A twitter storm washed by my account this morning and, being of sound mind and good sense, I didn’t chase it into the twittersphere but went and googled what it’s all about.
It’s about Rachel Dolezal, a NAACP Chapter President and a part-time Africana Studies professor at a Eastern Washington University,who has been misleading people for years into thinking she is, not a person of colour, but someones whose ethnic mix ‘contains’ some element of that ethnicity. We can’t really argue with that really thanks to the science of genetics and Mitochondrial Eve.
If Ms. Dolezal wasn’t making a scientific point perhaps she has family ‘issues’ ? I note that her adopted brother is a person of colour. Maybe, just maybe, she felt left out as the natural ‘normal’ child in a white(ish) family in what is a fairly white part of the states. Maybe….ach…. there are a whole host of reasons that ‘could’ explain why Rachel did this. We don’t know…(yet).
In between having a faux limp and an affected stammer in my teens (that I worked so hard on that it comes back when I’m stressed) I did for a week or so in 1980 wish I was black….I’ve no idea what caused such a whim -other than the need to feel special or different that many teenagers have – and it passed. These things mostly do…. but sometimes they don’t.
I’m going to liken Ms Dolezals identity confusion with that of a trans person….sometimes it’s a phase, sometimes it’s seriously not. Sometimes a person really believes they were identified at birth into the wrong gender grouping…. this can raise it’s head young…or later after a life out of kilter.
Look at the hard empirical evidence and a trans woman is male…. but we accommodate her needs and belief and…well…. accept her as a woman because it’s an easy thing to do. It’s the human, empathic, caring thing to do and as a society we are slowly getting used to it.
So why isn’t this happening with Ms Dolezal?…. call it a mental aberration, call it a quirk of her personality…call it what you will but why do people have a problem with her saying she’s something other than she is?
Okay…there’s the lying…nobody likes a liar…. but if she felt she had to lie to be able to live with her self identified ethnicity shouldn’t we cut her some slack? Was she doing it for personal gain? No…as any fule knos nobody pretends to be something further down the pecking order of privilege unless at some level they ‘need’ to.
Just as a transwoman doesn’t affect MY being a woman, I don’t see why Rachel’s need to identify as a woman of colour should affect anyone else of colour (or otherwise)…..
It’s the same debate : except the shift acceptance around trans identity has been hard won by force of numbers and time.
Maybe there will come a day when we accept peoples self identity in ANY area not just the ones already deemed acceptable.
Maybe minstrel blacking up is to ethnic identity what being a drag queen is to gender identity.
Could the cultural appropriation of dreads and listening to Bob Marley be the ethnic identities weekend crossdresser?
Identity could be a mish mash of self identified positioning on a multitude of spectra.
Either you accept we are what we are based on face value and scientific evidence or you accept that anyone has the right to be anything they want to be and as long as that we insist on that ‘want’ being an all encompassing ‘need’ we just perpetuate a society based on differences and keep any real sense of equality trapped in a set of pigeon-holes.