Lies and Confabulations

I wrote this post in June of 2015 when Rachel Dolezal was in the news.

Rachel Dolezal is the White woman claims that she’s African-American.

When I read Rachel Dolezal’s story I wondered if she dissociates.

If Rachel Dolezal believes she’s African-American she’s not lying.

When is a lie not a lie?

When it is a confabulation.

Confabulation is defined as the spontaneous production of false memories: either memories for events that never occurred, or memories of real events that are displaced in space or time. These memories may be elaborate and detailed. Some may be obviously bizarre, as a memory of a ride in an alien spaceship; others are quite mundane, as a memory of having eggs for breakfast, so that only a close family member can confirm that the memory is in fact false.

Confabulation is not lying and people who confabulate are not deliberately trying to mislead other people. In fact, patients are generally quite unaware that their memories are inaccurate, and they may argue strenuously that they are telling the truth. Neither should confabulation be confused with false memory syndrome, the phenomenon whereby otherwise normal people suddenly “remember” supposedly repressed incidents of childhood abuse or other trauma. Confabulation is a clinical syndrome resulting from injury to the brain.  Memory Loss Online

The primary function of the brain is the survival of the organism.

To that end, the brain will use all of its resources.

I did a Google search for Rachel Dolezal and got pages of outraged commentary along with video of her recent interview with Matt Lauer.

This was the second hit: The Nightly Show Goes in on “Crazypants White Lady” Rachel Dolezal.

Crazypants is a descriptive word that means weird or insane, not insane in the sense that it means cool as in crazy cool or that’s totally insane! Crazypants means insane as in a mental illness.  The Urban Dictionary

Crazypants is an N-Word for people with mental illness

This was the third hit: Rachel Dolezal’s parents: We taught our kids ‘always be honest’

Dolezal’s parents on TODAY denied charges they were abusive parents, calling the claims a “dramatic change” to what they knew of Rachel growing up, who always wanted to introduce them to her friends.

“We still hold out hope that we’ll be able to be reconciled someday,” Lawrence Dolezal said.

His wife added, “And we hope that Rachel will get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues. Of course we love her, and we hope that she will come to a place where she knows and believes and speaks the truth.”

They say they were not abusive and they hope that she gets help with her identity.

How curious.

I decided to experiment and Googled Rachel Dolezal Abuse.

The first hit: Rachel Dolezal’s brother, author Joshua Dolezal, faces trial for alleged sexual abuse of a black child

Within that story is this nugget: Hours after their daughter told NBC’s “Today” show that she identifies as black, Rachel Dolezal’s white parents went on Fox News to dispute several elements of her interview. For starters, Ruthanne Dolezal told the cable news channel that her 37-year-old daughter’s claim that she self-identified as black starting at a very young age is a “fabrication.”

Rachel Dolezal told “Today’s” Matt Lauer that as a young child, she “was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon and the black curly hair. That was how I was portraying myself.”

The 37-year-old said she began to identify with the black experience at age five.

Her parents went on Fox News to accuse their daughter of fabricating the way she remembers her childhood drawings.

Did you show everything you drew as a child to your parents?

image of a child with a caption that reads there was no one to tell and no place to hide
There is no safety for children with abusive parents-Image found on Pinterest

This is where the story becomes painfully familiar:

According to reports, Rachel Dolezal’s biological brother raped an adopted sibling:

“In 2013, Joshua was charged with four felony counts of sex abuse of a minor. The incidents, according to an affidavit obtained by the Post, happened at his parents’ home in Colorado “in 2001 or 2002.” The victim “was 6 or 7 years old,” and Joshua Dolezal was “19 years older.” Dolezal allegedly made the victim perform oral sex on him twice and he performed oral sex on the victim “7 or 8” times, allegedly telling the victim “Don’t tell anyone or I’ll hurt you.” The affidavit also lists another allegation of abuse in 1991 of another victim that had a racial element.”

According to a police report obtained by People, the alleged victim told Ruthanne that Josh was abusing her, but Ruthanne “did not believe her and told her to stop telling lies.”

Joshua is an English professor at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

The same article describes the family from Joshua Dolezal’s autobiography, Down from the Mountaintop: from Belief to Belonging:

“Joshua Dolezal watches his mother praying while listening to his father read an entire chapter of the Bible before dinner, “as is customary.”

“Down from the Mountaintop chronicles a quest for belonging. Raised in northwestern Montana by Pentecostal homesteaders whose twenty-year experiment in subsistence living was closely tied to their faith, Joshua Dolezal experienced a childhood marked equally by his parents’ quest for spiritual transcendence and the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape.” WorldCat

When I read Joshua Dolezal’s author comments, I felt that something terrible must have happened to him as well:

“From my earliest school days, when I wore handmade clothes to kindergarten and carried a fringed leather lunch satchel, I knew that my childhood experience in the mountains of Montana was different from everyone else’s. I write essays as experiments in explanation, efforts to make what was and is foreign in my life comprehensible, maybe even familiar, to a reader. In Down from the Mountaintop, like many memoirists, I try to make sense of my past.” Iowa Center for the Book

“What was and is foreign in my life.”

