The Last Word—Words, Really—On The Ridiculous Rachel Dolezal: “Signature Significance”


From the Ethics Alarms “Concepts and Special Terms” page:

Signature Significance: The concept is the creation of baseball statistics genius Bill James, who applied it to baseball performance. Signature significance posits that a single act can be so remarkable that it has predictive and analytical value, and should not be dismissed as statistically insignificant. Thus, in James’ example, certain outstanding pitching performances can prove that the pitcher involved is an outstanding one, because average pitchers literally never reach such levels of excellence, even as a one-time fluke.  Ethics Alarms employs the term to describe an extreme ethical or unethical act that similarly reveals the true character of the individual responsible for the conduct, and that can be reliably and fairly used to predict future conduct and trustworthiness.

My immediate assumption about now-ex NAACP executive Rachel Dolezal’s charade as a black woman her conduct was signature significance, that anyone who would construct and benefit from such an audacious deception was unreliable, untrustworthy, and a likely sociopath. My posts never got into this issue, in part because I was waiting for a unanimous consensus that the woman was lying–sadly, a lot of stubborn progressives, civil rights advocates, celebrities and culture warriors either ducked the issue or, to their eternal discredit, denied that she couldn’t be black is she said she was. I was waiting for the “she just made a mistake” arguments, and the “anyone can get confused about what race they are” rationalization by playing the signature significance card, and never got to play it.

Fortunately, the Dolezal saga has become its own signature significance card. William Salatan at Slate amassed an impressive list of Dolezals many fictions, scams, fudges, deceptions, false statements and deceits here, but the best is this:

Dolezal submitted her collection of African-American art as part of  her application for enrollment to Howard, which not only admitted her but gave her a scholarship. The Huffington Post reported that  Dolezal’s mother believes Howard assumed her daughter was African-American because of the collection and other factors, such as the absence of any race-identifying information in her application that would suggest otherwise. One of Dolezal’s “African-American paintings” is one depicting a slave ship at see, titled “The Shape of Our Kind.” It is in fact a shameless rip-off—a copy, essentially—of “The Slave Ship,” an 1840 painting by J.M.W. Turner (who was not black, or at least never claimed to be, so he wasn’t. I guess. It’s confusing.). “The Shape of Our Kind” is offered on Dolezal’s art website, on which she claims to be “an award-winning Mixed Media Artist with over 20 exhibitions in 13 states, internationally, and at the United Nations Headquarters” and pedals her paintings for sale.

She is a serial liar, you see.

She cannot be trusted or believed about anything.


By anyone.

A person who would lie about her race

and benefit from that lie

even once

is not trustworthy.

Signature Significance!


Source: SF Gate

78 thoughts on “The Last Word—Words, Really—On The Ridiculous Rachel Dolezal: “Signature Significance”

  1. Who do you think is arguing the contrary?

    Not Jon Stewart. Not Charles Blow. Not the Atlantic. Not the NYTimes. Certainly not me.

    Pretty much everyone is in agreement with you that she is inauthentic, insincere, duplicitous, self-seeking, and generally not to be trusted.

    Who’s your strawman?

    • You’re right, Charles, I made the whole thing up.

      Mediaite has a fairly complete list. Note the 71% of MSNBC viewers. Now, to be fair that ‘s about 71 people, and all of them made of straw…

      Then there’s this jibberish

      NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, usually smarter than this, defended Dolezal.“Does it really matter whether Rachel Dolezal is black or white?” Abdul-Jabbar wrote in an online column for Time magazine. It’s essentially “The Saint’s Excuse.”

      • You are trying to find meaning in a linguistic sleight of hand.

        1. It is meaningful to say “Rachel has, or has not, black ancestry.”
        2. It is also meaningful to say, “Rachel tries to appear as culturally ‘black.'”

        Where you start playing sleight of hand is when you mix the definitions. Remember “Clinton was the first black President?” It’s actually no different than this situation, making a joke out of the double meaning of ‘black.’ We all know he did not have black ancestry; we also all ‘get’ that he shared some affinity with black culture more than the average (white) bear.

        The old southern legal definition of black was ancestral, whether you had a sixteenth of a drop of black blood (really it was a definition of ‘white,’ not black). That’s the definition you’re choosing when you say “obviously she’s not black,” and we all understand that meaning. It is the meaning about which she is lying, and she is understood to be lying by all.

        Then there’s the other meaning: she’s trying to pass herself off as part of black culture, in the same way that thousands of blacks have tried through the years to pass as white (except, as I’ve said many times in this column, you can’t just assume equivalency of situations when it comes to race). Since there are no membership cards, hormone samples or DNA tests to determine cultural race, we heard instead of her “faking it,” or being inauthentic, or taking unfair advantage of the fact that she could always slip back to being white.

