Transraciality And Why Rachel Dolezal Is A F*cking Liar

Friday, June 19, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who climbed the ranks of the NAACP while posing as a black women. 

Now, maybe she is actually ill enough to believe that she’s black. Such is the nature of delusions, though an interview with a delusional individual would have gone more like:

Interviewer: “Are you African American?”

Delusional white person: “Hell yes I am!” 

And not: 

Interviewer: “Are you African American?”

Dolezal: (eye twitch, mouth stiffening) “I don’t understand the question.” 

You understood, lady. You might be a liar, but you aren’t stupid.

Let us put aside the fake father she put on social media. Let us ignore her dark-skinned brother she tried to pass of as her child. Let us also put aside the fact that Dolezal sued Howard University because she felt that African American students were given preference over her. She didn’t claim “but…I identify as black.” She said, “You discriminated against me because I am white.” Maybe it was true. The judge didn’t think so.

I would guess, based on what I know of her history, that she has a diagnosable condition, brought on by abuse and a severely dysfunctional early environment. There is also evidence that her parents outed her as white to discredit her as a witness against another family member who is currently accused of sexual assault. And I suspect that there is a part of her that feels justified in lying based on her experience with Howard. She can further justify her actions by acknowledging that she may not have been accepted had she applied to the NAACP as a white woman, and that regardless of how she got the job, she has done some first-rate work with the organization. Because of this, her stepping aside may or may not even be the best thing for all involved. But that’s not the issue at hand, is it? That’s not where our focus is as a nation. People want to know whether transraciality is really a thing, like transsexuality is a thing. 

Um, no. At least not the way Dolezal wants it to be.  

Race as a Social Construct

Race, in terms of what we do and how we act, is essentially a social construct. While gender roles are a socialized construct too, being born one gender and feeling another is a different thing than this newly coined “transraciality." Throughout history, people have identified with other races due to their socialization process and who they grew up with. We absorb our surroundings. We are receptive to modeling. People may end up feeling more comfortable around those of other races due to upbringing or adoption. They may have mannerisms or patterns of speech that we have been socially conditioned to expect to belong with another race. They may have mixed-race families or struggle to fit in within that context. All of these experiences may be included in the definition of "transracial" as used in clinical settings. But to be another race? To be born the wrong race? Naw, dudes. 

Let’s take this transsexuality thing: genders have slightly different brains, something we call being “sexually dimorphic.” Male brains are bigger (though this doesn’t mean smarter, fellas) and there are differences in neurotransmitter functions and some differences in number of neurons in various brain regions. Those who identify as another gender typically have differences in grey matter and in the regions associated with sexuality. The brain of a transgendered person more closely resembles that of their identified gender as opposed to the brain patterns of the gender listed on their birth certificate. 

But if I identify as black, it isn’t because I am. I’m not identifying because I have internal mechanisms that tell me “you’re really a black woman.” My risk for sickle cell anemia isn’t higher, assholes. I’m not going to get pulled over more often or get stopped and frisked unless I use enough bronzer. And I sure as shit won't get shot in a South Carolina church under suspicion of "raping our women and taking over our country."

Why can someone feel black and not have a different brain? Because WE AREN'T FUCKING DIFFERENT. Isn't that where this shit breaks down? If we assume Dolezal is correct, that transraciality is a “thing” in this context, we must also assume inherent differences between the races at a fundamental level. Isn't that racist in and of itself? 

Plus, changing races is a white privilege. It isn't so easy the other way around. The “whitening” of the black race has been something that many generations strived for due to excessive prejudice. All the whitening creams and hair straightening didn’t get these beautiful black men and women a place at white water fountains. And today, if black folks take on mannerisms that society deems as Caucasian, what do we call that? Transracial? Nope. Maybe “posers” or "Oreos,” because god fucking forbid we admit that being well-spoken and professional are not attributes on which white people have a monopoly. How about we admit that racism is so prevalent that many DON’T EVEN SEE the prejudice inherent in the transraciality argument because to even entertain the possibility assumes our differentness from one another. And to the person who posted: “Well, why would Dolezal want to be involved with the NAACP anyway unless she really thought she was black?"…Fuck you. Seriously. Empathy is a human condition. Identifying with, and caring for, all human people isn’t wrong or weird. I don’t have to be white or black or orange to want to help someone who is. 

It is our misguided social construct of race that puts us all in the position of justifying and identifying what we are as opposed to who we are. But to claim transraciality in this context makes a mockery of legitimate identity conditions over which there is no control. Dolezal is a woman who purposefully and willfully lied about her race because it furthered her occupational goals. This doesn't make her "transracial." It makes her a fucking liar. 

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