I have to admit, watching liberals divide into two mutually-exclusive camps over the Rachel Dolezal "transracial" nonsense is kinda fun. Samantha Allen of the Daily Beast comes down squarely on the side that attacks Dolezal's actions as inexcusable, in no small part because it may be "damaging" the push for cultural normalization of transgenderism.
As Allen explains in "Dolezal's Damaging 'Transracial' Game" (emphasis mine):
“I identify as black.”
With those four words, uttered during an uncomfortable Today Show interview with Matt Lauer, recently-resigned NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal may have singlehandedly set perceptions of transgender people back at least as many years.
In the past few days, some conservatives have latched onto Dolezal’s bizarre tale of “transracial” masquerading as a way to discredit Caitlyn Jenner and other transgender people, prompting a flood of response pieces pointing out the scientific spuriousness of the comparison.
But with her Today appearance, Dolezal seems determined to appropriate not just blackness but the rhetoric of transgender identity as well. Even more troubling: she’s getting away with it. Despite an avalanche of evidence to the contrary, some liberal commentators are beginning to repeat Dolezal’s use of transgender rhetoric.
When asked by Lauer point blank whether or not she is “an African-American woman,” Dolezal simply responded, “I identify as black.”
The language of identity is often used in the transgender community to describe a disconnect between the gender someone was assigned at birth and the gender with which one identifies. Most transgender men, for example, were listed as “female” on a birth certificate but identify as men and, accordingly, take a range of social and medical steps to correct that initial assignment.
By expressing her racial identity in this now-familiar “I identify as…” format, Dolezal is drawing a direct parallel between her own fraudulent behavior and transgender identity in a post-Jenner moment when the public was beginning to accept the latter’s psychological legitimacy.
But wait, not so fast. Also at the Daily Beast, Barrett Holmes Pitner fails to see what the big whoop is, well, aside from the issue of Dolezal's mendacity in misleading people about not being black-from-birth, as it were. As he sees it: "If Rachel Dolezal Says She’s Black, She’s Black. Sort Of" (emphasis mine):
Dolezal’s children claim that she is culturally black, but acknowledge that genetically she is not. Dolezal is 37 years old and has lived as a black person for only a decade, so naturally I will question if she has the firsthand experience to claim a “blackness” equal to mine. Yet who am I to decide how much time anyone needs, or what experiences they must have, to personally identify with black culture? This is a question that has never presented itself, so having an answer in less than a week seems like asking a bit much of me.
As I continue to think about Dolezal, I consistently think about the inadequacy of the arbitrary racial divisions that this nation created hundreds of years ago. Black identity and culture have always been interwoven and inseparable, and the only requirement for being able to claim both was the presence of any noticeable or discoverable amount of African ancestry.
The oppressive intent of the one-drop rule may be gone today, but we still determine our identity by it. I am strangely uncomfortable using the same rule now to completely deny access to a person with “no drop” of black lineage. To me, being black is both an apparent genetic history, but also a socio-cultural one built around experiences and values borne of struggle.
Without knowing where we go from here, I still wonder whether it’s time to create a space where someone can properly adopt some part of black cultural identity without being subjected to a genetic “authenticity” test. Maybe we should begin examining the possibility of a “no drop” rule where people without any African ancestry can work towards culturally becoming black?
Honestly, who knows what the next step will be in this saga, but no matter what, this is a remarkable opportunity to reexamine the racial constructs that divide us and chart a path that could be more educational and welcoming.
Substitute "racial" with gender and you have there, essentially, the logic of accepting a transgendered woman like Caitlyn Jenner to be, in fact, "culturally" a woman -- although biologically and genetically Jenner was born a male and thus ever shall remain.
[Hey, here's a crazy idea: let's drop the notion of "race" altogether since it's a sad artifact of the social Darwinist movement that has no scientific ground. There's only one race that we all share, and its the human one.]
Of course, it is the Left and its self-appointed tolerance police who have sown to the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind here as incidents like the Dolezal affair highlight the obvious logical inconsistencies that bedevil the Left's identity-politics coalition (minorities, pro-choice women, and LGBT).