Archives for posts with tag: race

There has been an enormous backlash against Rachel Dolezal ever since she came out and identified as a black woman. Both as a condemnation towards her for having the audacity to don a modern day blackface in order to appropriate black culture, as well as a harsh denial that identifying as a different race is the same as identifying as a different gender.

I’m going to be using the adopted “transracial” term throughout this blog post because despite its original meaning of crossing racial boundaries, it’s really the best we’ve got. Plus, it gives me a good opportunity to address the first critique of Rachel Dolezal’s identifying as a black woman: people claim that because there is no word for “transracial”, Rachel Dolezal must be lying. This of course would mean that before the early 1970s when transgender was added to the English lexicon, it was impossible for people to identify as a different gender. Not having an English word for something does not automatically discard it as impossible.

Rachel Dolezal must also be lying because you can’t feel a race, whereas you can feel a gender. Those who are transgendered typically are aware of the ‘wrongness’ of their body in relation to their identity as early as childhood. What does it mean to feel a gender though? It seems just as ludicrous as feeling a race. As a cis-man, I feel I should be adequately qualified to say what it feels like to be a man, and I am 100% certain that a trans-male would not feel their gender the same as I do. I am told, time and again, that there is no way for me to understand what it’s like to be trans, and that is fair, there’s not. I don’t claim to. But that lack of understanding works both ways. Being a man is not just the hormonal urges and biological make-up; chromosomes dictate gender just as much as genetics dictate race, and both have physiological effects on our selves, but any transgendered person will tell you there’s more to gender identity than your chromosomes. Why can’t it be the same with genetics? Yes, there’s also the social conditioning and cultural attitudes that affect gender as well, and this is precisely why gender is considered a social construct, much like, hey you guessed it, race!

Which leads me to my next point: Rachel Dolezal is merely a white woman appropriating black culture because that’s what white people do. White people wear Native American tribal feathers like party hats, and are shocked when they learn that trivializing sacred traditions for the sake of looking exotic at a rave is considered offensive. But by all accounts, Rachel Dolezal was not trivializing black culture, but was embracing it, thriving within it, and helping progress it. If becoming an embodiment of a member of a culture is by definition appropriation, why is it not appropriation when a man becomes a woman or vice versa? There are gender cultures. We each have our separate hairstyles and modes of dress; we have our own belief sets (for example with regards to sexuality); we have our own rituals, etc. Yes, not all men and women fall into those cultural boundaries, just as not all black and white people fit into their own respective cultural stereotypes. I say again, THEY ARE BOTH EQUALLY SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS. If Rachel Dolezal was indeed trivializing black culture, rather than fully immersing herself into it, then it would be appropriation. However, since she clearly is not, then there is no more appropriating than when someone identifies as a separate gender.

But of course, black culture has a long, sordid history of oppression by white people, so that makes it worse. Black people weren’t given the vote in America until 1965, and the Jim Crow One-Drop law forced even those with the most minute of black ancestry to face terrible oppression. The argument is that when black people are treated like white people, then white people can identify as black. But women only got the vote 45 years earlier in 1920, and if I want to get catty about it, women weren’t allowed to wear pants in school until 1972, and now men want to wear skirts? Women still receive a fraction of the pay that men make for the same amount of work, and there are still disturbing amounts of incidents of violence against women. So if we have to wait until black people have equality for a white person to be able to identify as one, why was gender allowed to jump the gun?

My favourite argument that I’ve come across thus far was that Rachel Dolezal was seeking to gain socially by becoming a black woman. Which is hilarious to me because since when has a BLACK WOMAN been the top of the social totem pole? White privilege and male privilege are no longer the accepted norm? Black women have taken the top spot? Please. And even if Rachel Dolezal benefited from identifying as a black woman, this trans-man wrote an entire article about how sweet being recognized as a dude is, and no one is asking him to hand back his penis card:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/male-privilege-trans-men/

Speaking of privilege, Rachel Dolezal is also condemned because she can just remove her shoe polish or whatever and do her hair like a proper white woman whenever she gets tired of playing dress up, and she can reclaim her white privilege; no harm, no foul. Just like a trans-woman could take off her dress and wig any time she wanted to get back that sweet male privilege, right?

