Three apparently unrelated news stories are tied together by one factor. The news stories are:
- Rachel Dolezal and her attempt at race reassignment;
- Ariel Bradley, the “ISIS bride” from Tennessee who has gone all-in for jihad; and
- This week’s murder of five family members in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, allegedly by the oldest son.
The common factor is that the principles of these stories were allÂ home-schooled by parents who were tightly controlling and kept their children isolated from mainstream culture.
A few days ago Amanda Marcotte wrote an article that tied together the similarities between Dolezal and Bradley. They both were raised in such isolation, by rabidly controlling parents, that when they approached adulthood they either were compelled to invent new identities for themselves or create identities out of whole cloth that separated them from their upbringing. Marcotte writes,
BuzzFeedÂ pieced together the 29-year-old Bradley’s story through conversations with her friends and a brief interview with her mother. Her friend Robert Parker says that Bradley was raised by a fundamentalist mother who was intent on keeping â€œher away from materials that would make her question Christianity.â€ Not only was Bradley homeschooled; she didn’t even learn to read until she was a preteen.
Bradley started rebelling against her parents in adolescence and spent her teens and early adulthood drifting from one identity to another, according to her friends. â€œIt was like, when I first met her she was a Christian, and then she was a socialist, and then she was an atheist, and then a Muslim,â€ one friend explained. â€œAs far as I could tell it was always in relation to whatever guy she was interested in, so if she meets a guy thatâ€™s an atheist then sheâ€™s an atheist, falls into that for a year.â€’
Having not been allowed to become herself as she was growing up, she had to take a persona where she could find one.
I found Dolezal a bit baffling until I read about her upbringing by hyper-conservative Christian home schoolers who were also white supremacists. And who also adopted black children while being white supremacists. What little information has come to light makes the Dolezal family sound like a house of horrors. My guess is that adopting a black persona was a highly elaborate coping strategy for Dolezal. She wasn’t trying to perpetrate a hoax as much as she was deceiving herself as a way to distance herself from her upbringing. Or somehow work through her upbringing. Or both.
We don’t yet know if the Bever family of Broken Arrow were religious fundamentalists, but the neighbors are saying that the parents barely let the children out of the house.
While the community was left shocked by the brutal violence, the neighbor tells PEOPLE that something hasn’t seemed right with that family for a long time.
“They’re very reclusive,” the neighbor says. “The kids don’t come out of the house.”
She adds: “It’s a very big house, but I’ve only ever seen a boy once and they’ve been here for many, many years. We only really knew they had kids because they have a pool and there are toys outside. But they don’t come out.”
The neighbor says the kids were homeschooled by a married couple who kept the children “on a very short leash.”
“It’s weird because they’re old enough to drive,” she says of the detained brothers, “but I’ve never seen them. And I’ve never seen a friend come to the house at all.”
She continues: “They never open the blinds. The windows are never open.
“It’s very scary.”
We don’t know for certain that the oldest son Robert Bever and possibly another son, both now in custody, really did stab and axe their parents, two younger brothers and a sister. I will try to keep track as more information comes out. But it’s past time we needed to pay attention to the “home schooling” movement and take care it’s not fostering and perpetrating physical and psychological abuse.