Rachel Dolezal: Born White, Self-identifies as Black
In the article posted June 17th 2015 on CBC news, titled “Why can’t Rachel Dolezal be as Black as she wants to be?” the author, Neil MacDonald tells the story of Rachel Dolezal’s struggle with reinventing her self-identity. This women was born a Caucasian, but wants to be “transracial” and become black, explaining that she “self-identified with the black experience.” She proceeded to darken her skin and dye her hair to look like a mixed-raced person. The author goes on to compare Rachel’s situation to Caitlyn Jenner being transgender and identifying as a women, although being born a man. Jenner’s transformation was accepted overall by society and American liberals, contrarily to Rachel, who has received such little approval. The author states that if Rachel is trying to appropriate the victimhood of blacks, as society says, how is Caitlyn not attempting to appropriate women’s oppression? Neil MacDonald concludes by saying he respects the work Rachel has accomplished, but believes that, after all, classifying and distinguishing races is useless.
First of all, a weakness that I have noticed in this article is that they use the term “race” as being a real thing. However, as we have learned in the “Myth of Race and the Reality of Racism” class, race is socially constructed, and still used in society, although it has been proven false in anthropology. The author uses the terms transracial, mixed-race look, and transitioning to another race, which is, in my opinion, a weakness in his article, because they are false words. A fact that was stated in the article with which I disagree is when Rachel says: "I was socially conditioned to be limited to whatever biological identity was thrust upon me and narrated to me." However, as mentioned in class, racial classification is not a good way to describe biological differences, meaning that she shouldn’t have been limited in a “racial sense” by her biological traits. Also, a strength that I noticed in Macdonald’s article, is his comparison of Rachel’s situation to Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner was born a man, but self-identified as a woman and decided to make changes to have the appearance of one. Rachel was born white, but self-identified as black, and decided to make changes to have the appearance of one. Both situations are the same: about how a person feels and self-identifies as someone other than who they were born as. However, Caitlyn is accepted, while Rachel is not. I agree with the author in saying that Rachel’s change does no harm and is the same as being transgender. In class, we faced this situation when the teacher asked us to go in a certain place of the class that corresponded to how we felt: white, black, yellow and brown. Some individuals were hesitant of where to go, because they were scared that if they went in black, for example, people would say: “You’re not black”, or would compare their skin color to others, even if he would place himself with the blacks. In that situation, I felt like the person should have gone where they felt they belonged, no matter what people thought. In my opinion, this event can be related to Rachel Dolezal’s situation as being unfair, unrepresentative of reality and subjective. However, Rachel’s argument of wanting to be transracial is, in a sense, wrong, because she is classifying herself into a race. As seen in Darren Curnoe’s article “Human Races: Biological Reality or Cultural Delusion?” we all belong to a single species Homo sapiens, making it wrong to divide into subspecies, such as races.
MacDonald, N. (2015, June 17). Why can’t Rachel Dolezal be as Black as she wants to be? Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-can-t-rachel-dolezal-be-as-black-as-she....