I’ve been watching the scandal about Rachel Dolezal, the (now former) head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane WA, who seems to be having a family feud in public. Dolezal has listed her race as black in various places, but her parents decided it was a good idea to publicly announce that she is not black (even slightly).
Many people seem to be upset that she is claiming to be something she isn’t, in order to gain personal advantage. Think about that for a minute. People are upset because she claims to to be black in order to gain personal advantage. You have to be fucking kidding me.
The NAACP doesn’t care if she is black or not. It is not part of her job requirements to be black (nor should it be). She did not benefit from any affirmative action programs. What benefit did she get?
You could question her honesty, but what is she lying about? Scientifically, there is no such thing as race. Even the UN says that the social construct of race is a myth. People have different color skin, and their features are different. Why do we have to place them in artificial categories? Would people be as upset if someone claimed to be blond on their driver’s license, but it turned out that they dyed their hair? Dolezal was raised alongside four adopted black siblings. Later, she married a black man. Somewhere along the way she somehow started identifying as black. If race is a myth, who says she can’t do that, as long as she didn’t do it for nefarious purposes?
I resisted posting about this, until now. What elevated this to the level of irony was an absolutely brilliant editorial by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar titled “Let Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be“. Here’s a few quotes from the article, but you really should read the whole thing. It is hilarious and I’ve left out the funniest parts.
I sympathize with the dilemma of Rachel Dolezal, the head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP whose parents maintain that she is not any part black, as she has claimed (#whiteisthenewblack). See, I too have been living a lie. For the past 50 years I’ve been keeping up this public charade, pretending to be something I’m not. Finally, in the wake of so many recent personal revelations by prominent people, I’ve decided to come out with the truth.
I am not tall (#shortstuff).
Although I’ve been claiming to be 7’2” for many decades, the truth is that I’m 5’8”. And that’s when I first get out of bed in the morning. Just goes to show, you tell a lie often enough and people believe you. I expect there will be some who will demand I give back the championship rings and titles that I accumulated during my college and professional basketball career because I was only able to win them by convincing other players that they had no chance against my superior height. How could these achievements have any lasting meaning if I’m not really as tall as Wikipedia says I am?
Despite all this, you can’t deny that Dolezal has proven herself a fierce and unrelenting champion for African-Americans politically and culturally. Perhaps some of this sensitivity comes from her adoptive black siblings. Whatever the reason, she has been fighting the fight for several years and seemingly doing a first-rate job. Not only has she led her local chapter of the NAACP, she teaches classes related to African-American culture at Eastern Washington University and is chairwoman of a police oversight committee monitoring fairness in police activities. Bottom line: The black community is better off because of her efforts.
At no time in history has the challenge of personal identity seemed more relevant. Olympic champion Bruce Jenner struggled for years with her gender identity and only at the age of 65, as Caitlyn Jenner, seems to have come to some peace with it.
Al Jolson, once considered the most popular entertainer in the world, rose to fame wearing blackface. He also used his considerable influence to help blacks. At one time, he was the only white man allowed into some of the nightclubs in Harlem. Ironically, Jolson admitted that when he performed the same songs without blackface he never felt he did as good a job. Some critics say it’s because while singing in blackface, he was singing for all downtrodden people, including his own Jewish people.