Rachel Dolezal: Personal identity is only a “problem” when you’re a minority

By  | June 13, 2015 |  Comments | Filed under: Feminism, News Commentary

The NAACP social justice activist who is really a white woman with an awesome perm has riled the interwebz today. We’re of course talking about Rachel Dolezal. I do have some questions of my own. Like, why do we accept the self-indentification of a rich, white conservative who started life as a man and yet we accuse a woman working for minority justice of fraud when she identifies outside her label? Let’s stay on the good fight.

Stop. Don’t even come at me. I am your friend and I really, earnestly, have to talk and ask about why the population segment Rachel Dolezal infiltrated (black women) are supposed to be so up in arms about her “pretending” to be black when the segment of society transwomen segue into are accepting of them as their own? Why is popular opinion so fickle? Why isn’t race fluid like gender? Don’t even put me in the pile with Fox News right now because I’m a feminist democrat who fully supports Caitlyn Jenner. I just want to talk about this!

Let’s assume all who are reading this are a cross section of trans-accepting, non-racists. Ok? There are still real questions to ask.

I have heard people getting really, really angry at Rachel Dolezal because she: lied about her race on an application, thereby took an opportunity from a “real” black woman, lied about who her biological father is, possibly invented hate crimes against herself and pretended the boys she is raising are her real sons. There are many problems here and none of them deserve the internet lynch mob because very few do. Let’s examine these in order:

1. She lied about her race on an application to serve on the citizen police ombudsman commission.

Does this job even pay? Let’s say it does so we can get real, good and mad. Let’s say it pays millions (it doesn’t). Yes, she could have gotten and done that job just as well as if she had checked “caucasian” then why does it matter? She was obviously very committed to the struggles of and justice for black people, so it’s not like she was a secret KKK member posing to get in there and then flip some tables against blacks. Her aim was to serve the community and by all appearances, she did it well. However, the crux of the problem seems to be . . .

2. She took an opportunity from a real black woman. This is problematic. I am not a black woman, so I can’t say how I would feel if I were, but I am a woman. I’m a woman who has accepted and supports transwomen who look up to Caitlyn Jenner. Did I have questions about that at first? To be honest to the core, yes. My first experience with a person who was probably a cross dresser and not really a trans person was at a club in college. She presented as female, so I didn’t think about being on my guard, but she started acting like a man and asked to squeeze my breasts. That is not okay. It was like she thought ladies actually did that. Maybe it was misinformation on her part, but it colored my experience and made me think of masculine people in dresses as men. I’m sure that person didn’t represent all or many even any trans people, but that was my experience. That happened to me. If you feel like raising a pitchfork, maybe listen to the next part.

A few years ago I made aquaintance with a transgender woman writing for ChicagoNow and privately, she was kind enough to hash through my stupid questions and hesitations and now I get it. Gender identity is detached from anatomy and sexuality. That person who did that to me was probably just a cross dresser and not truly a transwoman. Or maybe she was and she was attracted to women. Maybe she was just rude. Maybe it was a guy in a wig out to shred women’s guards so he could get better access to their bodies and had nothing to do with actual transwomen. Who knows! It was 2001. The point is I have come to understand that gender identity is real and transwomen are to be treated as women. (Anyone who pretends they had this awesome understanding of transgender politics prior to 2012 can have a seat. I’m just being honest.)

Problematic: If a transwoman, especially a recently transitioned transwoman, who had not had the experiences and struggles of growing up female in a man’s world were to take an opportunity or honor from a “real” woman – what then? What if a transwoman who transitioned at age 32 was named “mother of the year” or “top earning female CEO”? It smarts. Like, of course someone born a man is going to come along dominate yet another thing for women. Besides, doesn’t that happen all the time when transwomen compete in female athletic categories? I don’t hear popular consensus bemoaning that space not filled by an “actual” woman. I don’t bemoan it either, which is why I’m having trouble with Rachel Dolezal.

Maybe this boils down to who is doing the “appropriating”? A person born and who lived male, especially a white, Christian, conservative in the case of now transwoman Caitlin Jenner can be whoever they want and we all accept it. Yet when it’s a woman, especially a politically active, socially progressive woman representing a minority who steps into the identity she feels most closely represents her true person, we have nothing but ridicule.

What is the difference?

3. She lied about who her biological father is. To this I say, BFD and none of your business. Sure, it was probably overkill and silly for her to imply that a different man, a black man, was her biological father but “father” can actually mean many things. So can “mother”. Shoot, I mothered about ten people today as I churned out sandwiches for the crew putting in my floors. If any one of them asked me to speak at their school on a topic I knew a little something about, I’d pose for a pic too. The point is it’s not really our business who peoples’ family are unless it affects our money, our rights, or our own family. So get out of here with this nitpicking about who in Rachel Dolezal’s life gets a card on June 21. Her real father seems to be the ass wipe going on a media tour right now to shred his own kid. Cool guy.

4. She possibly invented hate crimes against herself. Wrong! This is so wrong! She should not have done that. It’s a crime to fake crimes and rude and irresponsible, not to mention detracting from real crimes when you fake crimes against yourself. If she indeed faked the hate crimes. If a transgender woman told me a guy grabbed her ass in an elevator and her boss patted her on the head and told her to marry rich instead of going for that promotion, I’d believe her. If she said no one listened to her in a meeting and clients ogled her breasts, I’d believe her. If she told me she made 77 cents on the dollar compared to a man, I’d believe her. You know why? Because that stuff happens. Just because Rachel Dolezal was never a caramel brown baby doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced hate and discrimination in the years she has been perceived as black. Let’s leave this case to those who are investigating it.

5. She pretended the boys she is raising are her real sons. Now, forgive me if I don’t have this exactly right, as it’s been a long day and I’ve read a lot of articles, but I believe the situation is her adopted (black) little brother/s are or were living with her and being raised in her house, along with her actual biological (black) son whom she had with her (black) ex-husband. Hm, why might a woman raising multiple children refer to them all as her kids? Let’s all hop in the Mystery Machine and noodle on this. It’s not like she needed more black kids to justify her race. She has one biological black son who came out of her body one way or another. Being a mother isn’t blackjack. You don’t need 21. You only need one child to qualify you for your role and she had that with her biological son. She told people the other one was her son because she cared for him in her house and obviously she has a fluid concept of family (see: random dad example above).

It seems to me this whole debacle can be reduced to the concept that we as progressives and feminists eat our own kind and THAT is why we fail.


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