        Your whole claim to some kind of ideological confusion on the left side is based on nothing more than this linguistic confusion between “black” as ancestral and black as cultural. To confuse matters, “race” may be ancestral, but that doesn’t mean it’s genetic – one of the great things to come out of this debate is a greater appreciation that, unlike with gender, most of what we signify by “race” is cultural, not biological.

        Any apparent confusion is intentional at this point.

        • Back to the original post, Charles! Remember Caitlyn? Oddly, she has disappeared of late, and with good reason: the ridiculous celebration of a “courageous” woman who is in every biological, genetic and cultural way male was unsustainable while a white woman claiming to be black–because, she said, she “identified” as black as a little girl”–with more justification was being rejected, lest anyone, white or black, could claim the bounty of our racial spoils system.

          With great respect, and sadness, I see your effort to deny the obvious as desperation. The left’s group identification, victim-based rational for unequal inequality doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Never did.

        • Now it depends on our definition of “Black”? Really? That’s where you want to hang your hat? Even Rachel doesn’t know apparently, because when asked “Are you African American?” Her first answer was “I don’t understand the question.”

          • HT, I used to be a banker, but I lost interest.
            (The joke depends on the meaning of ‘interest.’)

            Yes, yes, we know the Clinton line about the meaning of ‘is.’ But the truth is, a helluva lot – besides bad puns – depends precisely on understanding the meaning of words. Like, what’s the meaning of intellectual property – are you talking about patent law, copyright law, or trademark law? You need to be precise.

            And yeah, despite the knee jerk conservative obsession with binary labelling of everything (“there’s only men and women, and they are what they are for once and for all,” “race is black and white,), reality has a nasty habit of serving up complexity.

            And yes, there is a lot more than one definition of ‘black,” as in “he’s black.”

            –There’s what color your parents were
            –There’s what color others (friends, neighbors, cops) think you are
            –There’s who you identify with and hang out with
            –There’s differing cultures you may or may not identify with
            –There’s what you wrote down on a drivers’s license…
            –etc etc etc

            Every one of those might have a different answer to the question, “Are you black?”

            And to complicate it further, it depends on who’s doing the talking. Rachel saying “I’m black” is qualitatively different than Toni Morrison saying it.

            When it comes to race in America, the rule is, there are a damn lot of rules. It really does depend on the meaning of ‘black.’ To insist that someone “is” or “isn’t” black without even asking “with respect to what?” is just being willfully blind.

            For the record:
            -By the first definition, Rachel isn’t black, and lied about it
            -By the second definition, Rachel occasionally “passed,” and lied about it
            -By the third, she and her hangout buddies thought of her as black; and she lied about it
            -By the fourth, she was clearly black, and wasn’t lying about it.

            And I’m sure somebody could do a better job of parsing out even more definitions.

            • “Reality has a nasty habit of serving up complexity.” The conservative side of the spectrum doesn’t deny that either. But “it’s not that simple” alone is too much of a copout; one that deflects truth-seeking. It’s the copout that middle school students use when they bring up unlikely “but what if” quandaries in order to nullify categorically true statements like “stealing is wrong.”

              The existence of grey areas does not mean that black and white don’t exist. It just means that there are grey areas to be navigated and understood. It means that there is a bit of extra-credit learning to be done; not that reality has folded in on itself and we can all fly cloud cars to Funkytown.

              In terms of “race,” I’ve yet to hear a conservative insist that someone must choose “black” or “white.” You can be half of each. Race is a construct anyway; we’re just talking about a set of traits. But statements have commonly-agreed upon meanings, and “I am Black” in no rational person’s brain computes to “I identify as Black but have entirely European heritage.” So any attempt to fairy-up different meanings of the clear deception that such a statement is in regards to Dolezal, is just turning a law into a hypothesis.

              The shared English-speaking community has determined that “I am Black” refers to biology, or else you’re a liar. For cultural transplants, we have a great many expressions, none of which are the deceptive “I am Black.” That’s why it’s hilarious when Steve Martin says he grew up “a poor black man.” Rachel is a cultural transplant who also lies about being Black. She’s not Black. Clinton as a “Black President” was a joke, which proves my exact point. Rachel and her sincere defenders are not joking.

