“If Caitlyn Jenner Can Identify As Female And Be Cheered For it, Why Is White NAACP Leader Rachel Dolezal Wrong To Identify As Black?” And Other Ethics Musings On A Really Strange Story

NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, before she decided to be black.

NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, before she decided to be black.

Rachel Dolezal, a prominent civil rights activist, the leader of Spokane’s NAACP chapter, chairwoman of the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and a professor in the African Studies Program at Eastern Washington University, has been falsely representing herself as black for years. When someone is asked if he or she is really black, and the answers he or she comes up with includes “That question is not as easy as it seems,” and “We’re all from the African continent,”  it’s fair to say the jig is up.

Or is it? Although Dolezal’s mother has spoken out about the 37 -year-old’s background, noting that there is no black ancestry that they know of in the family and that Rachel’s self-identification as black seems to arise out of the fact that she was raised with adopted African-American siblings—you know, like Steve Martin in “The Jerk”?—she may well sincerely believe she is black. Then what?

Dolezal’s actual race, if there is such a thing in her case since she sometimes identifies herself as “white, black, and American Indian,” has suddenly become an issue because she has reported alleged instances of harassment and hate crimes. An inquiry has also been opened at Spokane City Hall. “We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated,” Mayor David Condon, who appointed her to the city oversight board,  and Council President Ben Stuckart said in a joint statement. “That information will be reviewed by the City Council, which has oversight of city boards and commissions.”

Stuckart said the council will meet soon to discuss the developments and that he didn’t want to speak for the group until then. “But if this is true I’ll be very disappointed,” he said..

Is Dolezal credible? Is she courageous? Is she deluded? Is she nuts? Or is being black just, as Gore Vidal said about Truman Capote’s death, a good career move?

Some ethics musings:

1. If Dolezal honestly believes she is black based on her feelings, orientation and culture, why isn’t that acceptable?

2. Why isn’t she a credible Presidential candidate? Senator Elizabeth Warren’s self-identification as Native American got her the benefit of affirmative action programs, and it didn’t stop the citizens of Massachusetts from electing her U.S. Senator.

3. Caitlyn Jenner is being given awards for courage for self-identifying as a woman with no natural genetic or anatomical female characteristics, and getting money, magazine covers and a TV show as rewards. Dolezal’s self-identification as black is being employed as an entry to public service in the interest of human rights. Isn’t she more admirable than Jenner? If not, why not?

4. Can any white person do this, as long as they claim to believe they are black? Can they then be eligible to benefit, a la Warren, from affirmative action programs?

5. If Jenner can employ make-up, clothes, a new name and fake breasts—she is also being coached to speak in a more feminine fashion– to be seen as a courageous woman who will be defended against all scoffers, why wouldn’t it be fair and reasonable for Dolezal to use dark make-up, Southern black speech patterns—you know, like Obama does when he speaks to black audiences?–dress in traditional African garb, and change her name to Makayla Dolezal? Will that be enough to make her black, so  that anyone publicly doubting her—you know, like Mike Huckabee doubting Caitlyn—will be attacked by activists and the media?

6. Rachel already is sporting a hairstyle and using a make-up tone that seems designed to support her black “identity.”


Is this deception, or a legitimate personal choice?

7.  Isn’t Dolezal taking jobs and positions away from legitimately black individuals? How can that be right?

8. Affirmative action programs routinely give an edge to upper middle class and wealthy minority students and job applicants on the basis of race alone. Yet black advocacy organizations will give leadership positions to white women who are only black because they say so. How does that make sense?

9. Why is “feeling black” less respectable than feeling female? Gender is a lot less of an artificial construct than race.

10. We are often told that the problem of race is based in culture, not genetics. If that is literally true, then why is Dolezal’s claim of being black based on her black siblings not seen as completely consistent with this, and reasonable as well?

11. Is the whole ethical problem here transparency? If she was open about the fact that her being “black” was based not on ancestry and genetics but other factors, would that have made her credible and trustworthy? Or would it have disqualified her for every role and position she currently holds?

12. Would that be fair, or bigotry?

13. Is it time to conclude that “race” should be regarded as nothing more than color, and that racism is nothing more than mindless bigotry based on appearances alone?