A lot of transgendered people have been interviewed, as well as black people, as well as trans-black people, who all claim that Rachel Dolezal can’t be associated with them for a variety of reasons. So she must be lying, because intersectional identity politics teaches us that those from one group get to dictate how those from another group identify themselves. That was sarcasm. If you don’t get it, look up intersectionality. It’ll be good for you. I’m sure being transracial is quite different from being transgendered, or cisracial, but that doesn’t mean those groups have the right to denounce her identity just because it’s different from their own.

The final argument is, of course, she’s just lying. There’s no such thing as being transracial, so she can’t be one. She’s a big fat liar. Except, there’s kinda precedent. Given the fact that race is a social construct, it shouldn’t be that difficult to identify as a race separate from the one you were born with. We actually have names for those kinds of people, and given the seemingly natural transphobic nature of most people, they’re all slurs: Wiggers, for instance, or an Uncle Tom for the opposite. We have Bananas, and those white guys who are super into Japanese culture. I don’t know if they have a name, but most people just call them creeps. In Asia, there is that whole eye-widening craze. Hell, the one instance that I’m surprised NOBODY has mentioned in this clusterfuck of a media shitstorm is Michael God damn Jackson. You could argue that he had his skin disease and that’s why he bleached his skin, but his skin disease didn’t cause him to get facial reconstruction surgery to thin out his nose and lips, or straighten his hair, effectively erasing any remaining “blackness” he once possessed. Michael Jackson never openly identified as being white, but it is not a far stretch of the imagination to envision it as a distinct possibility.

It is possible Rachel Dolezal is lying. Sure. But people are arguing so vehemently about the strictest impossibility of anything similar ever even taking place that you have to question why transracial is different from transgender. Why is a white person identifying as being black so offensive while a man identifying as a woman is accepted (among progressives, anyway)?

My first guess was that white people are simply greater villains than men, but I don’t think that’s true. Slavery, the biggest divide between whites and blacks, didn’t occur just in America. Africa had its own share of slavery, and when white slavers came to the African continent to buy slaves, it was African tribesmen who sold them. I’m not trying to justify or condone anything, but I would like to point out that I can assume with almost 100% certainty that both individuals in every instance of those slave exchanges, for both races, were men. White people have done terrible things, but so have black people, so has every single race in existence, and again, in almost every instance, it was likely being perpetrated by a man.

Simone de Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex points out that it is much more difficult for woman to combat against men because gender pervades all the other divisions. Whites and blacks have a clear distinction, as do the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Most combative groups have distinct dividing lines between them. Men and women, however, permeate all those groups. It is almost impossible for men and women to strictly work against one another because of this, and also because quite frequently men and women love each other deeply. The biological connection that men and women share makes it much more difficult for us to hate one another, whereas there is no such courtesy among any other groups.

It’s also possible that people identify more with their race than they do with their gender, and that is why people are getting more anxious over someone identifying as transracial than transgender.

For the group that claims to be the critical thinkers of the modern world, I really feel like progressives have dropped the ball. If you want to argue with me that transracial isn’t a thing, go for it. I’m not married to the idea. I just need to see a better argument that can’t just be put up against transgendered people with just a few words switched out, like I’m going to do here with this Huffington Post article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/12/rachel-dolezal-caitlyn-jenner_n_7569160.html

Gender divisions may ultimately be a construct, Moore notes, but “sex is determined by your chromosomes.” And it’s secondary sex characteristics that primarily determines gender privilege, and the way others in the world interact with your gender identity.

Transgender identity is a concept that allows men to indulge in femininity as a commodity, without having to actually engage with every facet of what being a woman entails — discrimination, marginalization, oppression, and so on. It plays into gender stereotypes, and perpetuates the false idea that it is possible to “feel” a gender. As a man, Jenner retains his privilege; he can take off the wig and the nylons and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being a woman. His connection to gender oppression is something he has complete control over, a costume he can put on — and take off — as he pleases.

It’s unclear what Jenner believes his authentic gender identity to be — he has yet to comment publicly, and actively dodged the question when a reporter asked him what genitals he had under his skirt on June 10. “I don’t understand the question,” he answered, ending the interview abruptly.