              If a Leftist says “well, who’s to say she isn’t Black? Black is relative.” that particular Leftist is ideologically confused. Or nothing and no one is. Pick one. Sorry, logic forces us to pick a position sometimes. That’s why logical people favor “binary” thinking and look for “either/or” propositions, and then attempt to label things with terms that correctly identify them. It’s how perception is narrowed down into an understanding of reality.

              Where gender is concerned, biology does give us a binary. Male and female. There are almost quite literally coded blueprints. Where male and female biology get mixed up in the case of hermaphrodites, it’s acknowledged to be a physical malady. A failure of the function of the machinery. An affliction for which those affected deserve the utmost sympathy and support.

              In cases whereupon a person has conflicting feelings about what gender to be, but the biology is clear…you can make a case that that person is a victim of a mental condition…or that their confusion is a blessed gift. But you can’t take either of those positions from science, just feels.

                • “No, gender” is an ambiguity that for hundreds of years just meant “type” or “kind.” It still can refer to biological gender, culture, personal sexual identity, any number of things. It’s not particularly useful in that regard. I was pretty obviously referring to biology, because “sex” is even more ambiguous. I think your preferred use of the word has been around for maybe a few decades.

                • Gender is actually a grammatical term. It was leftists who demanded the use of the term “gender” as a substitute for “sex”, denoting the physical and mental difference that characterize the biological duality of the human race and all higher forms of life.

              • Isaac,
                Help me square these two statements you’ve made: on the face of it, they appear contradictory to me.

                1. In terms of “race,” I’ve yet to hear a conservative insist that someone must choose “black” or “white.” You can be half of each. Race is a construct anyway; we’re just talking about a set of traits.

                2. If a Leftist says “well, who’s to say she isn’t Black? Black is relative.” that particular Leftist is ideologically confused. Or nothing and no one is. Pick one. Sorry, logic forces us to pick a position sometimes.

                • Of course.
                  I was addressing early in your post where you used “black or white” as an example of binary thinking that a conservative would use. I was just pointing out that conservatives aren’t any different than anyone else in acknowledging that you can obviously be biracial. Neither am I aware of any likelihood that conservatives would insist on someone “choosing a side” when it comes to being either black or white. So “black or white” is not a good example for you to use in regard to calling out conservative “either or” thinking. Sorry if that wasn’t clear enough.

                  “I am Black” however, is a lie coming from a person of entirely White European stock. Rachel Dolezal is not Black at all. She identifies with Black culture, but as you can see from the backlash coming from the African-American community, that does not make her equal to “Black.” And it would have been respectful of her to acknowledge that.

                  I’m with you when you say that everything isn’t as simple as “black and white” metaphorically speaking. But it does not follow that black IS white or that white is black. Things still have to have their correct titles as much as possible.

          • I enjoyed this little beauty from her interview with Savannah Guthrie, NBC Nightly News: ““There have been some moments of some creative non-fiction where I have had to explain or justify some of the timeline or logistics of my life so it makes sense to others”. When my son tells me he didn’t break the plate glass window with his baseball, I am going ask if he is lying or merely utilizing some creative non-fiction to explain why his baseball is in my living room with shards of glass all over the place.


  2. I’m really in the belief that Rachel Dolezal is not so much a serial liar as a pathological one. I’ve seen people like that, who lie reflexively and not only get caught up in an ever-increasing web of complex falsehoods but start to believe their own lies – after all, if you say something enough, people start to believe the lie. I think Dolezal has spent so long lying about her race and everything else that she truly believes that she’s black.

    • Meaning, to the “you have your truth and I have my truth” crowd, SHE IS Black. Charles to the contrary notwithstanding, this is a significant part of the progressive universe. Also the mental institution population.

      • “This is a significant part of the progressive universe.”

        Here’s what a significant part of the progressive universe actually has to say about Ms. Dolezal: tell me if you can spot the difference between Rush Limbaugh half the time:

        –Amy Schumer: “Wait, we can be black if we want?”

        –Ta-Nehisi Coates:”Through duplicitous means, Dolezal was able to masquerade as a member of the black race.”
        I care not one iota what Rachel Dolezal does nor what she needs to label herself. I care solely, totally, and completely about what this society does to my son, because of its need to label him.

        —Charles Blow, NYTimes: “This is about privilege, deceitful performance and a tortured attempt to avoid truth and confession by co-opting the language of struggle, infusing labyrinthine logic with the authority of the academy, and coat-tailing very real struggles of transgender people and transracial adoptees to defend one’s deception. This is a spectacular exercise in hubris, narcissism and deflection.”

