So in the US the story of Rachel Dolezal broke sometime last week. The long and the short of it is that Dolezal is a white woman who has been presenting herself as a black woman (or at the very least a biracial woman) for quite sometime. She has gone so far as to claim her adopted brother (who is black) as her son among other things. A funny sensational story indeed. The type of non-story that you expect to see in the news cycle for a few days. It isn’t a story worth talking about. Insert transracialism taking this laughable story to a whole new level. Begin rant.
I have noticed that a lot of Conservatives keep tossing this word around. Transracial. Comparing Dolezal to Caitlyn Jenner. The argument goes that if Caitlyn can choose to identify as a man why can’t Dolezal choose to identify as a black person? Talk about comparing apples and oranges. This argument has so many problems one hardly knows where to begin. I could go into a deep explanation on the differences between gender identity and racial identity. I could explain the position of people who identify as transgender to the best of my abilities. But I’m not. Because none of those things are germane to the discussion. Dolezal is just a pawn in this attempt to not recognize people who are transgender. Too many Conservatives are trying to use this as a Liberal gotcha moment. If you accept Jenner you have to accept Dolezal. Let me tell you it does not work like that.
What Dolezal did was fraud. Plain and simple. She misrepresented herself. She did many things to continue her con. She claimed her brother as her son to boost the con and deceive others. She claimed a black man in a photo with her was her father. These things she did in order to keep up the lie she was living. She is no different than a con artist. While she had this ruse going did she do great things for equality? By all accounts yes; but that doesn’t negate the con. And that is the crux of the matter.
Bruce Jenner was born a man. He identified as a man and presented himself as one. He decided to become a woman. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone agrees with his decision. It was his to make. But he didn’t create a fake backstory or history to do it. That is why this isn’t the gotcha moment Conservatives think it is. This isn’t your out to say well if you don’t’ accept Dolezal I don’t have to accept Jenner. What Dolezal did and what Jenner (and many others before him) did aren’t remotely the same thing.
For the sake of argument let’s say they are. So what? So what if Dolezal identifies as black? What of it? Race has and always will be a social construct one that is constantly redefined with each generation. In the past 100 years African Americans went from being called Negros to Colored to Black to African American back to Black. Even today what you call a black person depends on the person. Perhaps we as a people are reaching a new age of enlightenment and freedom. One where the constructs of identity are being redefined. Where people have a greater ability to be who they want to be. If that’s the case and it doesn’t effect you is that really a bad thing? Maybe we should stop being so concerned about labels and putting people in nice little boxes. We’d be better off just accepting people for who they are. But that’s just my humble opinion…for what it’s worth.
Saw this article from Daily Kos about the number of people losing their jobs over things they’ve said in regards to the situation in McKinney, Texas and other touchy subjects of late. As someone that values free speech (insert cliched slogan I might not like what you say; but I’ll defend your right to say it.) it got me thinking about the price of Free Speech.
I’m pretty torn on this. On the one hand the Freedom of Speech does not protect you from the consequences of said speech. If you say racist crap don’t be surprised if it comes back to bite you in the butt. And it is good to get these people out of positions where their biases effect the lives of others. For many people who speak out against institutionalized racism ,and other forms of discrimination, it is people like this that they are speaking about. The teacher that thinks we should bring back segregation doesn’t stop being a bigot when the school bell rings. How is her teaching style effected by her ideas on race? How are the students effected? How many people are hurt by the apartment manager who doesn’t want “that element” renting from him? So when these people pop their heads out of their burrows it is our duty to fight them for the betterment of society.
On the other hand I can’t help but feel like these actions are a bit knee jerk and disproportionate. Should someone lose their job and livelihood because of someone somewhere got pissed off at what they said and it went viral? Furthermore I can’t help; but think that this has a chilling effect on public discourse. How can we have an open discussion on important events when everyone is tip toeing around it trying not to step on the third rail? By forming these lynch mobs I think it actually hurts us more in the long run. It just pushes racists further into dark corners without changing their attitudes?
I freely admit most of these people finding themselves in the hot seat aren’t the best example of people being punished because of free speech. But in this new world we find ourselves in; technology is changing the way we live and interact. It is in our best interest to find a better way to deal with opinions we find unconscionable. If we continue the lynch mob mentality then it is only a matter of time where the only opinions we are allowed to share are the ones no one objects to. Who wants to live in that 1984 world of thought police? But that’s just my humble opinion for what it’s worth.
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