Rachel Dolezal

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Slumberjack

It's not the same as Jenner.  Everyone knew that Jenner was once a man but who is now a woman.  Jenner's case can't logically be applied to Dolesal's case, because it involved public deception.  One could argue that Jenner hid who she was for years, but the public transition and disclosure was accomplished on her own terms.

Slumberjack

Jacob Two Two wrote:
The line between men and women, even biologically, is not nearly as clear as we like to pretend, and so the Caitlyn Jenners of the world are a disturbing sight for those who would prefer to cling to the illusion of the boy's camp and the girl's camp and a big lake in between, but it's just not like that. The line is there, but it's not so solid that some people don't slip over it. It's a fact of life.

Curious.  Are you saying that the black people who have spoken out against Dolezal's deception are similar to feminists who have founded their opinions regarding transgendered experiences along traditional male/female fault lines?

A case could be made that the honest thing would have been for Dolezal to have come out as identifying with being black prior to her physical transformation.  On the other hand, would anyone suggest that every trans-gendered individual should make a similar announcement prior to, and in every situation they might subsequently encounter?  It seems to me that Dolezal's case would only apply to a trans-gendered situation if such a person were to pursue a relationship without any intention of ever disclosing some pertinent details to their partner.  In the case of the NAACP job, it was pertinent to the position that certain disclosures should have been rendered up front.

J. Baglow J. Baglow's picture
6079_Smith_W

Slumberjack wrote:

6079_Smith_W wrote:
But if we are going to say that, we'd have to extend it to jazz, blues and rock and roll as well. Pretending to be another race is one thing (and of course it is different for some who feel they have to pass as white). But if race is complicated - and it is - art is even moreso. 

Those influences have had a much longer time to become superimposed across society as popular culture irrespective of race, while Rap was a widely popular, lucrative genre in its own right before anyone else began singing it.

q'bong should be here for this.

I think it is more that white people started adopting that other music so long ago that most people don't remember that rock and roll was black music. They think Led Zepplin and the rest of them wrote all those songs.

They were all popular, if not mainstream, genres. Why do you think white people started playing that music? Because it was great:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrieOEPJCos

And I think most rap and hip-hop artists would disagree about the "wildly popular and lucrative". In fact it has been an uphill battle for airplay and financing and against a reputation of gangster music.

But anyway, it's not the same thing. Speaking of music, I thought Lou Reed buried this compulsion 40 years ago when he wrote "I Wanna Be Black". Evidently not. I know there's all kind of political analysis about this, but I can't imagine that there isn't some sort of mental problem going on here. Unlike the labels that turned black music white for profit, I can't imagine that Dolezal was making tons of money, or wound up being really happy by hiding and threatening people.

 

6079_Smith_W

I have a question, and perhaps a more apt comparision:

Why is this such a big deal while most people aren't even aware of who Ward Churchill is, never mind that he pretended to be Native and was a member of AIM?

Maybe that he isn't quite so photogenic and doesn't have a made for reality TV family? That he didn't do the hair and spray tan? Or that his politics are a bit different? Maybe what generates such interest in this case is that people were fooled and she managed to pull it off.

And this:

https://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/the-media-is-doi...

Quote:

Abuse victims are complicated people. They can and do hurt others. They can and do make awful decisions. But blaming and pointing fingers at them without acknowledging the searing impact of child abuse doesn’t help anyone but their abusers–who want, more than anything, for you to believe that everything is the victim’s fault.

And while I don't 100%  buy the "does it matter", here's an interesting perspective from someone who himself adopted part of another culture:

http://time.com/3921404/rachel-dolezal-naacp-race-kareem-abdul-jabbar/

 

swallow

6079_Smith_W wrote:

I have a question, and perhaps a more apt comparision:

Why is this such a big deal while most people aren't even aware of who Ward Churchill is, never mind that he pretended to be Native and was a member of AIM?

Maybe that he isn't quite so photogenic and doesn't have a made for reality TV family? That he didn't do the hair and spray tan? Or that his politics are a bit different? Maybe what generates such interest in this case is that people were fooled and she managed to pull it off.