14. Or is this just straight up fraud?

I can’t wait to find out who will have the courage to ask, or try to answer these and other questions raised by the fascinating masquerade—or courageous embrace of her true identity!— of  Rachel Dolezal.

Let’s ask Caitlyn Jenner about it!

 Update: Wow.

Correction: The initial photo I posted turned out to be the wrong Rachel Donezal, though I have not yet determined whether she identifies as this Rachel Donezal, making the error moot.

61 thoughts on ““If Caitlyn Jenner Can Identify As Female And Be Cheered For it, Why Is White NAACP Leader Rachel Dolezal Wrong To Identify As Black?” And Other Ethics Musings On A Really Strange Story

    • No kidding. It’s kind of like women scoffing at Ms. Jenner wanting into the women’s bathroom or taking a cover away from a non-transgendered model or celeb. Can Ms. Jenner now compete in women’s masters events and most likely put her name on every single masters track and field record?

      But it is perfect. Was she made up by somebody out west?

    • Same here. I can’t wait see what the NAACP, Melissa Harris-Perry, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the New Black Panthers, etc., have to say. It is going to be fun.

      On a more serious note, the President’s son would look like Trayvon (but not necessarily Mike Brown?), the First Lady recently declared that racism is in the feelings of the racially beset, and a US District Court judge ruled that disparate impact is based solely upon the outcomes of standardized testing. Furthermore, HUD is proposing a new rule to increase/govern minority home ownership in under-represented subdivisions. Now, we only need to identify as a certain racial, ethnic or social group to become a member. Yep. We have come along way from the the Great Society, “Selma” and “I Have a Dream”.

  1. I just realized that being brought up in Oklahoma with so many Native Americans that I’m now identifying as such & will henceforth be putting that down as my race.

  2. I’m chagrined that I didn’t see this coming. But, you didn’t directly answer the most important question. Is she progressive liberal? Of course, I can guess, and most likely be correct, but wouldn’t it be the frosting on the cupcake if she were a registered Republican.

  3. I could not agree more!

    Though, what sickens me is that there will be many who will break their backs doing mental gymnastics to find ways in which the Jenner and Dolezal situations are completely different; people who have never spoken the words, “hmmm, you have a point” to someone with differing ideology

  4. Jack, you left out whether she’s suffering from some sort of dysphoria (sp?) that should be recognized by psychiatrists and treated.

  5. As with Elizabeth Warren, the racial composition can be determined by a simple DNA test. I took one for $99. A more intricate one will cost close to $300. My daughter even bought one for our rescue dog.

    When living a lie (see, Warren) the very last thing one would want to do is to get information that would give credence to the accusers – such as myself.

  6. This goes back to my ideologies of my college years. We had a black student group, an asian student group, an indian student group, etc etc etc. Each one qualifying for their own subsidies and eating resources individually. The effect was that each group felt “exclusionary” to those not of those races, colors, heritage, or national origin. Instead of advancing their cause, in a way, they made it more inaccessible.

    Wouldn’t it be more inclusive and supportive of the stated goals if there was a united group of “race relations” and separately a united group of “heritage studies” where a mix of people would support and share the same goals and help each other promote each culture, etc etc etc. rather than working in a vacuum?

    We shouldn’t care about our individual history or experience because it’s too unique to be relatable. It’s also myopic and selfish. We shouldn’t care that Rachel Dolezal feels or thinks black. We should ask her what she can contribute to the end goals and what “we” can provide her to enrich her life and understanding in these areas.

  7. I’ve decided to ‘self-identify’ as either a major league baseball player, (I’ll head up the players union), or a Golden Retriever, (tennis balls, getting petted,12+ hours of sleep daily).
    When did people older than 11 start playing “dress-up” as a lifestyle? And they expect to be treated seriously? I have no problem with anyone who wants to pretend to be a Disney Princess, or Spider-man. As long as they’re 5.

  8. “I am a woman/man in a man’s/woman’s body.” “I am a black/white/brown/yellow person in a yellow/brown/black/white person’s body.” “I have the brain of a genius housed in the mind of a lunatic.” “I am at peace in my turmoil.”

