To put things in perspective, let’s start with some of the most disingenuous replies among the many offered by Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who’s getting a pass in some quarters for weaving her way into black culture.
Asked by Matt Lauer if she’d done something to darken her complexion, she said, “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun, you know.”
I don’t, either. But the sun lacks the magical rays to transform Caucasians into African-Americans.
Asked about previous claims that a black man named Albert Wilkerson is her dad, Dolezal said they “connected” as family in Idaho. “Albert Wilkerson is my dad,” she maintained.
No, he’s not. You can’t feel a bond with an older man and presto-chango make him your father. It doesn’t work that way.
Finally, asked by a reporter in Spokane if she was African-American, she replied, “I don’t ... I don’t understand the question ...”
I don’t understand the answers. Nor do I understand why, while reaction to Dolezal’s deception has been mixed, some in the black community are defending her despite her many lies. Turns out she wasn’t born in a tepee, she didn’t live in South Africa and her father never took “the midnight train” to escape a racist cop.
She likely fabricated tales of victimization and I’m betting she never drew self-portraits in brown crayon when she was 5. Nonetheless, defenders say race is simply a social construct and Dolezal has championed the cause of African-Americans.
“If she wants to be black, she can be black,” said Whoopi Goldberg, who can often be counted on to say stupid things. NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar agreed, saying the black community is better off because of her efforts, while a law professor at University of Southern California claimed in a CNN op-ed that “we have entered into an era of elective race - a time when people expect that one has a right and dignity to claim the identity of one’s choice.”
Echoing many others, professor Camille Gear Rich also wondered why we “celebrate” Caitlan Jenner’s gender change while we “frown upon” Dolezal’s racial change, and I knew it was a matter of time before Dolezal was used to belittle and discredit the transgender movement by forming false equivalents.
Granted, these issues are complex and I’m no expert. But it’s my understanding that transgender people transition because of medical necessity. Psychologists have long acknowledged that some people’s gender doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth, and there are more than 700,000 transgender people in the United States. Let’s hope there’s only one Rachel Dolezal. Transgender people are true to their identity, while Dolezal has lied repeatedly about hers. The differences may not be obvious, but they’re real, and they’re important.
Some people are legitimately trying to figure this stuff out, while others seek only to demean transgender people by using Dolezal as an example that we can now “self identify” and be whatever we want. Hey, if I say I’m a goat, I’m a goat. If I identify as an Aztec priestess, I’m an Aztec priestess. Dolezal has done no one any favors here. If she truly identified with the black community, if she felt a deep affinity for the culture, she could have taken the same path as a leader without inventing such spectacular lies. No matter how badly she wants to be black, she isn’t. Both of her parents are white. Race isn’t malleable.
Dolezal has shown herself to be intelligent and composed on television, but she has yet to apologize. Instead, she seems to consider herself a victim. In an interview Tuesday night on MSNBC, she said she’s felt “attacked” and “blindsided” by the attention given to her deception. On claiming she was born in a tepee and lived in South Africa, she said:
“Some of it has kind of a little bit of creative nonfiction with regards to what happened in sequence of events and dates and so forth.”
Rachel Dolezal has done more than tell little white lies - she’s told big black ones. Rather than feel shame, she continues to justify her outrageous racial masquerade. I’m puzzled that anyone, especially members of the African-American community, can defend her or her self-serving rhetoric.