        —New York Times, Tamara Winfrey-Harris: “Being able to shift one’s race is a privilege. Ms. Dolezal’s masquerade illustrates that however much she may empathize with African-Americans, she is not one, because black people in America cannot shed their race. We cannot proclaim the black race a nebulous concept, while strictly policing whiteness and the privileges of that identity. I will accept Ms. Dolezal as black like me only when society can accept me as white like her.

        —New Yorker. “But, in truth, Dolezal has been dressed precisely as we all are, in a fictive garb of race whose determinations are as arbitrary as they are damaging. This doesn’t mean that Dolezal wasn’t lying about who she is. It means that she was lying about a lie.”

        —The Daily Show: Jessica Williams: “She didn’t have to Iggy [Azalea] it,” Williams said, adding: “Actually, [Dolezal] is worse. Iggy acts black to make money but Iggy’s not fooling anybody. Rachel Dolezal actually just Single White Female-d all black women. We don’t need oppression cosplay; we need allies, not replacements!”

        —Ebony Views, Jamilah Lemieux: “Dolezal’s deception, which should be credited to both decent quality hair weaves and the privilege Black folks often afford to light-skinned women (even those that are intellectually and physically mediocre,) is at once an insult to Black women everywhere and a gift to the comedy gods.”

        —Spiked: “Rachel Dolezal: Desperately Seeking Victim Status” [In this the author agrees with Rush Limbaugh]

        —LibCom: “Six days after the story broke; Rachel Dolezal is still dominating headlines. Dolezal, 37, evidently lied about her racial background, claiming that she is of African heritage when in fact she is almost entirely Caucasian.What can people take away from this story of a single person with clear mental issues and a possible history of childhood abuse? Objectively speaking not much. This is the story of one person, who has done something fairly reprehensible and ridiculous, but it has no implications other than that.
        So why is this news? Well the answer is plain to see. The media simply wants to discredit the institutions and liberal activities she has been associated with. The NAACP, the police oversight committee, her past complaints of hate mail, a petition calling to boycott the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, these are all being paraded around the nation to discredit African Americans who complain of racism at a time when the riots of Ferguson and Baltimore are fresh in everyone’s minds.”

        —Rolling Stone: Rapper-activitst Talib Kweli: “She’s said she identifies as black. Cool story, but that’s not a real thing – because at any time, she could go back. That is a privilege that people of color do not have. You cannot just jump back and forth between those worlds. It’s very disrespectful to the people of color that she claims to identify with to say something like that. When you say something like that, you are not identifying with us, at all, in any way, shape, or form.”

        –Michael Eric Dyson: “Rachel Doleal is More Black than Clarence Thomas.” (And please note, Dyson has tongue deep in cheek).


        So where’s the liberal wall people are falling on? Where’s the belief that Rachel is a victim, or “is really black?” The closest I’ve seen is Melissa Harris-Perry’s unfortunate interview where she bonded with a fellow Spokane woman, and she’s appearing remorseful about having thrown her such softballs.

        If there is a “significant part of the progressive universe” that believes such things, you’ve obviously got some special window into progressivism that seems to have escaped me. I see a lot of agreement out there.

      • From the transgender part of the “progressive universe:”

        “Co-opting the term ‘transracial’ to describe Dolezal’s behavior,” the open letter concludes, “exposes the deep denial and erasure of decades of research, writing, and art of transracial adoptees. That’s why we need everyone to stop trying to make this new definition of ‘transracial’ happen. It’s not (and should not) be a thing.”

        Raising the question yet again: JUST WHO is it that is supposedly arguing that saying you’re black makes you so? (Other than Rachel Donezal, obviously). I don’t see anyone. I surely don’t see a “progressive universe” making that claim.

    • I’ve always wondered if it’s really possible to believe in one’s own outlandish lie like this. It really seems that pathological liars do believe their insane statements, even from what I’ve witnessed in person. But I have a suspicion that deep down, they really do know the truth. I think they just prefer to manipulate reality into something that they’re happier with, rather than have clear consciences and a less-than ideal self-image. More like, “I know I’m lying, but things are better this way, and I’m going to fight to maintain it.”

  3. Wow. I’ve avoided basically all news about this until now. I went to the link at Slate to read all of the “hate crimes” against her. Wow. How am I supposed to feel about statistics disclosing “reported hate crimes” in the US or anywhere when stuff like this is counted? Her actions discredit very real situations and statistics. All her story does is make the public even more numb to anecdotal stories. It’s hard to insist on change when the impetus for change hasn’t been verified or vetted. On the one hand, that’s good. We should keep calm and collected before we rush to judgement. On the other hand, the onlooker who sees us consume this information and shrug it off initially thinks we are cold-hearted unfeeling bigots. Lose-Lose all around.

