallo? I’m not even going to take a guess as to how that’s pronounced but the translation is pretty clear. The meaning in Nigerian is apparently, “gift of God.” If we had any questions as to whether or not Ms. Dolezal was backing down from her claims of being a black person trapped in a white woman’s body these have apparently been put to rest. One can only imagine the fascinating water cooler discussions which might arise when her new coworkers ask about the origins of her name.
Despite the fact that this ongoing circus lends itself to all sorts of jokes (many of which are admittedly in bad taste) I’m forced yet again to remind myself that there’s actually nothing technically “wrong” going on here. People are allowed to legally change their name if they wish to do so, providing they aren’t doing it for purposes of evasion or avoiding prosecution. One might argue that Rachel’s decision is a bit duplicitous because she seems to be attempting to hide her past notoriety from any prospective employers, but the onus is really upon the management to thoroughly investigate job applicants when making hiring decisions. The reality is that Dolezal did not commit any crimes in the course of her long-running deception and has never been charged with anything.
In the spirit of generosity, I would even go so far as to say that her new name is perfectly in keeping with her “transition” to the persona of a black American from a white one. We can compare the situation to that of Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley) who changed his name to be more in keeping with his new identity as a self-proclaimed woman. You might disagree with the rationale or even scoff at it, but this all falls under the category of free speech and personal expression.
I admit that I was fairly hard on Rachel Dolezal during the initial brouhaha which erupted after she was first exposed as a fraud. But at this point I find it difficult not to have some sympathy for her. While none of her actions have dragged her into the legal system, she has clearly paid a fairly stiff price for her decisions. If she wants to self identify as a Nigerian gift from God I suppose that’s her business.