The psychology of an ethnic fraud: Behind Rachel Dolezal’s invented persecution

For some folks, rapid toggling between power and victimhood can become a defining character feature, a basic way of exerting control over their sense of a stable self and life. Fixing the abuse you witness or suffer into a ritualized scene allows you some control over it, and maybe even the ability to gain pleasure some from it.

But of course that can also ultimately be just a way to identify with the aggressor, whose control you envy and seek to capture and reenact.

And if there is any one thing that unites both Wilkomirski and Dolezal, it was their need to dress up in a position of victimhood while also displaying a degree of privilege and entitlement that only serves to further harm those who have actually suffered those wrongs.

Like Dössekker, Dolezal may well continue to tell her story, to elaborate on it, to insist on it. As more details emerge, our capacity for nuance will be taxed. Our ability to distinguish between individual pathologies and collective ones—already poor on a good day—may well disintegrate entirely.

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