Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

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Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Cradarc » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:39 am UTC

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/17/us/rachel-dolezal-nbc-today-show.html

Is it wrong to say you are a particular race when you biologically aren't?
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby natraj » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:29 am UTC

yes.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Vahir » Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:05 am UTC

natraj wrote:yes.


Why?

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Djehutynakht » Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:34 am UTC

I have to second that "why?"

In general terms, not specifically in her case--in her case in particular, it seems entirely possible that she's lied about some things.

But I haven't seen an actual argument against "transracial" identity in and of itself, and in particular why it's invalid as opposed to transgender identity. The only argument I've heard so far is "well it obviously doesn't exist".

As far as I can see, skin color is just that--color. There may be some biological factors, but generally 'racial' identities seem to be cultural. Which honestly seems like it's a lesser transition than, say, a physical gender.

Perhaps there's valid points to be made against, but I honestly haven't heard them made.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby maybeagnostic » Thu Jun 18, 2015 6:48 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Is it wrong to say you are a particular race when you biologically aren't?

I've generally kept away from coverage on this story so I don't know most details but the part that really bothered me about the initial coverage is that race is first and foremost a social construct. She says she is black and everyone else seems to have believed she was black so she was. Now nearly everyone is telling her she isn't and so she isn't. I don't know of any objective way to test whether someone is "black" so it doesn't really make sense to say they "biologically" are or aren't.

If the situation was reversed and it was discovered that a "black" person had been "passing off as white", I don't believe the reaction would have been at all like the one we've seen.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Lazar » Thu Jun 18, 2015 7:19 am UTC

Well in a population genetic sense, being black is generally equated with having recent Sub-Saharan African ancestry. The landscape of human genetic variation is too complex to be characterized into races in any rigorous sense, but geographic groupings like this can be useful in studying the distribution of genes. (Of course, some definitions of black include Aboriginal Australians, Melanesians and Adivasis, in which case the sole criterion is skin color and not genetic background.) In Dolezal's case, people believed she was black because she altered her appearance and lied about her ancestry. I think people would be a lot more accepting if she had one of those two factors going for her – for example, "I'm a quarter African, but I don't look black", or "I look black, but my ancestry is Fijian" – but to have neither makes her identification seem dishonest.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby WilliamLehnsherr » Thu Jun 18, 2015 7:28 am UTC

Lazar wrote:Well in a population genetic sense, being black is generally equated with having recent Sub-Saharan African ancestry. The landscape of human genetic variation is too complex to be characterized into races in any rigorous sense, but geographic groupings like this can be useful in studying the distribution of genes. (Of course, some definitions of black include Aboriginal Australians, Melanesians and Adivasis, in which case the sole criterion is skin color and not genetic background.) In Dolezal's case, people believed she was black because she altered her appearance and lied about her ancestry.


This to me is the problem: there isn't a strict, universal definition of race. My own definition of "black" would be black skin. But as far as I know (and based on your post) that's not the American definition.

I'm not bothered by her claiming to be black. It it doesn't seem to me like she's hurt anyone nor would anyone have been harmed if the charade hadn't been revealed. I am a white guy saying this, though.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby DR6 » Thu Jun 18, 2015 10:42 am UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:I have to second that "why?"

In general terms, not specifically in her case--in her case in particular, it seems entirely possible that she's lied about some things.

But I haven't seen an actual argument against "transracial" identity in and of itself, and in particular why it's invalid as opposed to transgender identity. The only argument I've heard so far is "well it obviously doesn't exist".

As far as I can see, skin color is just that--color. There may be some biological factors, but generally 'racial' identities seem to be cultural. Which honestly seems like it's a lesser transition than, say, a physical gender.

Perhaps there's valid points to be made against, but I honestly haven't heard them made.


That is the problem. The idea of gender identity is that it is not just cultural: it apparently has a biological basis akin to, say, sexual orientation. That's why having a gender identity that clashes with the rest of your body is such a big deal: it's not biology vs. culture, it's biology vs. biology. Race almost certainly doesn't have that: at least, there is no scientific evidence for one AFAIK.