  4. It’s not just signature significance for her, it’s become signature significance for the culture. It’s the cheater culture in all of it’s sordid meanness and wretchedness. It’s so tawdry and cartoonish that it’s existence makes all of us a little less decent. Especially the people who are searching so desperately for a way to justify it.

  5. To me, Ms. Dolezal is a sociopath and/or a nut case and/or an opportunist of the worst kind. I don’t care that she may have been a good leader for the NAACP Chapter where she worked. She was required to be honest about her ethnicity, and if they still wanted to hire her, then that’s fine with me.

    I don’t understand the comparisons to Jenner. The evidence is pretty clear (from one of his ex wives) that his gender orientation was something that troubled him his whole life and was the cause of their divorce. Being transgender is not something that was accepted in the 70s/80s and we barely understand it now. I don’t like the hero worship that has been applied to him though because he is just not a good candidate — by all accounts: (1) he was the worst father imaginable (especially toward his first two families), (2) he was a sucky husband — he married at least 2, possibly 3, women without disclosing his issue; and (3) he is a notorious celebrity who has, and will, do anything for attention.

    So while we can applaud Jenner for being brave about his transition, and we can — and should — try and understand transgender issues generally, we should not honor Jenner overall as being a hero given his other flaws. Re Dolezal, what’s to applaud at all? There is no shame in being white (as there is in being transgender) — so who cares if she decided to “identify” as black? She lied. She easily could have said, “I was born to white parents, but I chose to identify as black after being raised with adopted black siblings.” Then people could either accept her or not — but she doesn’t get to deceive people. The deception that Jenner engaged in is tolerable ONLY because of the stigma attached to what he was hiding.

    • I think the comparison comes from all the parallels between the two cases. Up to now, I haven’t seen any evidence that Jenner actually had underlying physiological issues that led to her transition, which leads me to assume (and I could be wrong, but…) that her issue was in her personal belief that she was a woman. If Bruce was ruining his marriages and alienating his children that’s a tragedy…. But if both Jenner and Dolezal realised from a young age that they identified as something other than what they were… Without any underlying physical reason…. That effected their life detrimentally…. I just don’t see how the situations are much different. We could be seeing a movement starting that in 50 years people will look back and call people like us who don’t really buy it bigots.

      • We need Zoe to weigh in, but my very limited understanding is that a transgender person identifies as the opposite gender once gender is recognized during the toddler years. I.e., there is something physiological happening –it’s just in the brain and can’t be identified with current technology. Under the kindest of treatments re Dolezal, she began to identify with black culture after being raised with black siblings. That’s not the same thing. I choose to eat French food and travel to Paris whenever I can possibly afford it — but that doesn’t make me French. If I tell people I’m French because I have some language proficiency and love of French culture, that just makes me a liar. The only lie that Jenner ever told was telling everyone that he was a heterosexual male.

        But of course, it is possible that a future generation will label me a bigot. 🙂

        • Agree with all except “The only lie that Jenner ever told was telling everyone that he was a heterosexual male.”

          Language really gets in the way of these discussions: case in point, the verb “to be.”

          Your comment assumes there can be no change between “then” and “now,” which flows naturally from the limitations of the English word “was.” It begs the very question, which is, “is there some kind of identity that remains immutable and another kind that changes.?”

          I see no good reason to doubt that he was a hetero male, by the definitions of the laws of marriage at the time and the Olympics, whereas you do.
          I see no good reason to doubt that he always “felt” a female “identity, whereas Jack does.

          This is a linguistic debate masquerading as an ontological debate, and easily resolved by noting two different meanings of “to be,” accommodating two (at least) different meanings of “male/female.”

          • Okay, now that the language police got me. 🙂 Jenner’s lie is that he never told anyone that he identified as female.

          • All beside the point regarding Jenner. First, we have no idea if he was lying then, or lying now, or neither, or both. He could easily be as crazy as Dolezal—he was living with the Kardashians, which could get to anyone. The point is that there is no reason to regard his entirely emotional/cultural/identification as female as more or less legitimate that Dolezals, yet the Official Progressive Politically Correct reactions to the two have been dramatically different

            • You need to go read his second wife’s interview. It is pretty clear that he is NOT lying now and he has always felt that way.

              • If she’s his SECOND wife, she can’t offer any perspective on how he’s “always” felt.

