The "Trans-this and Trans-that" Phenomenon
Yesterday, I read a thoughtful article regarding the bizarre situation of Rachel Dolezal. If you aren't familiar with Ms. Dolezal, you have obviously been avoiding all news outlets for the past week. Which, in all honesty, isn't a terrible thing.
Ms. Dolezal, was, up until last week, the director of Spokane, Washington's chapter of the NAACP. Ms. Dolezal obtained her undergraduate degree from a predominately black college in Mississippi and then, she attended the historically black college, Howard University in Washington DC for her graduate degree. She has been an active member of the NAACP and a vocal activist for civil rights. From all accounts, she was a popular, hardworking director for the African American organization in Spokane.
The only problem with Ms. Dolezal's resume is, well, that she is white. Yep. The black woman is actually white.
Rachel Dolezal, who was originally named Rachel Moore, was born to two white parents in the Montana. She claims to have begun identifying herself as a black person from a very early age, but her attentive parents, siblings and school teachers all deny that they ever saw her depict herself as black or draw herself with "a brown crayon instead of a peach one".
However, Rachel Dolezal's infatuation with African American culture and race relations became increasingly apparent as she approached college age. Her parents, Larry and Ruthanne Moore, admit that their daughter, a then, blonde-headed, blue-eyed, fair complected young woman, purposefully attended universities that placed a great deal of emphasis on race.
After leaving home for college, Ms. Dolezal quickly made the decision to shed her whiteness and begin the process of presenting herself as a black woman. She transformed her appearance. She distanced herself from her biological family and their "whiteness".
She simply stopped being white and began being black.
Wait, is that possible? If not, is she insane? Is this notion a slap in the face to all in the black community? Is there really such a thing as "transracial"?
And if so, what does this mean?
Let me just begin by saying that I believe this "transracial phenomenon" that Ms. Dolezal is championing is ridiculous. For the most part, I believe that she is probably a disturbed individual who, for some reason, hated herself and her whiteness and created a black identity that she preferred and was more comfortable with.
But hey, that's just my opinion.
However, this whole "trans-this and trans-that" cultural explosion begs many questions.
For one, is all of this possible outside of insanity? Do rational, sane people transition from how they were born into something they choose to become?
Two, should society accept individuals freely and fully who make these sorts of elective transitions? And if so, is our society ready and equipped to deal with the legal, emotional and psychological effects of mass transitions?
Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, would individuals like Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal desire to make the gender and race transitions of their choice if those elective lifestyles didn't currently enjoy the advanced freedoms and rights they now enjoy?
Simply put: would Rachel Dolezal still identify as a black woman if slavery or Jim Crow were still legal? Would Bruce Jenner want to be a woman if women were still regarded as fertile property? Would he want to be a woman if he were suddenly unable to vote, obtain an education or inherit land?
Hmmmm....for some reason, I think not.
And to be completely honest, I think people, especially those from ethnic, racial or gender minorities should be offended by these transitional usurpers. Because let's just be real, so much of who we are, comes from who we have been.
Rachel Dolezal doesn't have one black ancestor. Her ancestors are of European descent. Her family doesn't bear the scars of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation. Her life and world perspective hasn't been shaped by historical devastation and continued racial struggles. Sure, Ms. Dolezal and other non-black individuals can sympathize with the African American community but they can't empathize with them.
Ms. Dolezal claims that having an adopted black son and a biological son, who is half black (father) and half white (her), has given her an insight into blackness. She argues that being black has been "real" for her. Listen, I'm sorry, but that just simply isn't possible. Because no matter how many black people surround Rachel Dolezal, no matter how many black children she adopts and raises, no matter how many ethnic hairstyles she dons, she is a white woman. If the racial tides in America were to turn and the oppression that existed so long ago against minority groups were to resume, she could simply let her spray tan fade and return to her blonde hair. She would, in spite of her lifestyle choice and morphed outward appearance, be protected by her natural white status.
When her parents "outed" her last week, Rachel Dolezal began giving interviews and tried to explain her choice to misrepresent herself. In these interviews, she has also had to defend and explain an uncomfortable statement she made at one time regarding her being born in a teepee and Jesus Christ being the witness on her birth certificate. In the spirit of fairness, her parents adamantly deny that she was born in or ever lived in a teepee and say that Jesus Christ NOT was present during her birth.
See, Ms. Rachel Dolezal appears to be confused about things. She apparently has a tendency to create not only new racial identities but also entire portions of her life.
As I said with regard to Mr. Jenner and his public transition to the imaginary Caitin, there appears to be a breakage from reality for some people. And Ms. Dolezal appears to be one more of them.
Oh, and speaking of Mr. Jenner, Ms. Dolezal claims that Bruce's story and recent transition "resonated with her". She claims that she too has experienced a transition in her life because she was outwardly something that she was never inwardly comfortable with. She says that she was never white. That there is nothing white about her. That whiteness doesn't represent any portion of her.
Unfortunately for Ms. Dolezal, there is this sticky little issue of her skin being white and her parents being white and her ancestors being white.
People are who they are. Regardless of what they may feel or desire, they are created by an Almighty God, perfectly, just the way He intended them to be. However, if individuals, deceived by their fallenness and ensnared by this world, decide to alter their perfect design, they are obviously free to do so. But superficial change doesn't correct deep brokenness and outward physical alterations don't heal emotional turmoil.
A newly feminized face, a darker face, a new pair of breasts, an ethnic hair-do, a luxurious dress or an impressive resume of civil rights activism doesn't change the fact that we simply can't be something we aren't. We can't snap our fingers and wiggle our noses and wish a dream or longing into reality. Ms. Dolezal will never be able to fully appreciate or embody the incredible heritage possessed by the African American community. There is something innate within us that ties us to our histories, our families, our origins and our stories. Do I think it's a good thing to branch out and reach out and try to better understand the world around us? Absolutely!! But grasping a cultural norm or relating to a certain person or group, doesn't mean that we are supposed to belong to them. It isn't wrong that Rachel Moore wanted to understand racial relations and that she felt compassionate and connected to the black community. That's good. That's world changing. What's wrong with this situation is that she felt as though she couldn't do it by being who she was. She felt she had to change to be effective and therefore, lied about who and what she was.
Oh, how I long for the day when we can all come together for the sake of unity. I pray that one day we will all reach a place of understanding and personal security. I hope that one day, we, humanity, we arrive at a place in our lives where we can appreciate the differences we each possess while focusing on the commonalities that bind us together. I look forward to a day when we will all be content with ourselves, in our redeemed and perfected form, and be in awe of the Greatness that created each of us in a unique and splendid way.
I hope that Ms. Dolezal finds herself one day. I hope she gets the psychological and emotional help she needs. I hope and pray that she one day reconciles with her family, all of her family, and comes to terms with who she is and where she comes from. But more importantly, I hope that she continues to do good works for the African American community. Because her mission to empower and better the black community in America remains just as powerful and just as admirable with her as a white woman as it was when she seemed black.
We are, after all, regardless of our color, all in this life together.
written by Maci Newsom