I don't take this to mean that racial identity doesn't exist, but it's completely different to gender identity.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 18, 2015 11:43 am UTC

The problem here is that she lied, and knew it. That first and foremost. There may be others but this is the main one I see.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Tirian » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:18 pm UTC

It's not that simple. On the surface, a genetics test would reveal that Caitlyn Jenner is lying about being a woman, but the non-asshole community wouldn't make that accusation about her. It is also correct that the United States doesn't regard blackness as simply being about sub-Saharan descent -- blacks of Caribbean descent come from a culture that is distinct from that of African-Americans even though they were both consequences of the slave trade.

I agree that Rachel Dolezal should be accommodated by being thought of as the race she chooses to identify with, but then again I'm a white person. Here is a thoughtful interview that I heard yesterday arguing that it is cultural appropriation and paternalism. I think that the interviewee seems unsympathetic to the fact that Dolezal had no intention on revealing herself as the Great White Hope but was outed by her jerk parents, but the argument seems well formed and nuanced.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:21 pm UTC

There is such a thing as transracial. It refers to children who are adopted by parents of a different race, and you would do well not to co-opt the word for your own little pet ramblings about race and gender.

Yes, race and gender are both largely socially constructed. So is money, nationality, language, and law. However not a single one of these things is socially constructed the same way as any of the others. You aren't black just because you say you are any more than you are the richest person on earth just because you claim the tree in your back yard is worth a trillion trillion gazillion dollars.

Plus, yeah, she demonstrably lied about all kinds of things like actual past events, which isn't necessary for real trans identities to be valid.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Angua » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:30 pm UTC

She did a lot of lying.

She apparently once sued her university for discriminating against her because she was white, and then spent part of her job lying about being discriminated against because she was black. She had people pose as her family members to keep up the charade. I've heard it quoted that she felt she couldn't be a mother to her adopted son because he couldn't have a white mother (ignoring/invalidating the multitude of mixed race parents that exist, as well as other children who are adopted by parents of different races to themselves). All of these things are wrong.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby leady » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:31 pm UTC

So what exactly does render a classification valid and a person self identifying as that classification valid?

I mean the exact underpinning of this story was the mickey take of only last year

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:40 pm UTC

maybeagnostic wrote:If the situation was reversed and it was discovered that a "black" person had been "passing off as white", I don't believe the reaction would have been at all like the one we've seen.

Right, because depending on when and where that happened, the person might have been arrested for breaking the law.

The huge asymmetry is part of what makes her claims bullshit while transgender identities aren't.

(All her blatant lying about real events and relationships is another part.)
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:42 pm UTC

leady wrote:So what exactly does render a classification valid and a person self identifying as that classification valid?

It depends entirely on what classification you're talking about.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Tirian » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:56 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:You aren't black just because you say you are any more than you are the richest person on earth just because you claim the tree in your back yard is worth a trillion trillion gazillion dollars.


No, but if you sell the tree in your back yard for a trillion trillion gazillion dollars, are you rich then? Or does the upper class have the right to define the rich culture to exclude people with "new money"?

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby leady » Thu Jun 18, 2015 1:09 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
leady wrote:So what exactly does render a classification valid and a person self identifying as that classification valid?

It depends entirely on what classification you're talking about.


So popular arbitrarism ? (which unfortunately isn't a word)

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 18, 2015 1:16 pm UTC

Tirian wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:You aren't black just because you say you are any more than you are the richest person on earth just because you claim the tree in your back yard is worth a trillion trillion gazillion dollars.


No, but if you sell the tree in your back yard for a trillion trillion gazillion dollars, are you rich then? Or does the upper class have the right to define the rich culture to exclude people with "new money"?
You rather correctly identify the point that the privileged class being able to define the boundaries is rather the issue here. White people being able to say "I'm actually black" is problematic in the same way a person with a gazillion gazillion gazillion dollars can say "I'm actually poor" is problematic.

When you can choose to opt out of, or give up, your privileged, it's indicative of you having that privilege, and of that privilege existing.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Tirian » Thu Jun 18, 2015 1:46 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:You rather correctly identify the point that the privileged class being able to define the boundaries is rather the issue here. White people being able to say "I'm actually black" is problematic in the same way a person with a gazillion gazillion gazillion dollars can say "I'm actually poor" is problematic.

