Rachel Dolezal is back in the news after having changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. If you haven’t heard of her, she is the Caucasian woman who was the head of an NAACP chapter before being ‘outed’ as white. This latest news is getting coverage for being similarly controversial. Some are seeing it as more cultural appropriation.
I do try to think about issues, and give them a fair amount of scrutiny before passing judgment, and so this post is somewhat me thinking out loud (or in print) and hoping to get some answers or spark a conversation with my audience. As you read this, please take into consideration that I’m trying to understand things better, and I do not want my questions to be taken as beliefs. I welcome, and actually hope anyone with an opinion (and if I happen to get anyone with an expert opinion who happens to this page PLEASE share your thoughts.)
So here is where my brain is getting hung up. Dolezal—from everything I have read— does not appear to have been using her identity as a ‘black woman’ to gain any kind of advantage, nor to mock the African American community and their history. It appears as if she was trying to help advance their community. Dolezal has black children, and a black ex-husband, and apparently felt she fit in better with the black community.
Is racial identity similar to gender identity in the fact that it doesn’t always match up with physiology?
I know this sounds ridiculous, but is that because Dolezal is the first case, or because it is genuinely ridiculous? Most people will agree that to a large extent the confines of gender identity as well as race identity are social constructs. If that is in fact the case is it possible that there is some basis in the idea of ‘Trans-race?’
I posed this question to one of my friends who is black, and he said that he found her to be offensive, because there is no way in which she can understand the struggle that many blacks had to go through. I think this is a fair point, and I think that Dolezal can avoid many of the current racial tensions that black people have to deal with regularly if she ‘straightens her hair’ and doesn’t tries to appear white.
On the contrary side, where there not women who felt that trans-women could not understand the misogyny inherent in our society, and yet after many years we (most of us anyway) came to realize that gender is a spectrum, and a trans-woman does not choose to be a woman, but is in their brain, and their heart, and their soul a woman. They can feel like an alien in their own skin to make their life otherwise easier if they were born white with male genitalia, or they can be true to themselves which at this point in time is a harder life.
If Dolezal feels like she is black, in her brain, her heart, and her soul, is not possible that she is? Her life would have been undoubtedly easier to remain a white woman if she felt she could live with that, especially now that she faces this scrutiny.
As I said above, I really want to talk about this, I hope that I’m not offending anyone by proposing this idea, but I’m trying to understand this, and I think that discussion (and people with opinions that are much more based on experience than myself ) will help me to better understand this.