Let’s take a deep breath

Rachel Dolezal, former NAACP official in Spokane, Wash., went on “Today” — uh, today — and reiterated that she identifies as black.

Dolezal’s parents recently went on record to say that the family is (mostly) Caucasian, though their daughter has identified as African American for some time.

The Interwebs has gone wild with this in the past few days.  Check out how The Root covers this. Check out her NPR interview. People are attempting to draw a connection between this and discussions around Caitlyn Jenner. I don’t think that analogy holds, and neither does Ryan Cooper at The Week. He writes:

Gender and race are social constructs to a great degree, but not equally so. In particular, gender is more deeply rooted in one’s own mind, while race is more forcibly imposed by the surrounding society. Of course, that’s not a hard and fast distinction, since gender norms are also imposed from outside, and racial identity surely becomes part of one’s internal self-presentation. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say there is a difference in weighting.

And what Dolezal is doing? It’s not passing. From Blair L.M. Kelley, for The Washington Post:

Race is a social construct. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real as a lived experience in America, and it wasn’t constructed out of thin air. On this broken foundation, African Americans led, created communities and built a movement that transformed, and strives to further transform, America for the better.

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8 Comments

  1. It don’t see the connection to Caitlyn Jenner either. That analogy looks like a slam of transgender people to me – linking them with someone who lied for personal gain.

    Rachel seems to be digging herself deeper, too. On the one hand she said she was white at 16 in the photo, and then black at 5 because she grabbed a brown crayon (what?).

    I recently read this, which was good, too. The writer is clearly very angry, and has decided Rachel is a narcissist. Maybe she is and maybe she isn’t. In any case, she makes some good points such as a cultural identity “is not a commodity that can be purchased”. And, “Respecting a culture, means respecting the right for it to exist without having to place yourself at the center of it.”. Here’s the rest: http://thebinblog.com/rachel-dolezal-pretty-little-liar/

    1. Everything is a commodity in America. Everything.

      Jenner and Dolezal are proof.

  2. “I know who I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!” – Kirk:Lazarus, Topic Thunder (2008)

  3. I think the analogy holds.

    In the case of Jenner, we have a person born male, raised male, living subjected to all the physical, psychological, and societal benefits and consequences of being male, and none of the physical, psychological and societal benefits or consequences of being female, who, after some soul searching, some story-telling, and a few cosmetic enhancements, demands to be identified and accepted as female and everyone, particularly females, is expected to regard this transition as something other than fraud. Heroic even.

    In the case of Dolezal, we have a person born white, raised white, living subjected to all the physical, psychological and societal benefits or consequences of being white, and none of the physical, psychological and societal benefits or consequences of being non-white, who, after some soul searching, some story-telling and a few cosmetic enhancements, demands to be identified and accepted as Black and everyone, white and non-white, is expected to regard this transition as something other than fraud. Or a highly narcissistic form of histrionic personality disorder.

    The only difference I see in these two cases is Jenner’s national celebrity was well established before his transition.

    Neither of these two cases, in my opinion, do anything to further general understanding of the complexities of identity…social, gender, racial or ethnic…in America.

    1. Aw, damn. It’s hard to take someone seriously if they’re nosing around Reality TV Land.

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