Jon Stewart and Jessica Williams on Rachel Dolezal. Just watch.
For the past week, everyone has followed the story of Rachel Dolezal: The Caucasian, former president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, who has been passing herself off as a Black woman for the last 10 years. The story is a doozy, and earlier this morning, Dolezal spoke with Matt Lauer on The Today Show to tell her side of the story (which is basically, “I identify as Black”). Now, we have The Daily Show‘s take on the whole thing.
In a new and appropriately titled segment called “Whaaaaaaaat!?” last night Jon Stewart gave the SparkNotes version of the Dolezal story — from her ancestry (Czech, Swedish, and German) to that uncomfortable news clip where she answers a direct inquiry about her race with, “I don’t understand the question.” Stewart is confounded.
“That’s crazy,” Stewart jokes. “There’s a NAACP chapter in Spokane?”
Stewart then criticizes the media for turning a singular incident into evidence that racism is “over” in America. Showing a montage of clips from Fox News that imply the Dolezal debacle is somehow a direct result of liberal culture and racial equality, he points out just how flawed this logic is.
“If being Black is such a sweet deal, why are millions of white people ignoring this once in a lifetime opportunity?” Stewart asks.
“How do you make all these sweeping generalizations about it, anyway?” he continues. “One lady. . . in Washington State’s second-largest city, pretending to be Black. ‘Well, clearly liberal culture has reached its nadir.’ ‘Rome has fallen — yet racism is over.’ ‘It is the best of times, it is the worst of times — all because a German lady got a weave.'”
To help further prove his point and delve into the story, Stewart then calls in his senior Black correspondent, Jordan Klepper. For those unfamiliar, Klepper is white (in the words of Stewart, “unbelievably” so) — but in the segment, he insists that he identifies as Black. The two go back and forth, and in one particularly brilliant moment, Stewart says, “Look, you can cover this story — that’s not a problem. But not as the Black correspondent.”
Klepper begins to throw a fit, until actual Black correspondent (and love of our lives forever) Jessica Williams steps in and saves the day. Unsurprisingly, she nails exactly what’s wrong with the Dolezal story in less than a minute. Echoing Stewart’s sentiments about Klepper, Williams points out that Dolezal could have helped fight racial injustice just as effectively — if not more so — as a white woman. The fact that Dolezal “chose” to be Black is in itself a sign of major privilege, and actually feeds into the very system of oppression that she had claimed to be fighting.
“You can’t just appropriate persecution just because it’s ‘cool,'” Williams says. “We don’t need oppression cosplay. We need allies, not replacements.”
Watch the rest of the segment for yourself below. (Seriously — Williams kills it.)
(Images via video.)