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The Fallacy of Rachel Dolezal’s “Identify as Black” Explanation

on 17 June, 2015

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I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I, like many of you, have been following the Rachel Dolezal story, albeit from a distance thinking this woman deserves our sympathy as she struggles with some serious personal issues.  But when she came out with her “identify as black” explanation, this has called me to action. We have made great strides with race relations since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time and even my own childhood and the message has always been:

Don’t judge people by the color of their skin, we are all the same on the inside.

For Rachel Dolezal to equate her situation to the challenges faced by the transgender community strikes me as narcissistic in the extreme and incredibly disrespectful to that community. Why make such claims?  To what end? Personal gain? To advance some ideological agenda?

At the same time, I’m equally troubled by her parents “calling her out” on it.  To what end? Personal gain? To advance some ideological agenda?  I’m not sure we will ever know.

Identifying as a different gender has a scientific component–from biology to the physiology of hormones and just about every “ology” in between.  Identifying as a woman when you were born with male parts (and vice versa) means that those “ology” messages got wired differently than the norm.  Not wrongly, just differently.  We can and should accept that the remarkable machine that is the human body can have infinite variables and mutations. Such is the way of science.  The same argument does not work with race, nor should it.

Ms. Dolezal’s explanation for her actions, rather than advancing the African-American cause, takes it two steps back.   At the core, Ms. Dolezal’s message is that race matters, it makes us fundamentally different as human beings. The color of your skin matters.  I believe this is a wrong message.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently said, character is what matters.  The type of person you are, not the color of your skin matters.  For race relations in this country to continue to improve, a strong and consistent message is important.  Ms. Dolezal’s argument only muddies the waters and is divisive rather than unifying.

I should add that although I’m not familiar with her achievements as head of the Spokane NAACP, I applaud her efforts and hope that she continues to support, empathize with, and aid in the continued struggles facing African Americans in this country who are still marginalized because of the color of their skin.

I, for one, will continue to believe, and teach my children, that we are all one race, the human race.

 

 

 

 


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