I feel pretty
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and gay
And I pity
Any girl who isn't me today
The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew,
that could turn himself into a Negro and an Indian,
saw him as a triple threat
He married me up at the First Church of Harlem.
He told me he was the brother of Duke Ellington.
~I'm colored, Mr. Townsend. I'm a Negro.
~Gerber, what the hell have you been doing -
sitting under a sunlamp?
--Watermelon Man (1970)
Who in this world is what they seem to be?
--The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
So Rachel Dolezal, a white woman, wants to be black -- our latest tempest in a teacup. How is this relevant to RangerAgainstWar? Just wait.
First, the obvious: another example of not telling the whole truth. Some are bemused by Dolezal's fabulation ("girl got the hair"); others, outraged at the dissimulation.
But why does it make print that a white woman chose to present as black? If former Olympian Bruce Jenner wants to now be "Caitlyn" because he identifies that way, we are meanies if we do not accept her as a woman. But we mayn't cross the color bar (white-to-black). Why is that?
The first subtext is, who could imagine a desire to be black? Whereas blacks have been "passing" for generations in order to be better situated socially, it seems untenable to them that a "privileged" white woman (all white people are privileged, right?) would want to turn the other way. (This is not to defend Dolezal, per se, who seems like a troubled individual created by a chaotic family.)
New York Times Op-Ed writer Charles Blow wrote a tortuous column opposing Ms. Dolezal because hers was "a form of one-directional privilege that simply isn’t available to a black person." This is illogical EOE thinking, in extremis. Blow even admits "[race] is a societal construct" while trying to deny this participation to Dolezal. He accuses her of linguistic somersaults, yet his piece is full of them.
A female New York Times Op-Ed writer presented a similar non-sequitur argument against Dolezal that historically one has been labeled "black" if only 1/64th black. She seemed angry that this "one drop" rule was imposed upon the black race, but she did not address why she found it unacceptable for a zero-dropped individual to choose for negritude.
--Zelig (Woody Allen) turning black at Jazz club
White women may co-opt pieces of blackness, like Bo Derek's cornrows, but they may not fake being black, unlike blacks who may fake being white.
The second subtext is that there are only so many good EOE-type positions available to blacks, and perhaps only a limited pool of qualified applicants for them. Therefore, Dolezal the white woman is cheating a black out of his or her rightful EOE slot. It is a not-so-subtle denigration of blacks by blacks that a white person could do black better than a "real" black person.
As a black woman of power and position, Dolezal would also have entree to a rarefied pool of desirable black males for possible relationship, another thing which many black women are protective of. With one in five black males incarcerated at any given time and a matriarchal culture, relationship-worthy high level black males are at a premium, and Dolezal through her dissimulation would have access to the pick of the litter. Especially in a black culture which favors light-skinned blacks.
Dolezal's "tan and black" costume rendered all of the prizes of the Equal Opportunity system at her fingertips.
There is also the unfortunate overlay of minstrelsy, which threatened Dolezal's project as a possible grand mime. She could simply be some striving academic trying to make a name for herself in a future study by going undercover for years, unlike John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me) who could only carry on his charade for a limited time.
But by all accounts, Dolezal has been a genuine and effective advocate for black rights, and her job as President of the Seattle NAACP was not race-dependent. Dolezal's earlier claim against Howard University for reverse racism against her then-identification as a white woman opens up space for a sincere dialog, as did Edward Bakke's reverse discrimination lawsuit in 1977.
Humans tribe up, and it is that exclusionary and insular impulse which we must fight if we are to become an inclusionary world, a world in which we are all part of the human race. While the media is forcing various agendas in the name of removing exclusions -- such as affording the rights of marriage to gay couples and the inclusion of various gendered individual in the Armed forces -- it is interesting that the racial line is being so vigorously protected.
If a person may go through religious conversions, naturalization ceremonies and gender reassignment, why is one not allowed to choose the race with which one will affiliate?
Probably, it has mostly to do with a scarcity mentality and economics. As in the film Soul Man (1986) where a white student claims for being black in order to gain college entree and tuition subsidies, blacks do not want to share this EOE windfall. It is similar to the Veterans Administration ratings system for medical treatment. Those prioritized in the upper echelons are just grateful that they are not at the bottom of the heap, and do not often fight for an equality in the treatment system for those lower down.
This is what preferential treatment hath wrought -- a mean and petty protectiveness of the succored individual's standing. Divide and conquer.
Whenever a system can get its members to participate in competitive and exclusionary behavior, there will not be the peace of a fully-functioning system.
The tie-in to RAW?:
This attitude of exclusive ownership without an honest discussion of what being black means is why racism persists in the U.S., for surely the black censure of Dolezal is racism, and racism is a form of war.
In the Middle East we see this harsh affiliation/disaffiliation playing out daily in a deadly game. If the warring members could rise above and see they are all one, with an agenda of a better life for them and their families, there would be a new day.
If divisions like race were not so contested and protected, perhaps the racial crimes we continue to witness would disappear. The guarding of race by the black community via harsh criticism of others reveals an exclusivity guaranteeing their isolation and resentment.
Unfortunately, the human animal cleaves from just as strongly as it cleaves to
NEXT: A wrap up on our general blindsightedness.