From here, it looks to me like Rachel Dolezal, the white Washington woman who calls herself black, has some problems. She seems to have been making up falsehoods about herself and her life for years, and passing them off as the truth.
The need to present herself through a series of falsehoods may well come from genuine and powerful urges. Reportedly, she is the adoptive sister of black siblings, added to the family by her white parents, and that probably has something to do with why she wants to be seen as black. I’ve read and heard variously today that she claims to have suffered abuse as a child – some of it involving a “baboon whip” acquired by her parents in South Africa (who never went to South Africa until after she was grown up and married) – and that she has filed police complaints about racist “hate crimes” committed against her, and told people that an unrelated black man was her father.
Apparently, she has also claimed that one of her adopted (black) siblings is actually her son. According to the Washington Post (link above), she gained custody of him after her allegations of abuse in the family. Her career of living under false pretenses has reportedly caused most of her family to no longer speak to her.
I feel sorry for Dolezal. I wouldn’t wish on anyone what seems to be going on inside her head. But it’s been interesting to observe the reaction to her by modern American society.
One point of interest is that the city of Spokane is “investigating” whether she lied about her race on an application to the Office of the Police Ombudsman Commission, on which she holds a position. Think about that. Why should it matter? Why is that question even on the application?
We know why, of course; it’s because of the artificial reasoning of American government about “diversity” on things like ombudsman commissions. But, again, think. In what situation would the solely theoretical “diversity” represented by Ms. Dolezal be of use? They knew when they selected her that they weren’t getting a woman who looked “black.” What they wanted was “black on paper.” That’s the standard an institution really has to use, anyway. The paper trail has to stand up in court.
And since that’s the case, and that’s what would matter if the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division attacked the city in court, what’s really wrong with presenting yourself as “black on paper”? Especially if you have a strong sense of identification with black people, as Rachel Dolezal seems to.
Some of the commentary flying about today has reflected just that sort of reasoning. Why can’t someone identify as transracial? Just because other people don’t like it? That’s not a good reason. People do a lot of things other people don’t like, and yet here we all are. What business is it of yours or mine, really, if Rachel Dolezal wants to self-identify as black? By what right do we even question her reasons for it? If she’s doing it cynically, for personal gain, does that really matter?
Well, Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon is having none of it. She doesn’t actually make an argument, however. She just says no:
As a commenter on the Spokesman Review asked, “What’s wrong with identifying as a different race? Obviously she’s probably felt for years that she was black on the inside and denied it all through her childhood. I mean look at her education and profession. She’s obviously ‘transitioned’ and able to share it with the world. I would think since she’s transitioned and identifies herself as black, than we should just let her be and live her life in peace.” Let me help out here. No.
But we can still use Williams’s post for our inquiry. She does sidestep the thorny debate over buying into people’s “trans” urges. Tellingly, however, her beef with Dolezal is that Dolezal’s been engaging in deception.
So this isn’t about being an ally, or making the family of your choosing, or even how one feels on the inside. It’s about, apparently, flat out deception. It’s about how one person chose to obtain a college education and jobs and credibility in her community. It about allegedly pretending to speak from a racial experience you simply don’t have. You want to live your truth, that’s not how you go about it.
And that’s fair enough, as far as it goes. But it’s actually a thin and fading red line on the landscape of morality – because the Bruce/“Caitlyn” Jenner case shows us what Dolezal should have done instead.
If Rachel Dolezal had shifted her methods and timeline, she could probably be triumphing on magazine covers today. What she should have done, instead of hiding her “transition,” was complete it in public. She should have submitted herself to the approved process of victimhood ideology, starting out first as the white woman she obviously is, but proclaiming herself to be isolated, rejected, and misunderstood by an intolerant society in which her true identity as a black woman seems to have no place.
If Dolezal had simply changed methods, she could have engaged in as much deception as she wanted. She could still be lying every step of the way – or, who knows, she could be telling the truth as it exists in her mind – but if she admitted the public to a morality play about “authenticity” and her racial identification, she would have been constructing a great falsehood in the approved manner.
If she’d done that, the pundits who believe in moveable “identities” would have had to seriously address whether one can really be transracial, rather than conveniently dismissing Dolezal because she’s been lying.
After all – to follow Williams’s reasoning – it’s not as if Bruce Jenner, who calls himself a woman, has “spoken from” any experience as a woman. Being a women isn’t about imagining yourself experiencing life as a woman, any more than being black is about imagining yourself experiencing life as a black person. Neither perception, no matter how intense or urgent, is “authentic” as opposed to “inauthentic.”
Perhaps the next transracial figure will have the sense to go “trans” by the approved process. Until then, the debate will remain shallow and misdirected.