OK, so let’s get it straight, Rachel Dolezal (the white woman who said she was black) has divided opinion – although most people seem to agree she may be a sandwich short of a picnic. However, as she promotes her new book, ‘In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World,’ she has raised a few interesting questions about our perceptions of race.
While she is making media appearances, Dolezal was interviewed by the BBC’s Newsnight show, where she claimed that “the idea of race is a lie.” She also spoke about her childhood, how she was attacked by the “white establishment” after being exposed and felt deeply hurt by how the black community also turned on her.
However, she did raise one point that got us thinking…
In the interview, Dolezal mentions the concept of being ‘#transracial’ – comparing it to that of transgender people. She argued that perhaps people should be able to choose their race, while also pointing out that, intrinsically, there is very little difference between the races.
This is certainly an interesting idea to ponder. Of course, on the one hand, we agree that dividing people on the basis of their race is wrong. Children aren’t born with prejudice, but instead are taught it by those around them, if not by society as a whole. But perhaps, by highlighting ‘transracial’ as a concept, Dolezal is actually playing into age-old prejudice and distrust around the concept of race in America?
It seems that Dolezal isn’t so much relating to ‘blackness’ as she is to a cultural difference between the races in the United States. Comedies such as ‘Blackish’ have long made light of these cultural differences, so could it be that Dolezal actually associates herself more closely with African Americans than the stereotypes of ‘white America?’
It seems so, but the idea of race is so bound up in this that she seems to need to identify as being ‘black.’
Of course, this is a slightly false identity, even in a ‘transracial’ sense, as to claim it is to claim that all black people the world over are alike – ignoring international cultures and different societies.
For Dolezal it is easy to explain her mindset away as ‘transracial’ – a handy tag for a social media generation?
That said, it seems, in reality, that the concept is much deeper, more complex, and possibly more troubling too…
By seeking to cross racial lines is Dolezal actually reinforcing the division rather than looking to push it away altogether?
What do you think?