The name Rachel Dolezal is all over the news and social media today. She’s the head of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, but she’s now under scrutiny for pretending to be black. Now exposed, news outlets have asked her about her race. Her responses have been cagey, as The Spokesman-Review reports:
“That question is not as easy as it seems,” she said after being contacted at Eastern Washington University, where she’s a part-time professor in the Africana Studies Program. “There’s a lot of complexities … and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.”
Later, in an apparent reference to studies tracing the scientific origins of human life to Africa, Dolezal added: “We’re all from the African continent.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, her father has filled-in some of the gaps:
Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, a Christian couple who adopted four young children — two of whom are black — while Rachel was a teenager, said her decision to misrepresent her racial background, if that’s what she’s doing, may be related to her family and social justice work.
“The adoption of the children definitely fueled her interest as a teenager in being involved with people of color,” Ruthanne Dolezal said. “We’ve always had friends of different ethnicities. It was a natural thing for her.”
Lawrence Dolezal said his daughter was involved in Voice of Calvary, a “racial reconciliation community development project where blacks and whites lived together,” while at Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss.
“You speak and sound and act and take on the mannerisms of the culture you live in,” he said. When Rachel applied to Howard University to study art with a portfolio of “exclusively African American portraiture,” the university “took her for a black woman” and gave her a full scholarship.
“You’ve got a white woman coming in that got a full-ride scholarship to the black Harvard,” Lawrence Dolezal said. “And ever since then she’s been involved in social justice advocacy for African Americans. She assimilated into that culture so strongly that that’s where she transferred her identity.”
He added: “But unfortunately, she is not ethnically by birth African American. She is our daughter by birth. And that’s the way it is.”
There is much still unknown here, and I do not pretend to know the motivation—nefarious, benign, or otherwise—for this woman’s actions. But this much seems apparent. Dolezal was not born black, yet she wishes now to identify with the black community. She is, after all, the head of the NAACP in Spokane. Whatever her reasons for doing so, she has adopted a social identity that conflicts with her biological identity. And everyone agrees that doing such a thing is a farcical and potentially deceptive.
The parallels between her case and that of Bruce Jenner and the transgender issue would appear to be fairly obvious. Transgender persons are people who adopt a social identity at odds with their biological identity. And yet, we are told that Bruce Jenner is to be congratulated while Rachel Dolezal is to be censured. The inconsistency would appear to be obvious, right?
I posted a tweet earlier today pointing this out and soon learned that the inconsistency is not so obvious to many people. Here’s the tweet:
If it’s wrong to question transgender identity, then shouldn’t it be wrong to question someone’s transracial identity? #RachelDolezal
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) June 12, 2015
I was asking a rhetorical question in the tweet. I was proceeding from the premise that everyone can see that Dolezal’s transracial fiction needs to be scrutinized. If that is so, then shouldn’t transgender fictions be scrutinized as well?
The responses to the tweet reveal that not everyone understands the connection between the two situations. But there is nevertheless a connection. Why are we supposed to accept the social identity of transgender persons not that of transracial persons? As Rod Dreher has pointed out, we’ve been told for years now that LGBT status is analogous to race. And yet, when we draw the analogy in this situation, we are told that the transgender issue is totally different from race. Does this make sense to you? It doesn’t to me either. But in the wake of the totalizing and propagandizing sexual revolution, that is the absurdity that we are left with.
Eric Metaxas says it well:
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) June 12, 2015