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Friday, June 12, 2015

Is Rachel Dolezal a new Caitlyn Jenner?

Rachel Dolezal is all the buzz today…She is a civil rights activist and a professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University, as well as a chair of the office of the police ombudsman commission in the city of Spokane and president of its chapter of the African American civil rights organization NAACP. She has regularly spoken out on local media about racial justice (The Guardian).

Rachel Dolezal
Her parents are claiming that she has been misrepresenting herself as black for some time now. You see, Rachel was born Caucasian, the race assigned to her at birth, but because she feels more comfortable in the black community and wants to champion its cause, she has changed herself, even her appearance, in order to become black. Her self-definition as black has caused an outrage because she lied about her identity. 

But let’s not miss the irony of our confused times. Dolezal is the product of the same culture as Caitlyn Jenner. Unlike the acclaim Jenner received for having the courage to be true to himself and become a woman, Dolezal is being shamed for living a lie. Why is Jenner brave and Dolezal a coward? We should not fail to see the absolute parallelism of these two biographies. If something as genetically defined as gender can be bent and manipulated to one’s one preference, why not race? If gender is no longer a binary objective truth based on biological facts, why is race still so protected as an identity category? Or is race now the next big obstacle to overcome? 

Even if we were to fault Dolezal for lying, would we fault a transgender woman for identifying herself as a woman if she moved to another state, checking the “female” box on forms or using the women’s restrooms, or would we expect her to reveal her old gender in every conversation? Would she be lying for talking about herself as a woman even though every chromosome in her body screams she’s a man? Are we saying that transgenderism is OK but transracialism (if there is such a word) is not? Who gets to define what is and is not acceptable?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for any of these things, just trying to point out the obvious ridiculousness of it all. This is the fuzziness that the blurring of all categories creates. We have become a world in which we are free to make ourselves into whatever image we desire. Even if hair color, plastic surgery and new clothes gives us the feeling of truly being what we want to create, the truth remains, that we cannot really change ourselves because we did not make ourselves in the first place!

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil (Jeremiah 13:23).