People amaze me in the most bizarre ways. I work in the hospitality industry so it should come as no surprise when people say or do something that utterly baffles me. But every once in a while someone comes along and just blows me out of the water. Normally I can spend a short time pondering the situation and then move on. I leave it behind me. But over the last year and a bit, one name has kept popping up in my social media feed and in the news. Rachel Dolezal.
A name from my childhood hometown. A name from my past. A name now surrounded by controversy and scandal. A name which refuses to go away. She’s cemented her place in infamy.
I’m sure you’ve heard all about her story. A woman in a position of leadership in the NAACP and the black community who presented herself as a fair skinned black woman when in reality she was born to white parents. A quick internet search will turn up a vast variety of photos from the present as well as the past. I haven’t spoken to Rachel since the early to mid 1990s when I was in the same homeschool group as her and taking piano lessons from her mother. There weren’t many black people in Troy, the population was just under 1,000 people. I remember one family in the church that had a black father and a white mother with a mixed race son. In the summer, quite often there would be Mexican and Cambodian people working seasonal jobs but for the most part, that little corner of Montana was roughly 95% white. It still is and probably always will be.
Troy isn’t known for much. There’s really nothing there other than a couple interesting geological areas. Ross Creek Cedars, Kootenai Falls, Bad Medicine. There’s been a couple movies that have filmed in part in the area. The River Wild and what’s the name of the forest fire fighters where the pilot dies and his ghost has to basically train his replacement and he loved the song Smoke Gets In Your Eyes? Always – 1989 with Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman.
If you look up Troy in Wikipedia, you’ll find it’s the lowest elevation in the state. It’s less than 1 square mile in area. It’s been contaminated with asbestos. It was featured in the book World War Z as a safe zone for humanity (there’s jack shit around for miles, what are the zombies going to do?). There’s been 2 people of note, one of the teacher’s kids who managed to make it to the NFL for a total of 19 games and Rachel.
There’s basically 2 groups of people that grew up in Troy. The lifers, who may leave for a while but always end up coming back to where their parents and grandparents lived all their lives. And then there’s the leavers, the ones who might come back to visit on rare occasion if their family is still living there and they’re still on speaking terms or if they don’t want to drive 3 hours out of the way to avoid having to pass through on the only real highway in the northwest corner of the state.
I’m one of the leavers. Rachel was one of the leavers but on a whole different level. People often will shake the dust off their feet from their hometowns but rarely do they start a new life with such extremity. The Rachel of today (no I’m not using her newly appropriated legally changed name) is so far removed from the person I knew from childhood that I can say she really isn’t the same person. She is nearly unrecognizable. Not that I’d ever mistake her for a black woman which she was trying to hard to be.
Mostly, this whole situation has me confused. When the news first broke over a year ago, I was dumbfounded. I knew she’d been married to Kevin and had been living in the South but I didn’t know she’d taken legal guardianship of one of her adopted brothers or that she’d had a child at that time. Reading the news articles that called Izaiah her son made me side-eye them because I was there when he was adopted along with Ezra, Zachariah and Esther. I honestly don’t know what has been going through her mind over the years and I have no clue where she’s going to end up. I don’t wish her any harm or hatred just an enlightening of what her actions have done to the lives of others.
I’m reminded of a passage in the Bible, John 1:46 that says “And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.” (King James Version)
I’ll admit I had to look up the verse because while I can remember what it says, I am shit at memorizing and can’t remember where anything is usually.
That verse makes me think of Troy. Can anything good come out of Troy? Nothing worth writing home about from my experience. I just hope we only have one Rachel.