DISCUSS. · June 2015 · Newspapers · THE WORLD *head in hands*

Rachel Dolezal/I Have No Idea What My Opinion Is

I don’t know what prompts it, but I seem to have the blogging heebie jeebies either very early in the working day or in the evening. I’ve no idea why – maybe because when I was at school I wrote everything when I got home unless there was an emergency post that had to be finished before school? (By heebie jeebies I mean ‘desire to blog’, not the creeps. Not sure what else to call it.)

Anyway, today’s topic: Rachel Dolezal. I had never heard of her until about two days ago; she was president of the NAACP, the black civil rights organisation in the US, until she resigned over a row about race. She didn’t suddenly announce her affiliation with the KKK; the issue is whether or not she’s black. Her parents say she’s white (they are white and have adopted children and extended family who are black), but she says that she identifies as black. Some people who are unquestionably black have said ‘excuse me, that’s a bit rude, please don’t pretend you’re one of us because you think we’re a cool club have you seen how we can be treated?’.

I’m white and I don’t have enough direct experience of the black American civil rights movement to get on a soapbox about the politics, except to say that racism is gross and will require all people from all races to realise it’s gross before it goes away. In terms of Ms Dolezal, my initial feeling was that if she says she’s black the response should be ‘okay, whatever’. Like if a queer person insists they’re straight, it’s not anyone’s place to drag them out of the closet – and if someone says they identify as non-binary, even if you think they’re off their rocker because you’re a bit ignorant the polite thing to do is say ‘okay, whatever’. If it’s a phase, it’ll pass – like how a lot of people in senior school announced they were bisexual for, like, a week in year 10. If they still are now then yay for them – if it was just something they were trying or wanted to be part of then that’s their business.

By the same token, if somebody insists that they’re of a race different from what they were assigned at birth, so to speak, is it not polite to say ‘sure whatever’? Like that one straight friend who wants to go to a gay bar for a ‘gay experience’? They’ll leave eventually, either when they realise no one’s interested in fulfilling a bucket list or when somebody really is and your friend has a mild epiphany that they’re straight. I don’t know – nobody I’ve ever come across has decided they identify as Caucasian… can’t think why.

I get the impression that the wider issue is more concerned that she once actually sued a college for discrimination because she was white, before becoming president of a prominent black civil rights organisation? Like did she just decide one day that she was over being white? I think I would be pissed if a LGBT person became the first out prime minister then said ‘actually yeah I’m straight/cisgender’. Does that detract from the significance of their work? On top of that, I kind of feel like underneath all the race appropriation arguments, Ms Dolezal is looking for some sort of acceptance from a social group?

I have no idea. And I did a lot of stuff between drafting this and finishing it so I’m not sure if I had an opinion earlier and have since forgotten it, or if it’s just a really complex topic that requires a lot of thought and may never have a solid conclusion (it’s now nearly five; I started this at 8am. Told you.) Thoughts?


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