Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rachel Dolezal

All of the coverage of Rachel Dolezal and her passing herself off as an African-American have concentrated exclusively on her motivations, questions of possible mental illness, essentially on her. Larger questions like how could she pass for an African-American? Historically, light-skinned African-Americans sought to pass as whites. It was a great scandal to find out that someone was really not white, but one of them. [As a side-note I bet that the Red Scare of the 20s and the paranoia surrounding Communism have their roots in this race paranoia.]

It was perfectly understandable why one of them would like to be like one of us. The advantages are numerous and easily imaginable. The media's focus on Rachel Dolezal's psychology is lazy journalism, once again, catering to their audience's phantom right to not be offended. But some passing as African-American? The world's not supposed to work this way. These sorts of questions are independent of questions of Rachel Dolezal's psychology and motivations. Passing the wrong way upsets seemingly clear-cut notions of us and them us and them. Rachel Dolezal's passing shows that the seemingly clear-cut racial divide is hardly as deep and impassable as many people think. Her passing raises the unsettling thought that race is about how people treat one another. Acknowledging race as social and as an ethical phenomenon brings up unpleasant thoughts of guilt and worries about how to take responsibility for the abomination of racism.

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