When you can choose to opt out of, or give up, your privileged, it's indicative of you having that privilege, and of that privilege existing.


Except that Dolezal doesn't perceive it as privilege to be white. She perceives it as being outside the community that her husband and children and many of her siblings and her alma mater belong to. And she's passionate about the struggle for civil rights, to the degree that she didn't want to be the meek blond ally in the back of the room who flaunts her white privilege just by being there. So she made choices that allowed her to fully live her life in a way that matched her identity and values, so that through her work other people could live their lives as freely.

No, it's not the same as transgender. But it is similar in that you need to weave a web of small lies to reveal a larger truth. I also tend to suspect that it is a psychological disorder to identify as a race that does not match your genotype or cultural heritage. But if such a diagnosis were to be made, I believe that transition therapy would be an appropriate path forward.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Dauric » Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:00 pm UTC

Angua wrote:She did a lot of lying.

She apparently once sued her university for discriminating against her because she was white, and then spent part of her job lying about being discriminated against because she was black. She had people pose as her family members to keep up the charade. I've heard it quoted that she felt she couldn't be a mother to her adopted son because he couldn't have a white mother (ignoring/invalidating the multitude of mixed race parents that exist, as well as other children who are adopted by parents of different races to themselves). All of these things are wrong.


This is what makes Dolezal a poor poster child for the discussion of racial identity. The concept of "Identity Fluidity"*, that our personality is not nor should be determined by our genetic composition, is an interesting one, but I think the specifics of this incident are muddied by other issues of being an asshole and suing about it.

*Yes I just made that term up. Watch.. it's a real term somewhere and I didn't know it.

I think the idea of white privilege making racial identity completely different from sexual identity is.. a stretch. There's are ongoing issues with male-over-female privilege in our society that are not part of the transsexual identity discussion. The problem here is the aforementioned muddiness of this particular case highlight the privilege in "white-black'" social dichotomies, where transgender cases typically highlight issues in cis/trans dichotomies rather than male/female dichotomies.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:27 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/17/us/rachel-dolezal-nbc-today-show.html

Is it wrong to say you are a particular race when you biologically aren't?


*shrug* Trump identifies as a viable presidential candidate, too...

Self identification doesn't trump reality. I see this as an attempt to appeal to Basic Human Decency by using the controversial "identifies" to try to tap into transgender controversy, etc. I don't know that I even believe she's sincere. I suspect she's just flailing because she got caught lying.

But, here's the thing with transgender folks. Just SAYING you are x doesn't make you x. It's literally having the brain of X makes you X, just riding around in the meat-body of the other gender causes awkwardness. Because your brain = you. Easy day. MRI, etc testing supports that transgender folks are what they identify as. Now, yeah...this stuff is squishy, and we haven't gotten it down 100%, but treating it as if it's just "someone claims whatever, so he's that" is not correct.

So, she's just claiming to be something she's not. Easy day. This is a little odd by itself, but what makes it more sketchy here is it appears she was doing so for a situational advantage. I don't know how you would draw a distinction between this and fraud. For all practical purposes, it is fraud.

WilliamLehnsherr wrote:I'm not bothered by her claiming to be black. It it doesn't seem to me like she's hurt anyone nor would anyone have been harmed if the charade hadn't been revealed. I am a white guy saying this, though.


In general, maybe not, though it would still be strange. But seeking a race-related position brings up the possibility that she did it for advantage. Lots of lies and stuff. Sure, being black is not likely advantageous in general, but being able to pick and choose whichever color you want at the time kind of is. Smacks of gaming the system through deception.

It's certainly possible to think of a less terrible potential example, though. And breaking down lifelong distinctions of race would probably be a good thing.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:44 pm UTC

Tirian wrote: So she made choices that allowed her to fully live her life in a way that matched her identity and values, so that through her work other people could live their lives as freely.
Unfortunately it isn't just about her. Both races have chosen to make the difference important, for any number of reasons. So the response to it will be based on cultural history rather that any psychological classification. And lying in public life is different then simply living as one or the other race. Living it quietly and experiencing the difference may be a matter of solidarity and support. Or living it and sharing your experiences may give you the insight needed to speak to it in a public way. And that has been done, leading to a book, "Black Like Me". But it isn't unreasonable to make judgements about character based on the lie. Given that the lie advanced her in ways that might not have be available to her as a white women.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby elasto » Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:54 pm UTC

So many good points in this thread. As usual the xkcd forum handles a difficult topic in a thoughtful manner.

