This whole Rachel Dolezal situation is really getting on my nerves now. Not because she lied about her heritage, which is undeniably wrong and I agree that she should not have done so from the outset, but because, at this point, the self-righteous reactions of a handful of people, people who otherwise sport a demeanour of being open-minded and claim to exercise a wider awareness of the World in other areas of their lives, are outweighing the initial deception through, themselves, demonstrating a very ignorant view of identity by professing ownership of an alleged collective identity based around the colour of one’s skin.
If you support wider World awareness and the power of unity between people from all backgrounds and persuasions, while, and I reiterate, I agree that Rachel Dolezal should not have lied in any case about her heritage and familial background, the fact remains that she works and stands for an organisation which supports the social equality and advancement of coloured people; not exclusively black, COLOURED people. Her own personal skin colour does not determine her validity to be able to represent such an organisation and, therefore, she should not be considered as more, or only qualified, if she, herself, is black. In addition to this, what and who she identifies with personally is not in anybody’s capacity to question but her own- she may not be ‘black’ in a way that suits the numerous definitions that people have of this, but her environmental and personal cultural associations certainly are. If she has grown up in an area where the cultural presences (music, fashion, food etc) derive from predominantly African and Caribbean backgrounds and, she has and has had more friends from these backgrounds than from ‘white’ (of northern European origin, ‘Caucasian’), then her own associations are going to be, unsurprsingly, ‘black’. Just because her skin colour, to a number of people (how they can tell I don’t know), may suggest a ‘typical white person’ or an ‘atypical black person’, that does not mean that she, herself, is going to identify with what people expect her to be or expect she ‘should’ be.
I am Indian, a British Indian, as myself and my parents (and a large part of my blood relatives) were born in Britain, however, both my maternal and paternal grandparents were born in India and have lived in other countries apart from England. Ignorant people would, because of our Indian heritage, label us all ‘brown’ (as all people from that part of Asia are, right?), not considering the multitude of variables that make up our own individual identities and, the fact that no two people in my family have the exact same skin tone as each other and, would also not call ourselves ‘brown’ as an indicator of our identity and heritage. My family as a whole consists of people from varying countries, religions and backgrounds, but as we are not all the same colour or do not, by any means, share the same ‘history’, do these things, therefore, make us any less a part of each other’s cultures, personal identities and lives? The fact is that, for all intents and purposes, we have all been united by love and, in the case of Rachel Dolezal, her apparent love and sense of identifying with being ‘black’ in its widest terms (not to mention her brother being what these ignorant people consider the ‘acceptable’ definition of black) is, presumably, what has fuelled her work in order to achieve greater positivity and acceptance for those she represents. My guess is also that one of the reasons for her initial lie may have been to circumvent scrutiny of the very nature she has received, for not being seen as a credible representative as she, herself, is not what people think she should be. The argument against her racial identity and unequivocal outrage about it from those self-righteous few is racism in its very essence, not because they are being victimised for being black, but because they are victimising her for not being their version of what they consider ‘black’ to be.
(For those of you who are interested, I have been working on a post about cultural identity for a number of months now. I am not quite sure when it will be up, however, this recent occurrence inspired me to bring forth a number of my views regarding the subject which will, hopefully, give you something to look forward to in the completed piece.)