Do What You Want, Be What You Are…

Okay, so no less than four people have contacted me in the past few days asking for my thoughts about Rachel Dolezal – the white woman who says she’s black even though she’s.. not. I was about to go full “Shanzy” on a Facebook status to give my two cents worth until I remembered, “Hey! I’m totally a blogger now! I can blog about it! Whoot!” (No word of a lie, I said that shit out loud)

Here, have my thoughts. 

I’m half black. I grew up in a predominantly white community, the majority of my friends were white and so were all of the family members I grew up with. The only black relatives I knew at the time were my father and my grandparents. (A few years later I learned about my cousin Nicole who was my primary competition for ‘favourite grandchild’ but the hilarious part was that Nicole was also biracial.) 

I’m also half white. I was raised in an all white, very large Irish Catholic family and while no one ever treated me as if I wasn’t one of the gang, it was fairly obvious that one of these things was not like the other. So when people asked me “What are you?” my answer was always; “Irish.”

My father hates this post right now. Hi Daddy. But yes, instead of saying I was part black or part white, I’d just answer with what I felt most comfortable with. Irish.  

(I’m going to save the whole biracial child discussion for another post because that’s a completely different can of worms)  

So, there is a part of me that understands and can relate to Rachel’s plight. I know exactly how it feels to connect on a cellular level with a particular identity even though people do a double take when I say it out loud. 

Having said that… I kind of want to hit this woman with one of the branches from the ignorance tree she fell out of. 

The thing is, I’m genuinely entitled to identify myself as Irish because I AM IRISH! My mother was born in Dublin and immigrated as a child, I have a legitimate claim to that ancestry. The powers that be (ie: Rachel’s biological parents) researched the Dolezal heritage and it went back a few hundred years without crossing even ONCE with someone of colour – which is actually kind of unique on its own – but no, nothing, nowhere is there even a hint of African in this woman’s genetic code. 
Ms Dolezal has the potential to drive me bat shit insane with frustration simply because she refuses to recognize that she has no voice as a black female in America BECAUSE SHE IS NOT A BLACK FEMALE IN AMERICA. I see her as a living representation of the current situation across the border. White and black tug of war, woman making strong political statements but using ‘alternative facts’ to convince people that they’re wrong because she says so. Not good. 

I fully appreciate that she feels black on the inside but she believes it entitles her to say that she understands what it means to be racially profiled, oppressed or discriminated against because of her skin colour. It doesn’t. Except for that time in University when she accused the school of treating her unfairly because she was white. Yeah, that happened. 

Just because you say something is the truth doesn’t actually MAKE IT the truth. I read Peter Pan growing up – I believed, I clapped my hands to save Tinkerbell and she was revived!! But that shit did NOT work on my pet when he croaked. (RIP Basil – you were a good fish) No amount of believing or clapping on my part is going to change the facts. Basil is still dead. Rachel is still white. My wine glass is still empty.

Now what truly sucks is the fact that Dolezal was doing good work in her position as the head of Spokane’s NAACP. From what I understand, she was good at bringing attention to civil rights concerns and had the potential to do great things. But because she doesn’t understand the important difference between being black and feeling black, she has zero credibility and no one cares what she has to say anymore unless it’s something along the lines of “oops, my bad”. 

Just because she’s white doesn’t mean she can’t still do all of those wonderful things, it doesn’t mean she’s unable to champion a cause she so strongly believes in but she has to do it organically. 

Until the day I die I will support human rights and equality for everyone. I will march in the Pride Parade and support adoptions and universal bathrooms and wear rainbows as eyelashes if the situation calls for it – but you will NEVER catch me saying that I know what it’s like to be a gay man.  

Growing up as a mixed race I never felt like I fit where I was expected to but I can never ever tell you that I understand how it feels to be transgender.  

I’ve spent way too much time in my life on crutches due to knee and ankle injuries. I can complain that I’ve had difficulties with accessibility in public places because hopping around during recovery can be hell – but that doesn’t mean I have any clue what it feels like to live with a permanent physical disability. I’ve had my arm in a cast but I’ll never be able to relate to someone who has had their limb amputated! 

Dolezal has confused something really basic. She can sympathize with the black race and the social injustices they endure but she sure as hell can’t empathize with them. 

It’s really that simple. Rachel Dolezal has crossed the line into offensive by continuing to drag this out. Enough already. Tell everyone in the world you feel as though you identify more with African Americans but be honest and admit that you are Caucasian. I could respect that.  Like the song says, “do what you want to do but be who you are”… (Hall and Oates, gotta love ’em) 

Until then, no amount of faith, love or pixie dust will change how people see her.  

Sorry, Tinkerbell. 

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