I've heard of Ward Churchcill, of course, but had not heard about the argument over his blood quota. I think it's worth being at least a little bit careful of that comparison for a couple of reasons. (1) Status as "Indian" has historically been subject to change, ie. you can be born into one nation and become a fully adopted member of another, regardless of descent factors. In other words, the meaning of "race" or ethnicity is not the same in indigenous and settler cultures. (2) "Indian" status in North America tends to be entangled with the structures of states that have historically defined a group, policed its borders, dictated who can and can't claim status and the rights linked to it, and have a history of genocide against that group. 

Lagatta's invoking of Obama is interesting. Hypothetically, had he remained in Indonesia, he'd have been considered Indonesian. His ethnic identity would be be "black," an identity normally conflated with dark-skinned and often oppressed Melanesian peoples in Papua and the eastern islands of Indonesia. Instead he would have been accepted as part of the mixed urban culture that dominates the national elite (if in Jakarta, he'd have been accepted, probably, as Betawi, the local identity). He would not be able claim to a second, regional identity based on language, as most Indonesians do. In next-door Malaysia, on the other hand, he would have been channeled into one of three accepted categories. Had he converted to Islam, he'd have been defined as part of the Malay "racial" majority. But that would have required him to be an actual Muslim. Malay and Muslim, historically in that country, are interchangeable and people could become Malay by converting to Islam.

All of which is to say that outside European and settler societies, "race" means something quite different than it does in the world's dominant (European and settler) societies. Race is something Europeans invented and worked, very hard, to make "natural" for themselves and everyone else in the world. It sure ain't real, though. 

This does not, of course, excuse Dolezal's deception, which reminds me of Grey Owl's impersonation of a First Nations leader. 

[img]http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/mqrg/images/99403_01-ic.jpg[/img]

Early NAACP leader Walter White

6079_Smith_W

Yes, I know a major problem with legal Native heritage is that much of it has been controlled by non-Native governments. Fact remains though, that despite Ward Churchill's good work, and his supporters and critics, there is no evidence of him having a single Native ancestor. It is a slightly different issue.

Again, Dolezal is not the only person to have done this, nor the only person to be in a position like that. It is interesting that her case has turned into a media storm when others have not. Specifically, how much of this comes down to her being made for TV?

 

 

 

takeitslowly

I would never lie about who my father is, or my past history. I think thats what got people so interested because this woman lied about her having a black son as her biological child and a black father as her biological father. She claimed that a school discrimianted her because she was white in 2002.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Actually, her son's father is black and so is her son. She passed off her adoptive brother, who is also black, as her son at one point.

takeitslowly

This is what I am referring to.

 

Dolezal recently walked away from a TV reporter who confronted her about her race. The reporter from KXLY in Spokane showed Dolezal a photograph of an elderly black man whose picture was on the Spokane NAACP’s Facebook page and asked whether it was her father. “Yes, that’s my dad,” she replied. Then, when asked whether she is African American, Dolezal replied, “I don’t understand the question,” and walked away.

http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-83785597/

Sineed

Jacob Two Two wrote:
The line between men and women, even biologically, is not nearly as clear as we like to pretend, and so the Caitlyn Jenners of the world are a disturbing sight for those who would prefer to cling to the illusion of the boy's camp and the girl's camp and a big lake in between, but it's just not like that. The line is there, but it's not so solid that some people don't slip over it. It's a fact of life.

I think you are conflating sex with gender identity. Sex is immutable and a basic fact of mammalian reproduction. If you are a mammal, it is biologically impossible to change sex. But gender, by all accounts, is more of a feeling, and for radical feminists, it's a damaging heirarchical social construct that serves to oppress women and empower men. The fact that a fetishist who stole his step-daughter's clothes and masturbated while wearing them is now being hailed as heroic points to the pervasiveness of male privilege. Jenner would have been braver if he'd come out as a cross-dresser who challenges gender stereotypes. Men should be able to wear dresses without having to pretend to change their biological sex or proclaim they have a "woman's brain," a massively sexist notion that has been used to oppress women, that feminists have been fighting against for over a hundred years.

Race is also a social construct, and though as the comments on this thread have pointed out, it's on a spectrum, we have to be cognizant of its heirarchical nature, like gender. Just as people conflate gender and sex, they conflate the biological basis for the diversity of human physical appearance and the social consequences of this diversity. There is world-wide systemic oppression of people with darker skin tones. 

