Racial Mutability?
By John D. Turner
20 Jun 2015

So Rachael Dolezal self-identifies as African-American. What’s the big problem with that? Apparently, quite a bit. Dolezal, who was elected President of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP nearly six months ago, resigned her post on Monday amid controversy surrounding her ethnicity.

Dolezal, who has a light brown complexion and dark curly hair, has claimed African-American ethnicity for years. She attended historically black Howard University. She teaches African studies at a local university. She married a black man. And on applications, such as the one she filled out which resulted in being appointed chairwoman of the Spokane city police oversight committee, she claimed white, black and American Indian as her ethnic origin.

Interesting; I didn’t know you could check more than one box…

The controversy erupted recently when her parents, both of whom are white, and an adopted brother who is black, “outed” her. According to them, Rachael, who was born and raised in Montana, has no black ancestry, only white “with a trace of Native American.”

The story is extremely convoluted, however the basic thrust seems to be that Rachael self-identifies as being of African-American descent. In an interview on the Today show, she stated “I identify as black.” She also defended publicly identifying a black friend, who is not related to her, as her father. “We connected on a very intimate level as a family,” she said. “Albert Wilkerson is my dad.”

She was also interviewed on MSNBC, where she claimed that being the mother of two black sons (one of which was with her former husband) she has “gone there with the experience.” She claims that her identification with blacks began when she was five years old. At that time, she claimed, “I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, and the black curly hair.” Her dad claims that, in fact, this never happened. According to her parents, it wasn’t until around 2007 that she began identifying herself more with the African-American community.

In addition to birthing Rachael, her parents adopted four black children. One of these, Izaiah, later “emancipated” himself from her parents and went to live with Rachael who became his guardian. According to Rachael, he sees her as his “real” mom, adding that “for that to be something that is plausible, I certainly can’t be seen as white and be Izaiah’s mom.” Not sure why that would be. It seems to work for other white mom’s with biracial kids. One could point to Barack Obama’s mom as an example. Of all the things I have heard about her and his upbringing, nowhere have I heard that she “self-identified as black.”

Another brother, Ezra, has stated that he “didn’t know how to respond the day [about three years ago] his adopted sister took him aside and asked him ‘not to blow her cover’ about having a black father.” He said that while she was always interested in African-American culture, it wasn’t until around 2011 that he started to notice physical changes in her appearance; a gradual darkening of her skin and hair, which he felt was tantamount to living in “blackface,” a charge that Rachael denies. “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun, you know, and I also don’t – as some of the critics have said – put on blackface as a performance,” she stated in the Today interview.

So again, what’s the problem here? If Rachael wants to be black then she’s black, right? Isn’t that the way this works these days? Apparently she is a black female trapped in a white female body. We should sympathize with her, not “blame the victim.” Why all the controversy?

It has been only a week since Caitlyn Jenner made her appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair. The entire country was celebrating his/her “courage,” how good looking she was, and touting his long struggle in coming to terms with his gender. In California now, students can self-identify as male or female. An individual student can be male one day and female the next; it all depends on how they feel at that particular time. This is not only encouraged, but accepted as normal. Why should ethnicity be any different?

Skin color is a genetic trait. But then again, so is the outward manifestation of gender. What may be dangling from the chest or between the legs isn’t really important, according to today’s pravda; what is important, and the ultimate determinate of gender is what one “feels” in the mind. Or at least that is what we are told. And as a result, we have not just two genders, as we did when I grew up, but a bewildering plethora that seems to be increasing without bound.

Facebook lists 56 “gender options”. An article in “The Living Rede” lists 63. Who knew this was so complex? The number seems to be in constant flux and continually revised upward. Why not? If someone comes up with something not on the list, it must be added, right? To not do so would not be “inclusive.”

Race too, has genetic roots, albeit somewhat more complex. But as with the outward manifestations of sexual function, why should that be a limiting factor? Isn’t what one “feels” more important than how one appears? How can one argue for this position when it comes to sexual identity and against it when it comes to racial identity? The arguments are the same.

But, say some, she isn’t “authentically” black. She hasn’t lived the black experience in America. She was raised as a privileged white girl.

True, if one accepts the latest pravda of “white privilege”. But then again, the same can be said of many blacks. Barack Obama, for instance, didn’t grow up living the black experience in America. He grew up in Indonesia, and later in Hawaii (not know as being a hotbed for racial discrimination against blacks, and no history of black slavery), raised by his white mother and his rich white grandmother, his African father having abandoned him early in his childhood.

What about blacks who have recently emigrated from Africa, or other countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, or Brazil? Are they “legitimately” black? What about blacks who grew up here and lived the “black experience,” but for some “unaccountable reason” identify as conservative and/or Republican? Well – we already know they aren’t “authentically” black; take Condoleezza Rice for example. Is she “authentically” black?

No, says Bob Beckel, a Democratic mouthpiece who regularly appears on Fox News. She grew up in a middle-class black family, not in the ghetto. This means that “black children in the inner cities should probably not look to her for inspiration.” So you have to grow up in the ghetto to be “authentically black?” Who knew? In any event, no “authenticity” seal of approval for Condi.