The deception factor
- If Caitlyn Jenner had paraded fake parents in front of the media, parents who claimed she had been born a woman, people would have been irritated when the deception was discovered

The fraud factor
- If Jenner had changed gender so as to compete in the female olympics and had won a boatload of medals (having first paraded fake evidence), people would have been deeply suspicious that the gender change was for personal gain and not a deep-seated belief

The privilege factor
- If a poor person claims they are rich, it's a bit of a laugh; It's aspirational really. If a rich person claims to be poor, and starts taking advantage of the few counterbalancing benefits there are from being poor (eg. social security, tax credits etc.), it goes from amusing to annoying (or likely fraudulent)

This person should just have made a name for themselves fighting for the rights of black people; They could still have had a good career I'm sure.

Bottom line: There are definite differences in the physical makeup of the brain for people in gender or sexual dysphoria. There is no physical difference (that I am aware of) in the brains of people of different races. Therefore if Dolezal genuinely believes she is black rather than merely feeling culturally black or identifying with their struggles, I think it's a mental issue rather than a physical one. At the risk of oversimplification, it's no different to if she genuinely believes she's a teapot.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Vahir » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:03 pm UTC

elasto wrote:The privilege factor
- If a poor person claims they are rich, it's a bit of a laugh; It's aspirational really. If a rich person claims to be poor, and starts taking advantage of the few counterbalancing benefits there are from being poor (eg. social security, tax credits etc.), it goes from amusing to annoying (or likely fraudulent)


With this one point, I disagree. It's more like a rich person giving away their fortune, and choosing to live poor.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:05 pm UTC

Vahir wrote:
elasto wrote:The privilege factor
- If a poor person claims they are rich, it's a bit of a laugh; It's aspirational really. If a rich person claims to be poor, and starts taking advantage of the few counterbalancing benefits there are from being poor (eg. social security, tax credits etc.), it goes from amusing to annoying (or likely fraudulent)


With this one point, I disagree. It's more like a rich person giving away their fortune, and choosing to live poor.
I think this is a different bag of worms - personally, Dolezal does not physically appear, to me, to be black, and thus irrespective of her self-identity (of which I'm not commenting on), my super baseless and fact free assumption is that she is not, say, detained by police officers without probable cause.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby elasto » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:09 pm UTC

Vahir wrote:With this one point, I disagree. It's more like a rich person giving away their fortune, and choosing to live poor.

Ok, that's a reasonable point, but inapplicable to this particular case I think: In this case she seemingly advanced her career by 'blacking up'; It was actually of material benefit. She was white when it was useful, and black when it was useful too.

The same would never be true for a rich person giving away their entire wealth.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Dauric » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:10 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:But, here's the thing with transgender folks. Just SAYING you are x doesn't make you x. It's literally having the brain of X makes you X, just riding around in the meat-body of the other gender causes awkwardness. Because your brain = you. Easy day. MRI, etc testing supports that transgender folks are what they identify as. Now, yeah...this stuff is squishy, and we haven't gotten it down 100%, but treating it as if it's just "someone claims whatever, so he's that" is not correct.


The thing is gender is pretty dramatically dichotomous, In the vast majority of cases you've either got one set of naughty-bits or the other set of naughty bits. You can find identifying markers for either/or comparisons when you''re comparing genders (like MRI scans). Yet even when discussing this 'black and white' separation we've recently been developing and learning new terminology to deal with situations where simple bifurcated terminology is inadequate.

"Race" is almost entirely social in construct, and physical markers for heritage are not even remotely as well defined as gender. The example I routinely point to is Mariah Carey, who despite having significant 'black' ancestry is 'whiter' in appearance than I am, and I have almost entirely European ancestry with a dabbling of Sioux (Irish, English and German with < 1/16'th Sioux if I recall my genealogy correctly).