Jenner’s delusion and commitment to living as a woman is profound. And it’s inherently wrong. The implications of a man, donning femininity and then using that femininity in order to navigate women’s washrooms is offensive. 

I won’t do the whole article because a lot of it is too specific to Dolezal’s case, and frankly it’s annoying to bold all those words, but you get the idea. If you want to call me transphobic for making the comparison between transgender and transracial, then I will call you transphobic for automatically assuming that someone who identifies as something they weren’t born as is a liar and a pretender, or worse, mentally ill.

It seems that every single group of people gets their own month, their own week, or their own day. I mean, what do white people get, outside of the Oscars? Why don’t WE get a month? Well, there are a couple reasons. But I recently read an interview with Chris Rock that illuminated something about race, and really gender and sexuality as well, that suggested to me that straight/white/men need more of a focus than they are currently receiving.

I’ll give you the relevant text from the interview:

When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

What Chris Rock is saying is that, in regards to race, white people are the ones doing the progressing. Black people have always been human, with the capacity for intelligence and emotion that was long ignored in them, and to phrase race relations as black people making progress is to give the illusion that black people are the ones improving, whereas the opposite is true. White people have made great strides in becoming less moronic about the human beings that surround them, and it is white people who need to be the ones to continue to make great strides.

So why give us a month? Feminists have long argued, probably rightly so, that men do not take women seriously. There’s the old chestnut of the female executive saying something at a meeting, being ignored, and then a male colleague repeating her exact idea and being listened to, often taking the credit. It happens. However, if progressive change is to be made, would it not be logical for a male ally to be a prominent mouthpiece for the feminist movement? If feminists want to be taken seriously, and women aren’t taken seriously, why not use a man?

The artist Macklemore wrote a song called Same Love that advocated for same-sex relationships. It was a considerable blow in the fight to overcome homophobic cultural norms, but it received a great deal of criticism from gay-rights activists because Macklemore is straight. A suggestion I read was that if Macklemore wants to be an ally to the gay-rights movement, he should push homosexual rappers into the limelight, rather than hogging it for himself. Regardless of the impact that Same Love had on our culture, it was rejected by some of those that it was trying to help.

Is the goal not to overcome prejudice? Who cares who the messenger is? Well, some people do.

There is term called the Great White Saviour, and what this refers to is a white person, typically portrayed in films, that comes to care for and fight for either the Noble Savage, or the Oppressed Minority, or whoever it happens to be. You get the idea. Ol’ Whitey rolls in to town, and the great guy that he is, saves the minority and is revered as a hero. What this signifies is that white people are honourable, compassionate, moral beings, and minorities are weak and unable to do anything about their own condition.

This, of course, could apply to any such dominant figure, such as a straight person rapping about gay rights, or a man advocating for feminism, etc.

Do the voices of the dominant detract from the voices of the oppressed? Can we only ever steal credit? Comparing Hollywood’s crushing inability to properly convey progressive messages to the real-life work of advocates is a little unfair. Like relates to like, and the dominant group is going to relate most to others from the dominant group, and it’s the dominant group that needs to change. In my personal experience, it was Dr. Jackson Katz that was my first, real introduction into the world of feminism. He’s a man, by the way, if the name wasn’t a big enough indicator. The message was an important one, and because it was delivered by somebody I could relate to, I was able to listen.

If the message is good, why not pick the messenger that the people most needing to hear it will listen to?

Post-script: I am aware that this is not a new idea, and that many social justice advocates are desperate for the voices of allies. Maybe if there was a month celebrating those allies, the quieter ones would be more likely to pipe up?

I’m also not trying to disparage the work that minority rights activists do. We wouldn’t have any allies at all if they weren’t doing all the heavy lifting.

Ladies and germs, I love good, righteous indignation as much as the next fella. Hell, probably more-so. I love getting riled up at the injustices in the world, and yammering on about them without actually doing anything to change them. Being an armchair ethicist is what I do.

When I first heard about the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case, boy howdy I was furious. Hemming and hawing, all that good stuff to get the blood flowing. Then Zimmerman was found innocent and I just rolled my eyes and thought, “good going, AMERICA!” Smug in my righteous zeal, I sat quietly waiting for the next tragedy to unfold so I could bring down the flames once again.