                And another thing…and this bugs me…nobody praises, rewards, or even acknowledges the many, many people who pull a “reverse Jenner”– either by undoing their sex changes, renouncing their homosexual pasts, or reconciling with their wives after being caught in some sort of non-gender-normative tryst. It’s always, “he went back to living a lie” or “he couldn’t embrace his true self.” Says who? If a person has a conflict of sexual identity, what logic is there in assuming that the identity that doesn’t match his biology is the “right” one?

                What’s going to happen if Bruce Jenner regrets his transformation (as many in his position have done) and switches back? Would it make him a coward, since becoming a woman was courageous? Would he no longer be commended for trying to be happy? What if Bruce Jenner’s womanly desires were a sex addiction that represents his very worst self…and 5 years from now he realizes this and either goes back to being a man, or gets into something more…fringe…in a never-ending quest to find ultimate fulfillment in sex?

                Given the number of offspring he’s produced, I’m 97% certain that Bruce Jenner either does, or has in the past, felt sexual attraction to women. I don’t even think that’s really what’s being debated. Society’s lack of tolerance in the 70’s didn’t require Bruce Jenner to tramp around with multiple women, start families, and cheat on them with other women. So…if he “felt” like a woman in the past…how does that erase the fact that he also “felt” like a man?

                I suppose the knee-jerk reaction to that hypothetical is “well, let him do whatever he wants then. He has the money to change back.” That’s the libertarian view of things, and I agree with that politically speaking, as most people do. But as a collective culture we’re waving people like Bruce off down a path that we won’t easily let him come back from. Maybe that’s partly his fault for seeking all of this publicity, but maybe he’s also being sentenced to a future of even more misery…and the current condemnation of anyone trying to unscramble that kind of egg means that he won’t find any compassion from his current peer group if that’s the case.

        • “There’s something physiological happening…it’s just in the brain and can’t be identified with current technology.”

          It’s fairies. Definitely fairies.

    • This makes no sense, first you say Jenner couldn’t do something because it wasn’t socially accepted, wasn’t brave enough to buck convention like say, Renee Richards. But now Jenner is brave?

      Brave is waiting till you can be on magazine covers and profit from the process?

      • It was unheard of to publicly come out and say you were the opposite gender in the early 80s. In 2015, we barely understand it and it still socially unacceptable, so yes, that is brave.

        But see my other comments — I don’t think the guy should be treated as a hero by any stretch.

        • And yet people did it. Or do you just mean it would have been to difficult to remain in the public eye and transition?

          Here was someone with the means, someone who knew full well that it was possible to do (thanks to Renee Richards) and could have easily dropped out of the public eye. How many Olympic athletes form the 70s do you see in the media in an average month? I’d say that choosing fame and fathering over transition is a good way to wipe out any claims of medical necessity or brain sex or any of that crap.

          And I’ll say that there’s nothing brave about indulging your fantasies when you’re old enough and rich enough to be immune from consequences.

          I’d be willing to believe that trans teens are brave, not rich old guys playing dress-up.

          • I like your style, Valkygrrl! That also echoes my instincts on Caitlyn. A while back I asked Zoe about writing an op-ed here about then-Bruce when this was percolating, because I was interested which tact she would take: my question: was the inevitable sensationalization going to help or hurt understanding of legitimate trans individuals.

            I think she was wise then to decline. I’ll say, though, that the automatic acclaim this reality show courage received was suspect to say the least, a knee jerk PC reaction rather than a genuine, measured one, and combined with the hypocrisy in the case of Dolezal, I am less likely to sympathize with people who announce that they arer suddenly male or female based on how they feel alone.

            So Jenner hurt the cause of trans individuals with me, at least. That’s one.

        • It was unheard of because people assumed that doing so would get them laughed off the face of the Earth, and and because they didn’t take such feelings to mean that they were eligible for the Miss America pageant the minute they felt feminine. They thought, “oops, I’m becoming delusional, better shape up.” And often did.

  6. As a serial liar and racially/sexually confused misanthrope, the NAACP was the perfect place for her. Now, sadly lacking that post, she’ll have little choice but to apply either for a Nevada brothel girl or a contributor on MSNBC. Actually, there’s little to choose between the two.

  7. I think the art fiasco is an embarrassment but is not Signature Significance as to her character, though. Her recent comment to the media rejecting her own family heritage is more fundamentally appalling. She told an interviewer that, while her purported mother and father may have raised her from a baby, there is no actual DNA proof that they are her biological parents. No one has undergone a paternity test, so she can’t state unequivocally that they are her parents. That renders everything she does, has done, and will do suspect. She can’t be trusted. Watching Melissa Harris-Perry fawn all over her, feeding her softball. open-ended questions without really following up her answers, was equally disappointing.