So with that in mind here's my question: If we're discovering a certain degree of fluidity in identity over sharply biological dichotomous traits, how definitively can we nail someone's identity to physical traits that aren't as sharply defined?
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:16 pm UTC

Is it worth distinguishing 'race' and 'racial identity' for people in this thread? What about 'sex' and 'gender'? Genetics are a thing.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Dauric » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:29 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Is it worth distinguishing 'race' and 'racial identity' for people in this thread? What about 'sex' and 'gender'? Genetics are a thing.


I think if this becomes more of an issue in weeks/months/years to come we'll be forced to find more terminology than we have at present, the way we have had to do in recent decades when talking about gender, gender-identity and sexuality.

I think there's a value in having the ability to academically separate the internal struggle to define one's own identity from external pressures on that identity (societal and historical), and as I noted earlier Ms. Dolezal's case makes this difficult by her own actions.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:35 pm UTC

Recognizing that such a distinction exists is important I think. I am genetically Ashkenazim. I cannot claim to be Han-Chinese, though I can find more comfort and relatedness to Chinese social mores than American-European, and choose to live my life in China, operating under and by those social mores. Similarly, I am XY, and cannot claim to be XX. I can find more comfort and relatedness in identifying as a woman, and choose to live my life as a woman.

Again, I'm not sure what Dolezal actually did, but some of the claims I see people making (in this thread and elsewhere) are inaccurate insofar as reality is concerned. I did 23andMe not too long ago - it wasn't a questionnaire about what culture I most identified with.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby elasto » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:47 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Is it worth distinguishing 'race' and 'racial identity' for people in this thread? What about 'sex' and 'gender'? Genetics are a thing.

Yes, race and racial identity are different. However, there is a physiological reason for your gender being different to your sex. There is no physiological reason (that I know of) for your racial identity to be different to your race. Therefore I think it should not be treated the same by either the medical community or wider society. (Which does not mean it should not be treated with sympathy, however Dolezal's actions hardly promote that.)

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby leady » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:50 pm UTC

The question isn't really one of self identification really, its wider social acceptance of that choice as valid and moreover whether acceptance is legally mandated.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:53 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:Is it worth distinguishing 'race' and 'racial identity' for people in this thread? What about 'sex' and 'gender'? Genetics are a thing.

Yes, race and racial identity are different. However, there is a physiological reason for your gender being different to your sex. There is no physiological reason (that I know of) for your racial identity to be different to your race. Therefore I think it should not be treated the same by either the medical community or wider society. (Which does not mean it should not be treated with sympathy, however Dolezal's actions hardly promote that.)
I don't think that follows - someone of Sub-Saharan African descent need not identify as a black person in America. Their skin color and biological heritage may have nothing to do with their self-identity. That was my point - that racial identity need not have anything to do with one's genetics.

And the issue with Dolezal here is that black people in America cannot simply say 'But I don't identify as black!' and suddenly be treated like a white person in America.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby elasto » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:55 pm UTC

Agreed, but that's a separate issue - there's more than one factor at play here. That's to do with the fact that whites occupy a privileged position even in today's world.

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:58 pm UTC

But that's precisely the point I was repeating, the issue that her privilege exists, which is identifiable by the fact that she can choose to give it up.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Vahir » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:59 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
elasto wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:Is it worth distinguishing 'race' and 'racial identity' for people in this thread? What about 'sex' and 'gender'? Genetics are a thing.

Yes, race and racial identity are different. However, there is a physiological reason for your gender being different to your sex. There is no physiological reason (that I know of) for your racial identity to be different to your race. Therefore I think it should not be treated the same by either the medical community or wider society. (Which does not mean it should not be treated with sympathy, however Dolezal's actions hardly promote that.)
I don't think that follows - someone of Sub-Saharan African descent need not identify as a black person in America. Their skin color and biological heritage may have nothing to do with their self-identity. That was my point - that racial identity need not have anything to do with one's genetics.

And the issue with Dolezal here is that black people in America cannot simply say 'But I don't identify as black!' and suddenly be treated like a white person in America.


But if they somehow lightened their skin and altered their physical features to appear white, aren't they in essence white?

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby elasto » Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:36 pm UTC

But that's precisely the point I was repeating, the issue that her privilege exists, which is identifiable by the fact that she can choose to give it up.

Ok then, sure, I don't disagree. I think there are at least three issues in play, and privilege is definitely a key aspect.