Dolezal worked hard at educating herself about African-American history and culture, and could have been a valuable white ally, setting a good example for the rest of us. Instead she chose to appropriate that culture, making false claims of hate crimes and other such lies that only serve to polarize and draw attention to herself rather than improve the state of our culture for people of colour. It's a wasted opportunity.

Misfit

Some people lie about their past intentionally to deliberately deceive others for personal gain. There are also some who suffer from delusions and they believe these accounts even when the evidence concludes otherwise. Is Rachel willfully deceptive or does she have a distorted sense of reality and a belief that people are out to harm her? If the latter is true then perhaps she needs help rather than condemnation.

takeitslowly

I dont dislke her but its hard to be sympathetic when she sued a university for discriminating against for being white in 2002. I wish her well. And i wish we stop comparing her story with Caitly Jenner. I also wish we can discuss how a black person can demand to be treated like a white person when confronted by the police.

Sineed

This:

J. Baglow wrote:
In fact, that underlies my feelings from the start that her actions have amounted to perhaps the most profound expression of white privilege I have ever seen.

Donald Trump running for president (or doing anything, really) might be a challenger for the most white privilege ever. But you make a valid point. To the people who believe it's her choice to identify as she likes, do you think the same privilege can be extended to an African-American? Would an African-American be able to identify as white, and would that person be able to enjoy white privilege on the basis of that self-identification?

lagatta

Lots and lots of racially mixed people have "passed" as white.

6079_Smith_W

Yes, but that is a very different thing, even considering that some see it as betrayal.

A friend of mine, who appears and considers herself white, was surprised a few years ago to learn that in her parent's family, all the sisters remained in Canada as "white" and all the brothers went to the states as "black" and had little contact thereafter. She had no idea of this whole family she had until her mother told her.

 

lagatta

Herb Jeffries, with a lot of Sicilian ancestry also reverse passed. He certainly could look "African", but Tunisian, not Congolese.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHaCKPTIl90

BRF

Really this is just another distraction seeing as how this non event has been blown up by the MSM. Don't look at the over 200 billion the big five got from us after the staged 2008 supposed meltdown, let alone the on going criminal activity by the big five; instead look at this women who identifies as a blkack person but is really white and is head of the AACCP...go figure this is news at such a level and the story I mentioned doesn't even make page 27 alondside ships in port.

swallow

Sineed wrote:
To the people who believe it's her choice to identify as she likes, do you think the same privilege can be extended to an African-American?

What people are you referring to? 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Perhaps in the future, we'll all just be whoever we identify as being.

"I don't identify as an 'adult' -- an arbitrary social construct! -- so please just give me the Children's fare and save yourselves a trip to the HRT!!"

"I identify as a citizen of Gaia, Mother Earth, so how can Canadian tax laws apply to me?"

"Like Dolezal, I don't identify as caucasian, so clearly you're being discriminatory in denying me this scholarship!"

Pondering

I think the issue is more nuanced than simple right or wrong. Generally speaking, yes of course it's wrong to be an imposter, but individuals matter more than academic theories or rigid rules. She married a black man. She raised black children. I think it is believable that she felt culturally black, was living a black life, identified with the black community. She is paying a very heavy price for it.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
She married a black man. She raised black children. I think it is believable that she felt culturally black, was living a black life, identified with the black community. She is paying a very heavy price for it.

She's not paying any price for marrying a black man, raising black children, feeling culturally black, identifying with the black community, nor even "living a black life" -- whatever that one is supposed to mean (??).

Pondering

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
She married a black man. She raised black children. I think it is believable that she felt culturally black, was living a black life, identified with the black community. She is paying a very heavy price for it.

She's not paying any price for marrying a black man, raising black children, feeling culturally black, identifying with the black community, nor even "living a black life" -- whatever that one is supposed to mean (??).

Once she adopted the identity of a black woman she started being treated as one, she was living the life of a black woman. I wasn't clear. I didn't mean that she paid a heavy price for those choices. It was becoming the president or whatever of a local NAACP office, teaching as a black professor, etc. that got her in trouble but she has lost all of that and she is paying a heavy price for her deception. 