    If, as MHP states that race is simply a social or cultural construct, wouldn’t that then cut into the Left’s love affair with racial discrimination? The NAACP will now change its name to the “National Association for the Advancement of Cognizant People”. That sounds about right.


    • “A person who would lie about her race and benefit from that lie even once is not trustworthy.”

      Signature Sigificance

      I may have been less clear than I intended, but the post does not assert that the stolen art is signature significance, but that the fake race is, and the stolen art was wholly predictable.

      • Agreed. I read through your original post too quickly. After rereading it, I see your point and I agree.

        On a side note, perhaps you can add to your list of rationalizations, “He/She has just been “Dolezalized”, or he/she is “doin’ a Dolezal”. Has a nice ring to it, no?


  8. Charles’ protestations I understand. He’s mostly pointing out examples of the condemnation that Dolezal has received from many in the Black community. (“Black Twitter” had a hilarious field day with it.) They’re angry at her for appropriating their culture and whatnot. In that regard, there’s a rare agreement between Blacks and conservatives on an issue that’s kind of political. They both are well aware of how pathetic this is.

    However, Jack is pointing out examples of Dolezal’s defenders, both Black and White, and that subset of humans is pretty tightly contained within the “politically liberal” circle.

        • Jack you did NOT send a “whole list.” You sent a screen shot of an MSNBC “poll,” and a few tweets from Ta-Nehisi Coates which suggested the whole issue was useful for further discussion. I’ve shown you already a much longer quote from Coates.

          Show me ONE PERSON and a REAL QUOTE from someone who is a “liberal” and who claims to believe this mythical trope you claim is infecsting the left universe.

          ONE PERSON, ONE QUOTE. Who is it saying these things? And what is it they’re saying?

          • I’m sorry, Charles, did I not explain that you have to actually click on links? Here is the link again.

            Mediate’s list–incomplete, by the way— of those who defended Dolezal, which, is, I believe, a list, since it calls itself a list, and lists things. Ergo, LIST. Which I already posted for you once. Here it is, two more times:


            • Jack, we can both click; but did you actually READ that “list?”

              Let’s get very specific: The “list” is titled
              “The Definitive List of People Who Think Rachel Dolezal Is Actually Black.”

              It begins with – drumroll – Rachel Dolezal herself. Which tells you something about the rest of the ‘list.’

              Next up on the ‘list’ is this:
              “Harris-Perry asked MSNBC panelists Saturday whether it is “possible that [Dolezal] might actually be black,” asking whether someone can be “cisblack and transblack.”

              Since when is asking an interviewee a question the same as believing the question? Does asking a suspected criminal if they’re guilty mean that you don’t believe they’re guilty?

              Next up is this:
              “The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehesi Coates. Coates tweeted out a link to Mediaite’s coverage of Harris-Perry’s comments and gave the segment high praise.”

              Is “giving a segment high praise” what you mean by “actually thinking someone is black?” If you actually READ his actual tweets they say, and this is a quote, “I think we’d all be better off if weekend talk show hosts tried half as hard to think through shit as @MHPshow.”

              Since when is recommending thinking something through the same as “actually thinking someone is black?”

              The closest example in that “list” I can find to back up your claim of endemic liberal bias is that of Raven-Symone from the View, of whom the “list” says, “Raven-Symone saying it wasn’t necessary to have black skin in order to be black.”

              You got me on that one. She did say it. She is indeed an idiot. As was quickly agreed to by, with the headline “Dum Dum Raven-Symone thinks Rachel Donezel is Just Like Caitlyn Jenner.” And though I’m not familiar with Jezebel, it looks more liberal than conservative.

              Jack, you know how to put together data-based, rich research; you do it frequently. This one isn’t up to your standards. There simply are not very many – honestly, I can’t find ONE – serious left-leaning person who seems to endorse the views that you attribute to the left in general. Whereas there are dozens of leading liberal thinkers who agree with you that Rachel D. is a liar, and that her calling herself black doesn’t, in any meaningful or significant way, make her black. They agree with you, they don’t disagree with you.

              I submit, there are plenty of areas where left and right part ways; I don’t see that this is one of them.

                • HT, that’s indeed an interesting article, thanks for passing it along.

                  I find it one of the more thoughtful pieces of writing on the whole subject, delineating carefully in what sense it makes sense to claim “blackness” and in what sense it doesn’t. In that sense, the author does indeed grant some legitimacy to the claim. You’re right. Though as you note, most lefties don’t even grant that limited “legitimacy.”

              • The viewers of MSNBC are a reliable cross section of the hard, unconscious left. Co-Pilot Murdoch’s op ed was also on my list.

