White Privilege, Racial Fluidity, Cultural Appropriation and the Rachel Dolezal Problem

The character "Annie" portrayed by white and
 Black actresses credit The Daily Show
 Rachel Dolezal is the end product of hundred of years of cultural appropriation that is commonplace in nearly every aspect of our lives. Not only is she being allowed to continue profiting from assuming an entire Black identity (now she's published a book), but she goes further by appropriating an African name and appropriating the term 'trans' and hyphenating our race to justify a lifetime of fetishizing and appropriating our entire culture. Not satisfied, she is now claiming to be an expert on racial fluidity, thus perverting that as well. When racial fluidity is Googled, articles about her are at the top of the search results.

This is the absolute definition of white privilege in action. Dolezal is trying to revive her career by self-identifying as 'trans-black.' Some claim she is an indicator of the world moving to racial fluidity. Nope! My multiracial children might give expression to racial fluidity. Claiming Dolezal represents or has a right to claim expertise in racial fluidity further perverts the reality of her fetishizing and ultimately usurping a racial identity.

Dolezal's continual aggressive fraud has cast doubt on the right to black identity of people like my children and I while I am not surprised at her continued attempts to legitimatize her appropriation of an entire racial identity I am furious at her incredibly damaging actions being enabled by giving her as large a platform as a book publishing and news media interviews. My children have dark-skinned Afro-Latina me for a mother and a white father. I was extremely concerned with defending my children's right to claim their racial identity as our community witnessed the scandal of Dolezal's false life based upon her racial appropriation unravelling. I initially tried to be understanding of Dolezal, but her continuing to be given a platform to abuse race in order to go back to benefiting from our racial oppression is too much.

Her use of the term "trans-black" could easily be abused by any individual wanting to gain a benefit by identifying as black when it suits their purposes. Like the case of Mindy Kaling's brother Vijay Chokal-Ingam, whose opportunistic moment of WTF racism was to fake being black by self-identifying as black as a means to an end, which was his own racist hope that identifying as black would get him accepted into medical school with lower test scores. Both Dolezal and Chokal-Ingam got away with their fraud, and their infamy should be a red flag about a very unpleasant trend among those with privilege taking over a century of brazen cultural appropriation to the next level and trying to entirely body-snatch who we are. Will the line never be drawn?

It is offensive and inappropriate to use Dolezal's continued attempts to financially benefit from our race as an example racial fluidity. Most people who have been outed as frauds may or may not go on to write books on their lives. In the past, such books attempted to explain and in some way atone for the harm they caused. I would argue that Ms. Dolezal's attempts to continue in this fraud are both concerning and a dangerous distraction that should not be enabled while our community has so much nationalized hatred to fight.

Further, I believe that the conflation of the terms cultural appropriation and cultural exchange, and the abuse of the term cultural exchange to excuse cultural appropriation, play a big role in this new and destructive attempt of what can only be called extreme cultural appropriation.

There are clear distinctions between fetishizing and fluidity. These concepts, upon which my family must navigate the dangerous vagaries of a society that oppresses based on race, must not be abused in the hope of whipping up faux controversy to gain a spike in site hits  or book sales.

Race cannot be fluid solely for the convenience of people like Dolezal and Chokal-Ingam or anyone white who stands to benefit from claiming it when it suits them. At some point this must be understood.

Shame on the New York Times for even entertaining Dolezal's rubbish.

I leave you with young actress Amandla Stenberg's eloquent presentation of cultural appropriation:


Further Reading:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danthropology/2015/06/the-problem-with-saying-race-is-fluid-is-that-it-only-applies-to-white-people/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Bravery Tapes of Jens Erik Gould

AP Stylebook: On Writing As Activism

Answer The Question