That’s an odd choice of words.

In an interview, Rachel Dolezal’s Mother states that the sibling that Joshua Dolezal is accused of abusing suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder:

“… A condition in which a child can’t bond with a parent or caregiver, and “seeks to cause trouble in the family.”

She goes on to say she never left the child alone with her son.

“The aligning with Rachel on this is a very bad combination,” she says. “Our son wasn’t even home a lot of the time it was alleged it was happening,” she says, “and I was a stay-at-home mother and very attentive to the kids because of her disorder. I never left her at home with our son or anything like that.” People.

Why would Ruthanne Dolezal be that specific?

Why insinuate that the child is “disordered” and “out to make trouble”?

She says she was a stay at home Mom and attentive to all the kids because of this one child’s “disorder.”

She never left the child at home with her Son.  Why?

Why does she describe the child as aligning with Rachel?

It all sounds so damned familiar because these were the kind of lies told
in my family.

The strategies survivors use to survive seem normal to us; even the act of becoming a different race is normal and possible for an abused child of five with an active imagination.

“Alters within the same patient may be of different ages, genders, races, and even species, including lobsters, ducks, and gorillas. There have even been reported alters of unicorns, Mr. Spock of Star Trek, God, the bride of Satan, and Madonna. Moreover, some practitioner’s claim that alters can be identified by distinct characteristics, including distinct handwriting, voice patterns, eyeglass prescriptions, and allergies. Proponents of the idea of multiple personalities have also performed controlled studies of biological differences among alters, revealing that they may differ in respiration rate, brain-wave patterns and skin conductance, the last being an accepted measure of arousal.” The Scientific American

If I told you my name is Mateo and I am a Black, would you call me a lying crazypants?


It sounds to me as if Rachel and Josh Dolezal are trying to make sense of a past that they can’t fully remember, understand, or escape.

Rob Goldstein 2015-2017








Rock N’ Roll N-Word

Blog for Mental Health 2015

Just as the story of the abuse in Rachel Dolezal’s family is finally getting the news coverage it deserves the story seems to be winding down.

Rachel Dolezal Scandal Exposes Fractured Family From NBC News

I found a site called Homeschooling Anonymous whose contributors seem to be children who were raised by right wing fundamentalists.

I know little about the homeschooling movement.

I support any form of education that induces an active, inquisitive, and disciplined mind.

I also support abuse survivors who work to end the silence that surrounds child abuse.

Members of the site published articles that specifically focused on the abuse in the Dolezal family, but  removed them because they were convinced that publishing evidence that supports the idea that Dolezal and her siblings were abused by her parents is the same as acting as apologists.

Boy does that sound familiar:

“On June 16 and 17, we published two articles highlighting the alleged history of abuse and control within Rachel Dolezal’s family. Since Rachel was a home school alumna raised in a conservative Christian home similar to many individuals in HA’s regular audience, we intended these articles to draw attention to elements of the Dolezal story that the mainstream media had missed — in particular, that Rachel’s parents, Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal, should not be paraded around as innocent whistleblowers.

When we published these articles, we did not see that doing so acted as apologies and/or excuses for Rachel’s behavior. Our decision to publish them has thus resulted in excusing and diminishing her behavior as well as detracting from the fact that Rachel has deeply hurt many members of the black community. We apologize for this and we are grateful to the people who have contacted us to point out this blind spot.”

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Here’s how I read that statement: We’ve been bullied into silence because the truth might cause people to look at the real story.

If I’m wrong I apologize in advance.

I was able to find some of the removed information from here: Let’s Talk About Rachel’s Parents:

“We have also heard testimonies from numerous home school alumni who grew up knowing the Dolezal family that frequent and significant child abuse occurred in the family. The parents allegedly forced both Rachel and her older, biological brother Joshua to beat their younger, adopted siblings with plumbing supply line and two foot long glue sticks, a practice inspired by Michael and Debi Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child. (Forced sibling-to-sibling corporal punishment is sadly not uncommon in some homeschooling circles.) Such a practice conjures up troubling images of Larry and Carri Williams, another homeschooling family that abused to death their adopted child, Hana. According to our sources, infant spanking (in public in their church parking lot, even) and blanket training were also common in the Dolezal family. Additionally, Rachel’s adopted brother Izaiah Dolezal has himself raised public allegations against his parents involving physical punishment, forced labor, and isolation in out-of-state group homes

Homeschooling Anonymous links to Joshua’s description of their fundamentalist upbringing.

This story is of special interest to me because I have an alternate who thinks he’s black.

He calls himself Mateo.

In Second Life, he uses a Black skin.

Mateo November, 2010
Mateo, November, 2010


He does not “identify” as white.

Saying “I identify as Black” is different from saying I was born Black.

It is specific to the “identity” as opposed to genetic heritage.

We may be calling Caitlyn Jenner “she” but her DNA will always say “he.”

Which is more real?

The world of the mind or a physical reality that becomes more malleable every day?

