I came across a quote in Time magazine that made me cringe. It was by Rachael Dolezal, the ousted NAACP leader who was born into a white family with two white parents, who then died her hair and darkened her skin to change her appearance. She then pretended to be black for several years, rising within the ranks of the civil rights group. Here’s the quote:
“I don’t have any regrets about how I identify. I’m still me, and nothing about that has changed.”
Here’s my peeve: “Identifying” as black or white only reinforces the racial segregation that is at the root of the problem that we have to begin with. It’s also absurd. Race is an illusion. Scientifically speaking it doesn’t exist. Black, white, Latino, — all of these are nothing more than human-based stereotypes that segregate people according to rudimentary outward appearances. Skin color is but one tiny little trait that has more to do with the climate in particular areas of the world than differences between people. Take a groups of “Black” people and move them to the Arctic Circle, and their skin would get progressively lighter with each generation in order to adapt to the low levels of sunlight exposure. In areas around the equator the opposite trait is adaptive, so people have darker skin. But there is no such thing as a black race, or a white race, or an oriental race. A person with white skin may be more genetically similar and closely related to “Black” people than they are other whites. And visa versa. If I went around the mall tomorrow and randomly assigned people I meet to be either “Klingon” or “Feringi,” this would have as much scientific validity as our notions of race do.
Thus Rachael’s whole charade is the very epitome of racism: It reinforces these divisions and stereotypes. (Of course, one could also argue that racially segregated organizations such as the NAACP do the exact same thing.) I would very much like to see people stop identifying with stereotypes. The only label one needs to identify with is this: Human!