Vahir wrote:But if they somehow lightened their skin and altered their physical features to appear white, aren't they in essence white?

Sadly no.

Sure, it might get them less random police harassment, and might improve their employment opportunities, but there are many 'one drop' racists still around - for example parents who'd be violently against their daughter marrying someone who was black.

And folk having to 'white up' to improve their position in society was and is a pretty shameful state of affairs (eg. when black folk used toxic chemicals to straighten their hair)

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby sam_i_am » Thu Jun 18, 2015 4:58 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:*shrug* Trump identifies as a viable presidential candidate, too...

Self identification doesn't trump reality.


was that intentional?

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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:30 pm UTC

leady wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
leady wrote:So what exactly does render a classification valid and a person self identifying as that classification valid?

It depends entirely on what classification you're talking about.
So popular arbitrarism ? (which unfortunately isn't a word)
Not at all. It isn't arbitrary, it just depends entirely on what classification you're talking about.

Different classifications are socially constructed to different degrees. Socially constructed classifications are constructed in different ways. You can't just lump all classifications together and act as though your question will have a single answer for all of them.

I'm "Greg" simply by saying I'm Greg. Self-identity is sufficient for my social name (even if there's more hoops to jump through for legal names).
I'm vegetarian if I stop eating meat. There's an objective question about whether my diet really includes meat, but I only have to change my own behavior to become part of that category.
I'm an English-speaker if I speak English. The objective question about what sounds come from my mouth is heavily influenced by how other English-speakers assess my speech. I can utter sounds that at one time wouldn't be considered English but at another time or in another speech community would be perfectly acceptable.

You asked a question about all three of these classifications together, along with hundreds more, and then decided it was "arbitrary" when I explained to you that your question doesn't have a single answer across the board.

Tirian wrote:Except that Dolezal doesn't perceive it as privilege to be white.
Doesn't matter. If she has white privilege and is in denial of it, she still has white privilege.

No, it's not the same as transgender. But it is similar in that you need to weave a web of small lies to reveal a larger truth.
What small lies do you need to weave to be transgender?

Vahir wrote:
elasto wrote:The privilege factor
- If a poor person claims they are rich, it's a bit of a laugh; It's aspirational really. If a rich person claims to be poor, and starts taking advantage of the few counterbalancing benefits there are from being poor (eg. social security, tax credits etc.), it goes from amusing to annoying (or likely fraudulent)


With this one point, I disagree. It's more like a rich person giving away their fortune, and choosing to live poor.
She wore makeup and did her hair differently. She had to actively maintain the deception. That's not like a rich person giving away their money, it's like a rich person just pretending not to have any.
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Talking about types of privilege gets trickier when you recognize that everyone really has a complex intersecting set of privileges.
Someone who grew up rich and gave away (or lost) all that money doesn't have "wealth privilege" any more, but they still have a kind of class privilege in the form of their education and family and social connections and work skills and the like.
Someone who is mixed-race but can pass as white has some privilege for passing but not the whole knapsack of white privilege.
Transracial adoptees have and lack some privileges based on their own appearance, and have or lack others based on the appearance of their adoptive parents.

And a hypothetical someone who was born and grew up white, even if they permanently and irreversibly change their appearance as an adult (which, again, isn't what Dolezal did at all), still grew up with white privilege and still has a lot of privileges as a result of that upbringing.
Last edited by gmalivuk on Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:38 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Racial Identity (Rachel Dolezal's resignation)

Postby Dauric » Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:35 pm UTC

So, wild question:

Even with the understanding that the ability to choose to have privilege highlights having that privilege, and with the understanding that someone like Ms. Dolezal can't -entirely- give up white privilege (ie: is unlikely to be treated less well by the police for her racial identity)...

... Wouldn't the willingness (and in time broader social acceptance) of 'giving up (white) privilege' be a "Good Thing"?

I'm not positing that the way Ms. Dolezal did it was the right way, nor am I suggesting that she did so for the right motivations, but if we extract the issue of privilege from the rest of the issues in this tangled case, doesn't removing the inequalities created by group privilege require that the privileged group be willing to give up that privilege?

Sure the actual act of doing so highlights having had that privilege, but that's a largely unavoidable consequence of making the choice.
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