Does the fact that Caitlyn Jenner won fame as a male athlete named “Bruce” make “Caitlyn” less real?

Am I alone in thinking that I don’t have the right to make that judgement?

What about all the successful post-op trans women who choose to hide their gender of birth?

Are they liars or just sick of living with discrimination and ridicule?



Trans people give a striking example of how incidental the body can be to the mind.

My body is certainly incidental to the trauma from which Mateo is formed.

He sees the white skin in the mirror but ascribes it to someone else.

As a child he identified with the only other people he saw whose experience of the world mirrored his.

These other “others” were also treated with contempt and lived in fear for their lives.

They were also subject to random beatings and rapes.

These other “others” had black skin.

He, like they, was denied full access to the power of education through the use of terror and beatings at Ben Tillman Elementary School during the first years of desegregation.

Mateo adopted the way of the kids that he met and became one of them because his Black friends saw and understood that they and he had a common bond; A shared of sense bewildered alienation in a culture that treated the idea of human rights with contempt.

In fact, in the early 70’s the “Black experience” in the United States was linked to class and openly discussed as a class issue.

We understood that racism was an effective way to promote class divisions and that the Republican Party openly used racist rhetoric to appeal to angry Southern Dixiecrats bore this out.

This is why Martin Luther King called what we call the March on Washington the “Poor People’s March on Washington.”

Who does it serve to leave the class dimension of King’s Civil Rights Campaign out how we remember that March?

Martin Luther King was a Black man who was a leader for Whites and Latinos who also suffered under the constraints of a static, economically rigged class system that allows wealthy elites of all colors to exploit and discard the poor in their communities. To use them as cheap labor.

It is deeply racist to deny that King’s vision of economic and social justice was so powerful that it crossed color lines.

Poor People's March at Lafayette Park
Poor People’s March at Lafayette Park

It was this public discussion of the connection between race and class that led to the feminist and gay liberation movements.

San Francisco’s homeless youth use the N-Word to describe each other regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.

I don’t know if this is true of homeless youth in other cities, but for the homeless youth I’ve worked with in San Francisco the N-Word denotes the shared experience of being beaten down by and crushed by an intolerant elite who have rigged the economic system to reward predation.

It denotes Class.

I decided to Google Rachel Dolezal this morning to see what the latest is and this is what I found:

Google search results
Google search results for Rachel Dolezal June 26, 2015

As someone with an illness that was brought on in part by the violent racism of my childhood, I can attest to the fact that you don’t have to be Black to identify with being Black in the United States.

A young African-American Senator said it brilliantly in response to the release of a song by John Lennon in 1972.


We were so much Smarter Then We're Dumber Than That Now
We were so much Smarter Then We’re Dumber Than That Now


I find it interesting that we publicly discussed the connection between race and class in the United States in the early 1970’s without diminishing the problem of racism.

Perhaps we will find the answer to what it means to be white or black in the United States if we look beyond race and allow ourselves to see the repressive nature of social and economic systems based on class and built by cheap labor.

To see racism in a broader context is not to deny the harm that it does; if anything it helps us to see how racism functions as a tool and why it remains pervasive.

Perhaps if we return to a discussion of what we have in common instead of focusing on our differences, poor people will reunite and complete the work for which King gave his life.

Ron Dellums regarding Race and Class in Jet Magazine
Ron Dellums regarding Race and Class in Jet Magazine 1972


Patti Smith–Rock ‘N’ Roll N-Word (with Babelogue intro)




Rachel Dolezal is Acting Like a Child Abuse Victim Acts

Blog for Mental Health 2015

This is a fascinating read. The author’s take is similar to mine but her article is more detailed and clinical. This is excellent for anyone who wants their news with more context and less political gaming. This is also excellent information for anyone who may be facing their own problems with being an adult survivor of abuse:

“…The CDC estimates that one in four American children experience some form of abuse and yet we’re not quick to spot it or identify with it. Instead there’s a tendency to be irked that “this stuff” is even being discussed publicly. Or as we’ve seen with the Duggars and the Dolezals we default into our preexisting paradigms of partisanship: The Duggars are rightwingers and are typical of those people and Dolezal is a liberal Obama’s America “transracial” fruitcake.

But both these cases also feature fringe Christian movements protecting their ideals over their daughters.

The saga of reality show subject Josh Duggar, who admittedly sexually abused five girls (four of whom were his own sisters), was a grotesque display of what religious zeal conditions people to be able to rationalize. “They didn’t even know he had done it,” said Michelle Duggar during the soft-focus Fox News Megyn Kelly interview.

I’ve talked to sexual abuse victims who didn’t realize that was what had happened to them until decades later. They had fears and phobias and things they just avoided seemingly without reason—but they didn’t put two and two together. So the idea of child abuse being contingent on the victim’s memory, identification or understanding is just wrong. Being asleep, unconscious or blocking it out—doesn’t make one not a victim. And it surely doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Continue reading “Rachel Dolezal is Acting Like a Child Abuse Victim Acts”