After recently being outed by her own parents as being white, the director of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal has sparked a new discussion race and cultural self-identity.
Dolezal, who reportedly passed herself off as African-American for the last ten years, has become the subject of harsh criticism for proverbially “doing blackface” and racially misleading the African-American community about her face. With social media weighing in so harshly on Dolezal, her situation about racial-swapping her own identity draws parallels to the recent transitioning of Caitlyn Jenner.
No, this is not an attempt to cash in on the current “Caitlyn Jenner” craze, but simply to draw comparison to the recent social backlash she received about transitioning from a man to a woman. A former blogging colleague of mine recently pointed out that those who applauded Caitlyn for living her life as she saw fit are also applauding Rachel for doing the same.
Purely out of curiosity, he felt that a lot of double standards were at play in terms of how both individuals were perceived in society. To try and answer this from a black—and heterosexual—perspective, I will say that comparing and contrasting the two are both different, yet similar in the same token of discovering their own self-identity.
The dichotomy of the Jenner/Dolezal argument that can be made is that one swapped their gender, while another swapped their racial identity, while both similar in that case, both have equally been the victims of social backlash, due to both of their actions being seen as unacceptable and taboo.
The mere thought of a man such as the former Bruce Jenner transitioning to a woman attacks and offends the very essence of what it is to be a man, which is why this writer feels that many have vilified Caitlyn so harshly. In the case of Dolezal, it is even more delicate and sensitive considering the current racial tensions in the present day due to police violence and the past Jim Crow-era “blackface” comedy derived from slavery.
Today, one would think with all the inter-racial unions among blacks and whites, the increase in white women getting cornrows, listening to hip-hop and getting lip and butt surgeries, one would think that someone such as Dolezal would not be attacked so harshly from a community that she apparently chooses to identify with.
Unfortunately, as this is something that I can attest to, there is a lot of intra-racism within the black community. Within the black community, there is the logic of the blacker you are, the more “black” that you are, despite my own dark skin and feature, I was often the subject of ridicule because I choose to get good grades in school, get educated and want to learn more about the world outside.
What is sad is that line of thinking is the accepted norm in Black America, and despite the successes of Barack Obama, Mariah Carey and Halle Berry, they will never be seen as “truly black” due to their white blood. Being the father of a bi-racial daughter, I fear for the nasty side glances and snarky comments that will come her way when she becomes an adult, all I can do is pray that we will be amore accepting and tolerant society by then.
I feel that those attacking Dolezhal are using that same logic of her, “not being black” enough, the same way that Caitlyn isn’t “a real woman”, yet both of them made their own choices based on what they chose to self-identify as.
Despite all the various technological, cultural and social changes, it is truly sad that those who choose not to accept or embrace something such as self-identity will never learn the difference.
Ignorance truly is bliss.