I find it interesting that she felt discriminated against as a white person immersed in black culture so passed for black, the opposite of what usually happened, a black person passing for white.

Years ago I dated a black man and I did experience racism because of it. I was shocked but he just shrugged it off. Being married to a black man and raising black children she would have faced the same sorts of experiences I did.

I don't think there is any danger of a run of white people pretending to be black in order to collect on "black privilege" so to me we are talking about one woman who by all accounts did do a good job for black people. I'm not saying what she did was okay, just that I think the outrage is out of proportion to her "sin".

Sineed

swallow wrote:

Sineed wrote:
To the people who believe it's her choice to identify as she likes, do you think the same privilege can be extended to an African-American?

What people are you referring to? 

The "trans racial" people, or anyone who suggests that identity is nothing more than a personal choice or a feeling, and biology doesn't matter.

Slumberjack

For me it's stories like this that makes post-identity politics so intriguing.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Pondering, what Dolezal did can be boiled down to having her cake and eating it, too.  She gets the advantages - access to jobs and educational programs that are meant for people of colour, for one thing.  She gets to be the cool black woman in charge of things and celebrated for her accomplishments - much more so than if she had accomplished them as a white person - and if things go bad, she can always go back to being white. People of colour never or very rarely have that option. And of those people of colour who can "pass", there's a whole hierarchy, traditionally, of lightness and darkness within black culture. So if it's a choice, it's a choice reserved for people who already have at least some level of privilege.

She even manufactured hate crimes against her to boost her cred.

And for pity's sake, racism by association is NOT equivalent to racism experienced by POC! You aren't the one getting pulled over, you aren't getting the reaction when you walk into a store...  That statement in itself co-opts their experience and makes it yours.  This is a manifestation of white privilege.  Please don't do that.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
She married a black man. She raised black children. I think it is believable that she felt culturally black, was living a black life, identified with the black community. She is paying a very heavy price for it.

She's not paying any price for marrying a black man, raising black children, feeling culturally black, identifying with the black community, nor even "living a black life" -- whatever that one is supposed to mean (??).

When I went to my sister's 60'th birthday party her sister-in-laws made jokes during toasts about her being the whitest black person they knew. She herself while clearly moved by the love of her husband's family would never claim to be black. I find this woman's behaviour to be some type of delusional behaviour and far outside the realm of my family's experience, at least in a Canadian family with Caribean roots. Any price Rachel is paying is for the delusional behavour not her role as wife and mother..

jas

Sineed wrote:
The "trans racial" people, or anyone who suggests that identity is nothing more than a personal choice or a feeling, and biology doesn't matter

I thought the whole argument against the notion of transracial or transethnic was that there is no biological basis for racial categories. How does biology matter after all? And why doesn't it matter for transexual identities which also exist in a context of social inequalities?

I'm interested in whether Dolezal's case is really one of body/identity disorder, and whether such can be said to exist in the context of race or ethnicity. Your question earlier above asking whether a black person could validly claim to be white, and therefore expect to be treated as such, helped clarify the social issue of race for me.

However, your comment here highlights what I've been pointing out about transexual politics, where indeed identity is a personal choice or feeling and biology does not factor in at all.

6079_Smith_W

Well it is a bit more complicated, especially when you have someone like Russell Means's absolute defense of  Ward Churchill, or Kareem Abdul Jabbar's more qualified defense in this case.

There is a lot of stuff going on here, from abuse to possible mental issues to privilege, and probably more than anything else - a situation made for a media circus, and the disbelief at people getting fooled.

Personally, I'd resist trying to use it as a foil for any one thing  because it is not one thing.

And that goes double for things that this isn't. Though if one wanted to make it a gender issue, Jezebel giving her points for getting the hair down might be a good place to start (and yes, I thought it was a good piece, but it's probably not where the media would have gone with this had she been a man).

 

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

jas wrote:

I thought the whole argument against the notion of transracial or transethnic was that there is no biological basis for racial categories. How does biology matter after all?

The biological aspect of race is that a black person cannot change the colour of his or her skin, and it is the social discrimination that is applied to that very minor biological difference.  Consequently, the social repercussions of race cannot be escaped because of the arbitrary value we give to the colour of one's skin.

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