                This is classic No True Scotsman, right? “She’s not a progressive, she’s an idiot. No true progressive excuses Dolezal”

                And I have still not read a credible explanation from a Dolezal critic who cheered Caitlyn why someone can become a woman by wishing it to be so, but can’t become black, when gender is real and race is a mythical construct. Still waiting. What I’ve heard is psychobabble, spin and worse.

                • Nor have I “read a credible explanation from a Dolezal critic who cheered Caitlyn why someone can become a woman by wishing it to be so, but can’t become black.”

                  Because I’m not aware of ANY sentient being claiming you can “become a woman by wishing it to be so.”

                  Can you cite such a person, and their quote – liberal or otherwise?

                • You’re coming dangerously close to the proposition that transgender = mental illness. I don’t think that’s the case and, more importantly, specialists/doctors don’t think that’s the case.

                  Although it’s possible that Dolezal is mentally ill, I think it more likely that she is a narcissistic, opportunistic, evil liar. Certainly Jenner has some of those qualities as well, but — putting him aside — there are many transgenders out there whose struggles are very real. And no doctor will consider doing the necessary surgery without scores of psych evaluations first to weed out those who might just be mentally ill.

                  • Beth, I’m not even sure that mental illness isn’t a construct too. It’s a perception of reality that varies sufficiently from the norm that society has a hard time accommodating it. For all I know, we’re the crazy ones, and those who shed genders like overcoats are sane. I’m serious. Culture is a battle over what is normal.

                  • Then I’LL come out and say it, Beth. Anyone who cannot come to terms with the utterly manifest nature of their own sexual identity is NUTS. The only item to be determined from there is just how great a threat they pose to normal people. As these people tend to be organized these days to promote agendas against the common good, that threat has escalated in recent times.

              • The NAACP defended her. I believe that they are mostly somewhat left of center politically. As did marginal celebrity Keri Hilson saying that “she’s done more than most of us have done for ourselves [black people].” Granted, I didn’t know who that was until now, but it’s a name.

  9. You talk about rip-offs as if there is something to be ashamed of. Art is derivative. J.M.W. Turner’s “Dutch Boats in a Gale” is a shameless rip-off of Willem van de Velde the Younger’s “Ships on a Stormy Sea”. Manet’s “Olympia” is a shameless rip-off of Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” (among others). The various “Folias/Folies D’Espagne” are a big jumble of rip-offs of each other. Culture is enriched by such activity.

    • Sure it is, but all of those paintings add something to their inspirations. Rachel’s version of “Ship” adds nothing, and thus is more than a rip-of, it’s appropriation without attribution.

      • Genius is hard. Whether or not new art adds something to its inspirations is in the eye of the beholder. Artists should not be faulted for trying and failing to go surpass their predecessors.

        Attribution in art is a tricky thing. I generally agree with giving credit where it is due (see Nina Paley’s However, I can understand situations in which artists do not. Sometimes attribution just takes away from the art (“A Comedy of Errors, based on the play Menaechmi by Plautus” doesn’t have a nice ring to it). Sometimes the “ripping off” is obvious enough that it doesn’t need to be mentioned (e.g. the numerous parodies of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”, the various copies of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” that appear in all media). I would tend to draw the line between ethical and unethical ripping-off based how old the work being ripped-off is (because, once a work old enough and its creator is dead enough, it just becomes part of our culture), how the copier represents his or her own works (attribution is great, a lack of attribution depends on the circumstances, claiming a work is wholly original when it is not is unethical). The level of difference between the two works may or may not be relevant (making an exact mechanical reproduction of the “Mona Lisa” and calling it my own work is unethical and foolish, but making such a reproduction and adding a mustache and an L.H.O.O.Q. underneath it may just be genius).

        • Great thoughts, if I understand you to agree that appropriating an older work as your own to get a scholarship from a black college that you didn’t tell you were white is unethical. And that the older work principle doesn’t excuse using “your” tragedy in Elizabethan English “King Gleer” to prove you are a Druid.

          • Sure, I agree. Is that even what happened, though? In the Huffington Post article you linked to, Dolzeal’s mother is quoted as saying that Howard may have believed Dolzeal is black “because her portfolio of art was all African-American portraiture”, implying that “The Shape of Our Kind” wasn’t one of the submitted pieces. Also, on Dolzeal’s blog, “Triptych”, of which “The Shape of Our Kind” is a part, was posted in 2012, ten years after Dolzeal got her MFA from Howard (of course, she may have posted the art many years after it was initially painted). I think the Turneresque painting may be a red herring in the whole matter.

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