  9. I don’t know why, but when I read down to the beginning of #11, I burst out laughing. Life finally has become entirely imitation of articles in The Onion.

    Also, after finishing reading this post, I quickly recalled something that wyogranny said in an earlier thread:

    “Political entities, and social ones as well, reveal what they fear when they try to control how they are perceived. What they almost always fear is truth.”

  10. I can’t tell whether it’s straight up fraud or another sad case of someone opting for delusion as a means to deal with reality (or misperception of reality). In other words, wyogranny and luckyesteeyoreman may be correct: “What they almost always fear is truth.” Once we understand that being white entails responsibility for the invention of racism and most every other evil in the world, that whites owe the world reparations for every evil perpetrated by pale skinned persons, and that everything whites have is the consequence of unjust privilege, it seems very rational to want being something other than white.

    I will take little pleasure in the avalanche of idiotic, conflicting commentary soon to spew from left-leaners. Some will demonstrate their hypocrisy, some will be supportive of Dolezal’s “choice”, and others will view it as just another example of white people taking advantage of black people. It will all be silly and a detriment to society. The only good to come of this may be a weakening of the bonds holding left-leaning groups together.

    • Someone else is named Rachel Dolezal? I was surprized one person was—what kind of name is that? Do you know how many times I misspelled that name in the first draft? Arrrrgh.

      Thanks…I’ll find the right one, then.

      Of course, the woman I pictured self-identifies as the other Rachel Dolezal, so maybe it doesn’t matter…

  11. While I think this is going to be fun to watch, perhaps this will end up being a positive cultural turning point away from the vacuous nonsense of multiculturalism. Perhaps a healthy does of “Ah, c’mon!” will do us good.

    I can see the responses already:

    1. NAACP:

    The NAACP will attack the biological parents for insisting that their daughter is white (I gather from news reports that the mother and father are divorced or not presently married and her step-father is African=American). They will ask, “What’s wrong with being black? Do you think your European heritage is somehow superior to our African heritage?” To which the parents will respond, “Oh, heavens no! We are just saying that we are Czech, and German and Irish, and she should accept that that is her heritage.” To which the NAACP will have a collective conniption and declare moral outrage and demand reparations from the parents: “Transracialists’ lives matter, too, you know!”.

    2. The Hard Left.

    The Leftists will support her. They will argue that race and culture are merely societal constructs anyway, so if she identifies with an African heritage, then her racial identity should be honored and recognize that she, in fact, is African American. Furthermore, they will declare that opposition to her is just another example of Western European hegemony over peoples of color, backed up by hetero-racialistic-cis-normative societal oppression of discreet and insular minority communities.

    3. The Transracialist Community

    Those with racial dysphoria will declare their allegiance to her, calling for dialogue (monologue, really, if you think about it), and support groups will be formed from the East coast to the West so that their deeply held feelings of racial identities and identifications should be recognized, as requesting grant moniess from the state and federal governments to study and raise awareness about these vital issues. Caveat: The Transgendered community, though, will find itself in a sticky wicket. They will scratch their heads, wondering if this new pysphoria will have a negative impact on the strides they have made in the last couple of years. Some in their community will argue that race is somehow different and distinct from gender, urging that while gender and sexual identities are a social constructs, race is entirely about one’s cultural and social heritage. For instance, while their can be confusion about gender or sexual identification, their is no confusion about race: You are either Asian, or you’re not”. Others in the community will see ‘the larger bowl’, declaring that there is no distinction between race and gender. Therefore, a person’s deeply held beliefs control and should (read as “MUST”) be recognized and validated. They will lead to the conclusion that species is a social construct as well. See, Four below.

    4. The Transspecists (Transspecialists)

    Transpecialists (sp?) will show support for her and Bruce/Caityn Jenner, raising awareness of their rights to be recognized as other species: “I have a deeply held belief that I am an aardvark. Therefore, I am an aardvark. I demand to recognized as an aardvark. The science is settled, after all.” PETA, though, will issue edicts that trans-specialism should not be recognized as a valid dysphoria, crying out that it is just another example of humans imposing their immoral will on animals. What did aardvarks ever do to warrant such imposition of human domination over them?

