Let our next greatest achievement be realizing the dream of full equality for all of us ...

- Human Rights Campaign President, Alphonso David, as reported by Maiysha Kai -

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What Rihanna Really Meant When She Called Rachel Dolezal A "Hero"

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Christian Dior
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Christian Dior

Post-racial turducken Rachel Dolezal is back in the news today. But not, surprisingly, for buying a pair of wings and some feathers from a Halloween store, going to a Spokane zoo, and trying to convince everyone she's an ostrich. No, this time it's because Rihanna offered her thoughts on Dolezal in a Vanity Fair profile. And when Rihanna offers her thoughts on you, it apparently matters. Rihanna is The Master from The Strain.

“I think she was a bit of a hero, because she kind of flipped on society a little bit. Is it such a horrible thing that she pretended to be black? Black is a great thing, and I think she legit changed people’s perspective a bit and woke people up.”

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You know that face people make when they're standing in a long-ass line at the post office, and the person currently at the counter starts asking for extra stamps and shit to mail his bitch ass letters? That's the face much of Black America made this morning when first hearing about this.

But, after reading the passage again, I think we all have the wrong idea. We're reading this and thinking of "hero" in the traditional context. As we know, Rihanna has spent quite a bit of time in New York City. If I'm not mistaken, I think she actually owns a home there. New Yorkers famously (and annoyingly) refer to the big sandwiches normal people call "hoagies" as "heroes." Rihanna wasn't saying Rachal Dolezal is a "person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities." No, like many who've spent more than 17 consecutive minutes in New York City, she thinks she's a New Yorker. And she's calling Dolezal a "type of sandwich that consists of a long roll of bread split widthwise into two pieces, and filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, seasonings, and sauce."

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With that new knowledge, look how much more sense her statement makes. Let's read it again.

“I think she was a bit of a hero sandwich, because she kind of flipped on society a little bit. Is it such a horrible thing that she, this hero sandwich woman, pretended to be black? Black is a great thing, and I think she legit changed people’s perspective a bit and woke people up.”

Controversy solved.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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DISCUSSION

There are some valuable lessons from the allegory of Rachel Dolezal.

She learned that first thing you need to know about being Black is that White people can't wait to pull your card; even if those White people are your parents.

Black people learned that the incognegro is real. #StayWoke

White folks learned that there is a line. It reminded me of Mr. Dunwitty and Pierre talking in Bamboozled (Yes, I've seen this movie too many times), when Dunwitty (played by Michael Rappaport) said he was blacker than Pierre (played by Damon Wayans) because he has a Black wife and mixed children. Turns out Black folks ain't playing that ish for a minute. Uncle Tom still trumps Ole Massa in our hearts, every dang time.

We all learned that Blackness is real thing. It may not be easily defined but it is just as difficult to pantomime and pass for the genuine article.

Is she a hero? No. Martyr? Maybe. The point being, back off my woman, Ri Ri.