Then I read a news article that mentioned that Trayvon Martin was black, and George Zimmerman identified as being Hispanic. Exact words. And I thought, how come Zimmerman doesn’t get to have a race in this? For a case that seemed to rely so heavily on racial overtones, why does one person get to have a race, and the other only gets to identify as having one? If you think that maybe since Zimmerman is half-white he doesn’t get to have a race (also keep in mind that white counts as a race too, but we don’t need to get into that), well then remember that America didn’t elect a president that identifies as being black. My point is that from this simple phrasing, we can assume the media is trying to frame George Zimmerman as not being ethnic, so as to fuel the flames of this already huge media firestorm.

So let me play devil’s advocate on what we actually know that went down:

Zimmerman sees a youth wandering the streets at night. He chooses to follow him. Does he follow him because the youth is black, or does he follow him because he is the captain of the neighbourhood watch of a gated community, and more than likely knows everyone and their dog in that area, and can tell that this youth had never been around there before?

Zimmerman calls the police, who tell him to desist following the youth. Zimmerman ignores the advice. Does he ignore it because he thinks he has a shot at taking on this black kid, or does he ignore it because he thinks he can probably handle a teenager on his own and feels he doesn’t need to wait for the police who might needlessly complicate things?

There is a confrontation. Zimmerman gets beaten the hell up. Trayvon Martin gets shot. I can’t find anything that says that Trayvon Martin had damage done to him other than the bullet wound, so it’s quite possible that he was the one who threw the first punch. He may have felt threatened after having been followed, but does that excuse instigating violence? Zimmerman had two black eyes, a broken nose, and a wound on the back of his head that suggests he probably fell backwards and hit his head on something. George Zimmerman had a gun. He used it.

Self-defense is a tricky thing. If you’re getting badly beaten up in a bar, and the only thing you can do is grab a beer bottle and break it over your attacker’s head, you’d probably do it. It may not be as likely to kill him as shooting him, but your attacker may still die if you hit him in the right spot. Zimmerman fired once, after having been beaten in the face repeatedly, so it was unlikely he was aiming for a killing shot.

Concealed weapon laws are the reason that option was on the table for Zimmerman. Had Zimmerman not used his gun, and the beating continued, worst case scenario is that Zimmerman would have been beaten into a coma. Do I think that a comatose 35 year old is better than a dead 16 year old? Of course. Gun reform in the US is a huge issue, and I would love to see that option for people off the table. But I sincerely doubt that George Zimmerman would agree with me on that, considering he would be the one in the coma, and I’m just in the armchair.

Lastly, there is the talk that Zimmerman was getting off lightly because Trayvon Martin is black and Zimmerman is not. But last I checked, Hispanics in the States don’t really get preferential treatment either, so that accusation doesn’t really fly with me.

It is incredibly unfortunate what happened to Trayvon Martin. Whenever someone dies for no reason, and a youth especially, everyone should mourn. But was it a hate crime? I don’t know. Everyone seems to be clammering about how it is, so I guess it must be. But I think there’s just as much evidence to suggest that Zimmerman was being ageist as much as there is that he was being racist.

Based on the evidence that we have, and the laws of Florida, it is easy to see how Zimmerman was found innocent in a court of law. Does that make it right? Like I said, self-defense is a tricky thing. I want you to put yourself in that position, in the heat of the moment, in fear and pain, and with that one option standing between you and a possible coma. Is it horribly racist? I don’t know. It certainly opened up the race debate in the States again, which is always a good thing, but do we scapegoat Zimmerman if it wasn’t in fact racially motivated? Is *that* right?

Did this greatly offend you? Do you feel as though I’m a terrible person for having thought these terrible thoughts? Good. Convince me I’m wrong. I miss having the fury coursing through my veins. But you have to do better than, “Racism against blacks exists in the States. Trayvon Martin was black. Therefore, his death must have been racially motivated.” Find me legit news articles that have Zimmerman wearing a white hood. For the Canada Day bombing threat, I saw article upon article about how one of the alleged bombers was once seen wearing a burkha, and how another neighbour thought they overheard the term “jihad” used in a phone conversation. That kind of shit makes the news all the time because it sells papers. Where is it with George Zimmerman? Convince me this is more than just a tragic happenstance that would have occurred regardless of Trayvon Martin’s race.