    5. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

    Hannity (who is an idiot) will have panel discussions about the issue, declaring the sky is falling. Bill O’Reilly (who is an idiot) will yell at his invited guests. CNN and MSNBC will run hit pieces on just how nasty Hannity and O’Reilly really are (but I won’t be watching either of those stations so any critique I will have will be based upon my own biases and hearsay). Melissa Harris-Perry will still wear her tampon earrings and Chris Hayes will still try to look menacing while gazing over the tops of his tortoise-shell glasses. Megyn Kelly will shake her head and snicker at the silliness of it all and immediately turn her attention to whether the Prosecutor in the Freddie Gray should be removed because of irreconcilable conflicts of interest and whether Hillary Clinton should be indicted for obstruction over Benghazi and accepting donations to her foundations while Secretary of State in violation of way too many rules to count. .

    5. Society at Large.

    Society will finally throw up its collective hands and declare that the madness has to stop, focusing instead on solutions to real world problems. Thinking parents will get elected to school boards, steering schools to focus on the important jobs of schools – teaching young minds to think critically. Bozos on city councils will be run out of town on the light rails they so dearly love. Julian Castro will be relieved of his position as HUD Secretary for imposing new rules on home sales to limit gentrification (read as white flight), and any future political aspirations he has will be forever dashed against the shore because the country will finally see him for the fascist he is. State legislators will pass new bills suspending private entities’ rights to utilize government eminent domain powers to take private property away from private citizens in furtherance of public works projects (e.g., light rail, high-speed rail lines from L.A. to San Francisco or Houston to Dallas). Federal legislators will tackle national tax policy, monetary policy, get the national debt and deficit under control, and reinvigorate respect for and honor of the core values and the mission statement that form the basis of what the American experience is meant to be.

    So, all in all, this may be a good thing. I am an eternal optimist.


    • Oops. I forgot an addendum to No. 1 NAACP vis a vis Rachel Dolezal:

      After thoroughly excoriating the parents for their obvious miscegenated and superior attitudes, they will turn their attention to Rachel Dolezal. They will obliterate her for making a mockery of the sacrifices of all those venerable civil rights activists made during the 1960s and 1970s, how Rosa Parks paved the way for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and a host of other actions addressing centuries of oppression. They will unleash a fire storm of outrage for her declaration of supposed African-American roots, declaring that she has no idea of what it means to be Black in the US, that she can always change back to her birth race, whereas Blacks shall forever suffer under the twin yolks of slavery and oppression. They will accuse her diminishing the victories of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who suffered and died for the right to participate in full communion in the American Dream. They will have the good Revs. Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton decry her cynicism, exploiting the Black community’s legacy for her own personal gain, taking the leadership position of Spokane’s NAACP chapter, chair of the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and a professorship in the African Studies Program at Eastern Washington University away from legitimate African-Americans who earned the rights to the seats by the very nature of the color of their skin.

    • This reads like an old SNL “Theodoric of York” skit where Theo (Steve Martin) pauses to ponder his optimistic projections which portend progress and enlightenment and finally says,


    • You h8ter. I’m not quite sure how your comment is raaaaaacist, speciest, trainsphobic, reactionary, etc, but I’m sure someone will figure it out and let you know. Don’t you understand the anguish these trans whatever suffer? If a single entity (person not quite making the cut) commits suicide or homicide because of your comment be prepared to be fed into a wood chipper feet first.
      All appropriate caveats apply.

  12. I suspect this is a FAR more embarrassing ‘snookering’ for the NAACP than the Shirley Sherrod debacle.

    The chest deep, viscid irony remains that a White Liberal has a better chance of representing the NAACP than does a black Conservative.

  13. I have no idea. You’ve entered the twilight zone. It’s all too bizarre for me. I’m going to spend my energy rooting for the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup.

    • Is this supposed to be part of what is expected to be normal behavior by persons assuming ownership of “white guilt?” Some kind of reparative identity-denial for the sake of alternative identity-exaltation?

