What would be the problems inherent with someone misrepresenting their race, even if that person spent a career advocating for the race that he or she falsely claimed to be?
And at what point can a person ever legitimately choose to belong to a race with which they have no apparent genetic connection?
Social media exploded with reaction Thursday and Friday to allegations that Rachel Dolezal, the head of a NAACP chapter in Washington state, is Caucasian but has been misidentifying herself as at least part African-American.
Dolezal, whose biography says she attended the historically black Howard University, also teaches African-American studies at Eastern Washington University and serves on Spokane’s independent citizen police ombudsman commission. CNN’s attempts to reach her for comment have been unsuccessful.
Here’s a sampling of the reactions that made #RachelDolezal and #transracial trending Twitter topics Thursday morning:
Questions of dishonesty, advantage
So, what if a white woman pretended to be black but, while doing so, worked to advocate for black people? Some were supportive, though many seemed to struggle with the issue.
Apparently more prevalent, though were criticisms, including one assertion that such a person would have been “co-opting the oppression of Black women for professional advantage.”
That’s just a tiny sampling of the negative reaction. The tempest drew an empathetic response from author Jon Ronson, who recently wrote a book about what he says is the price of public shaming in the Internet age: “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.”
Issues of advantage and dishonesty aside, many weighed in on questions – some tongue-in-cheek – of whether someone could legitimately choose their race, and to what extent. Charlamagne Tha God, co-host of the syndicated New York-based “Breakfast Club” radio show, drew parallels of the Dolezal allegations to Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender journey.
Many weren’t impressed by the argument.