And it’s not just white guy Beckel who labels her inauthentic. Check this article titled “Condoleezza Rice: the Devil’s Handmaiden” to see what some in the black community think of her. Want more? Google is at your fingertips.

The list of “inauthentic” blacks is long; Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, Mia Love, and Ben Carson to name a few. Those on the left are always quick to criticize blacks who don’t “toe the line” and kowtow at the altar of Democratic Progressivism. The term “Uncle Tom” gets thrown around a lot.

So what about Rachael Dolezal? Authentic black? White? White poser? Or something else? Consistency screams that we must accept whatever ethnicity Rachael Dolezal decides she is, regardless of her genetic makeup. That is the lesson we have learned from Caitlyn Jenner. That is the lesson the California school system has rammed down our throats when it comes to gender.

But this is different. Rachael Dolezal is white, and a child of “white privilege.” Does she get to be black just because she wants to be? Yes, says Camille Gear Rich, a black writer who penned an article entitled “Rachel Dolezal has a right to be black” for CNN. In it she argues that the case is parallel to the Caitlyn Jenner case. Not only that, but Dolezal’s efforts on the part of fighting for social justice for blacks, and her decision to “come down” in the world as it were (Rich writes that “The decision to adopt a black female aesthetic for herself is a political act given that Americans in general assume black women are not aesthetically as desirable as white women.”) and live her life as a black woman argue in favor of accepting her as she presents. Yes, she should not have lied, but she lied “for reasons with which we can sympathize,” and that makes it all better.

As far as Rich is concerned, Rachael has atoned for the sin of being white in striving to be black. Others disagree, and say that there is no way a “child of white privilege” can ever “understand” what it means to be black in America, and therefore no way he or she could ever be accepted as being black. Even though blacks that come here from elsewhere are still “black” even though they did not live through the black experience in America; even though President Obama is still “black” even with all the strikes against him.

OK, I just have to ask. What if a white person were raised in a black tribe in Africa (or in some other non-white society), and therefore could not in any logical way be considered a “child of white privilege,” could they then ever be considered black, if they so self-identified? Or is having a white skin just unpardonable evidence of “privilege” encoded at the DNA level?

The previous paragraph aside, assuming that we accept the logical consistency of Rachael’s argument, in line with the Caitlyn Jenner experience, and conclude that she can in fact so self-identify one then has to wonder -- if Rachael is now authentically black, does she then get to benefit from all the programs created for blacks? Do affirmative action programs now apply to her? If reparations for slavery are ever paid, as some advocate, does she now qualify? Is her “blackness” transferrable? If she were to marry a white man, would any children by that marriage now be considered black? Or is she just an “honorary” black. If she were to decide at some future point that she wanted to be a Republican, would she flip to being “inauthentically” black? Or would she revert to being white?

Do we now go back and issue her a new birth certificate? You can already do this for sex changes. So even though you were born either male or female, and, presumably, your quandary over which sex you really were lies in the future, you can now go back and retroactively change what was into what you now wish it were instead.

Genealogists in the future are going to have some real quandaries on their hands that make traditional problems seem trivial by comparison.

And what about her father? She has stated that she feels that Albert Wilkerson is her dad, not her real biological father (whom she now questions as actually being her real biological father). Should we put his name on the new birth certificate instead?

Rachael now claims that she too may be adopted and may in fact actually be black. After all, they did adopt four black kids; might not Rachael be a fifth? Who knows? How can a birth certificate be accepted as proof, when one can go back and change it at will? And it seems, there was no doctor on hand to witness the birth – why she could have just as easily been found on the side of the road.

“I haven’t had a DNA test, “she stated in an interview on NBC Nightly News. “There’s been no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my biological parents.” I guess that once the lies start, the web just keeps getting more and more tangled.

Of course, it is one thing to “self-identify,” even to put on an act akin to cross-dressing. It is quite another to “self-identify” as something you are not on official documents that might lead to preferential treatment. Once upon a time we used to call someone who claimed to be something they weren’t a “liar.” Too bad Elizabeth Warren didn’t think of the “self-identification” angle when she was caught lying about being Native American! This is the big difference between Dolezal and Jenner; Jenner doesn’t “get” anything out of it except for publicity. Dolezal on the other hand, by checking the “African American” box and claiming to be such, benefits from all the affirmative action programs created to benefit blacks. And she doesn’t deserve to do so.

What would happen if all whites (or a significant proportion of them) decided they were “black”? What would happen to “black identity?” Would blacks then be forced to self-identify as white, in order to extract themselves from the morass of whites pretending to be black? Once you are no longer in the minority – do the set asides designed for minorities still apply?

Hey, if Dolezal can do it, why can’t anyone?

I have an even better idea. What if we all decided to “self-identify” as Americans? No hyphens, no “special privileges” for anyone – just Americans? Radical idea, no?

Perhaps we should just call Dolezal what she is – a liar – and not try and soften it up with language like “self-identification,” before this whole thing gets too out of hand and we can no longer trust anything we see, or read in official documents.

This is all too confusing for me. Is there anything immutable anymore?

At the end of the day, Caitlyn Jenner is not really a woman, no matter what he looks like, no matter how much he may wish to be, any more than any female impersonator is truly female.

And Rachael Dolezal is not really black.