  14. Given that “race” is an arbitrary construct, I don’t see any “final conclusions” to any questions.

    Ethnicity is a definable characteristic *in a given time frame*, but even ethnicity changes over time – There are no more “Franks” or “Visigoths” just as when they were around there were no “Spanish” or “Scythians”.

  15. When I first heard of this, my description was just like Gore Vidal’s, Jack. “Good career move.” I also marveled at how the obvious Dingleberry Brains of Spokane apparently accepted a woman as black with no African characteristics (beyond artificially curled and colored hair!) and no background vetting. Wouldn’t you think that her blue-green eyes alone would have raised some suspicion?! This is on the level of Jesse Jackson, Jr. being made an Imperial Wizard in the Mississippi Klan.

    I don’t even care if she’s another insane fantacist who believes she’s of a different race, sex or planet! What’s indicative is a political and social structure that not only feeds these aberrations, but refuses to acknowledge them in their own midst; either from self-induced blindness or from the burning fear of being proclaimed politically Incorrect for stating the obvious. Insanity breeds, feeds and sustains mass insanity across the board. God help those people in Spokane who are actually rational. They can never know what lunacy the next day will bring to their lives, courtesy of their own city government.

    • What are “African” characteristics?

      Because, as far as I’ve studied, there are a minimum of 3 or 4 “archetypes”… which at a bare bare bare minimum can be reduced to 2 – the Arab influenced northern Ethnicities and the “Black African” influenced sub-saharan Ethnicities…

      • Don’t take me too literally, Tex. I actually knew a woman who was archtypically West African in her physical appearance, but had eyes that were emerald green! Many American blacks have white blood in them and it’s hardly unknown for some to pass as white. My point, though, was that this woman was so utterly devoid of any characteristics common among those of African descent that, somewhere along the line, you’d have thought that someone would have done just a passing check into her background and immediately discovered that she was not what she claimed. Since she was the head of a chapter of a race-based organization, you’d have thought this might have been a common practice! It also, BTW, calls attention to the inherent foolishness of having such groups being officially recognized by governments in the first place. Demographics, however, play a key role in liberal politics, which only adds to the overall craziness.

          • You and I didn’t put it there, Tex. But it’s being thrown in our face all the time. Many have a vested interest in its maintenance. That’s why we HAVE groups like the NAACP, et. al. Note, too, that this woman is a natural blonde! To have that, one must have that gene in both parents, as it is recessive.

  16. I refer you to http://users.humboldt.edu/mibockover/forum/Ethics.Forum.Cannon.ppt

    The Story of Sandra Laing

    * Born in Apartheid South Africa of White Parents.
    * Was designated white at birth, but was reclassified as “coloured” just after being expelled from her all white elementary school

    Which led to some interesting legal problems…

    * “…If Sandra remains ‘Coloured’ does it mean she will have to be registered as a servant in order to live with us?” [Mr. Laing] added. “Or must she move away into a location? Will we be breaking the law if we take Sandra into a tearoom or a cinema, or take her on a train journey with us? And who would Sandra be allowed to marry?”

    As well as some real Junk Science trying to coerce reality into fitting a socially constructed model:

    These tests included measurements of the nose, nostrils, and cheekbones, and an expert analysis of hair texture. The latter often included the ‘pencil test.’ It was thought that a white person’s hair is not so curly to hold a pencil, whereas a coloured person’s hair could. There were gradations of skin color to be measured in various places of the body including the fingernails and the eyelids; earlobes were squeezed to determine their degree of softness. (It was thought that Black person’s earlobes were softer than others.) Individuals challenging their racial classification before the board would also be asked what they had for breakfast (it was thought only blacks would eat mealie or cornmeal porridge), how they slept on a bed, and what sport they enjoyed (blacks were thought to favor soccer while coloured favored rugby).

    Trying to determine “race” based on softness or otherwise of earlobes makes exactly as much sense as trying to determine sex on the basis of chromosomes.

    * Between the years of 1950 and 1966 there were 267,541 individuals who could not be adequately categorized by the apartheid system of racial categorization.
    * Estimates for Transgender persons in US
    o 97,142 – 301,140 persons.
    * Estimates of those with intersex condition
    o 150,570 – 200,760 persons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.