Welsh, S: Transracial: a depth psychological case study of Rachel Dolezal


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What it means to be an embodied and conscious person will be explored through a case study of the personal, cultural, and collective Jungian complexes of Rachel Dolezal. This case study will be based on the Netflix documentary, The Rachel Divide (2017), and also through studying her autobiography, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World (2017).

In 2015, it was discovered that Dolezal was born from two Caucasian parents, despite self-representations that she is African American. At the time of the discovery Dolezal was the president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), leading Black Lives Matter protests, and being highly vocal about her struggles as a black woman. Despite public outcry, she continues to want person-of-color status today. Her determination to be perceived and acknowledged as a transracially-black woman makes her a natural focal point for discussions around race, racism, and racial identity—the complexes of race.

Studying Dolezal naturally brings to mind questions of meaning in symptoms and psychological phenomena. She provides an unusual perspective into shame and dissociation surrounding Whiteness. But it also raises valid considerations concerning the definition of transracial. The existence of Dolezal, and others like her, brings into questioning the inherent definition—the what-ness—of the word transracial. Also, it raises the question of privilege and who determines the meaning of transracial.

My personal myth includes being an inter-racial adoptee, my outsides and insides do not stereotypically align—especially in the middle of the Midwest where I live and work. C. G. Jung, founder of Analytical Psychology, generously discussed his personalities #1 and #2. Or, when his insides did not match his outsides. As the modern world continues to deconstruct and blur boundaries and borders—how can we best hold and honor each other’s narratives?

Presenter Bio:

Sarah Nevin Welsh, MA, is a private practice psychotherapist in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is currently a doctoral-level student in the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. In 2018, Ms. Welsh’s article, “Archetype X: Visible and Invisible Otherness” was published in Psychological Perspectives.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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