Rachel Dolezal is a civil rights activist in Washington. She is the local head of the NAACP, an organization dedicated to the advancement of African-American community needs. She has been in the headlines since 2009 as the victim of hate crime, a run-in with neo-nazis, a professor of Africana studies, and as chief of a police oversight body. She identifies herself as mixed-race black, white, and Native American.
There is only one slight problem. Biologically, she isn't one iota black.
Her confused parents provided media with complete documentation that she is German, Czech, and Swiss--not black.
She however says that she is still black. That she has always felt black, and "I consider myself black."
She, for her part, is frustrated: she says that the community at large "quite frankly, don't really understand the definitions of race and ethnicity."
Now that is an interesting statement. You see, what Rachel appears to be claiming is that the definition of race and ethnicity should not be intermingled. You see, race is defined as the biological division of humankind to which one belongs; while ethnicity is belonging to a group with a shared history and culture. So she is arguing that race and ethnicity need not be mixed together.
She is arguing--if I am understanding properly--that you can't assign her white or European as her ethnicity simply because she happened to be born biologically white. Instead, she should get to choose what ethnicity she belongs to.
This is why she refuses to call herself African-American--which would imply race--but believes it it totally reasonable for her to have tanned her skin to a light black and taken a leadership position in a black organization. Because in her mind, "black" is a choice, not a race.
I was a bit flabbergasted to read this yesterday when it came out, because I used precisely this same scenario (albeit with Asians) less that two weeks ago as an example of the ludicrousness of the transgender argument. I never actually expected someone to try it and have been trying it, though!
You see, the transgender community also separates one's biological classification (male/female) from which part of society one feels an affinity for (masculine/feminine). As such they say it is possible to be biologically one thing but emotionally something else, and that therefore we must all treat the person as how they emotionally identify.
By that same token, Rachel is completely right and should keep her job and any benefits traditionally offered to blacks--because, after all, though she was biologically born white, her emotional affinity is as a black woman.
In 1979, Steve Martin's The Jerk had a white guy deliver the line, "I was born a poor black child..." because the absurdity of the statement was good for a laugh. Now, a statement like this apparently is completely acceptable.
So here is my question for those who support Bruce Jenner's and the transgender community's argument that one can change gender: how is this any different than what Rachel is doing in claiming that ethnicity and race can be separated and if a white person 'feels black enough' they should be treated as though they were black? Do you accept both arguments? If not, how can you explain your inconsistent position?