Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rachel Dolezal, Caitlyn Jenner, and the Double Standard

Of the all memes that plague the Internet these days, one finally caught my attention for not being instantly recognizable for its stupidity.
The question implied by the meme asks why is it socially acceptable that former Olympian Bruce Jenner – a white person – wants to pass himself off as a something he is not but it is not socially acceptable for former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal – another white person – to attempt to pass herself off as something she is not? Is the difference about gender, is it about race, is it about celebrity; what the heck is going on here?

We should all know by now what Dolezal did wrong: She is guilty* of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation, if you don’t know already, is adopting or using elements of a culture you’re not considered a part of and using them for your own benefit. Moreover, minorities and Caucasians of an extremely guilty conscious will tell intimate to you – if not tell you outright – that this criminal behavior only applies to Caucasians given the historical treatment of everyone else in the world by said Caucasians, or something. Dolezal, during her tenure as a chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was discovered to be Caucasian and not an actual African American, as she portrayed herself as and continues to identify herself as. This outraged pretty much everyone who chiefly identifies themselves as a victim (which is occasionally for a good reason) and/or operates solely on emotion. (Nevermind that there is no bylaw of the NAACP that states that a chapter president must be of ‘colored’ descent. ) Dolezal, being Caucasian, comes from what is considered the upper and more powerful class and that in itself apparently means she is not allowed to identify herself as an African American no matter how much she acts like it or how much tanning she does. Dolezal, being Caucasian, because of her genetics, her race, is not allowed to portray herself as a member of a disadvantaged class in any manner. Why this is the case is not the question right now, but keep in mind that this is the state of ‘social justice’ mentality in the U.S. right now.

[* Guilty in the eyes of those who chose to accept the definition and the negative connotation of ‘cultural appropriation.’]

By comparison, what Bruce Jenner apparently did right was come from the upper and most powerful class of all – white men – and change himself into a member of a disadvantaged class, borrowing all the bells and getting rid of some of the whistles to do so. Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner went much further than Dolezal did with his/her cultural appropriation. Yet uber-liberals and every disadvantaged class in the U.S went ga ga for Caitlyn. So, on the face of it, this would seem to be a double standard unless something else is going on. Why is what Ciatlyn did acceptable and what Dolezal did unacceptable?

Is it the case that it is okay to go from being one gender within an ethnicity to another gender within the ethnicity because you’re staying within the ethnicity? Is it the case that it is not okay to identify with one ethnicity because you are not genetically that ethnicity? [For argument’s sake, we will concern ourselves with the genetic component of ethnicity since this appears to be the primary basis for accepting or rejecting people into a wide cultural group.] If both these cases are true they must have some kind of philosophical justification. Otherwise, it would seem up to ‘herd mentality’ to arbitrarily judge what is socially acceptable and what is not, and this would mean there is no rational basis for accepting Caitlyn Jenner for who she thinks she is. And that’s just it; there is no philosophical basis for the cases such as I’ve stated them and possible reasons for rejecting them, mostly on the basis of what is considered an ethnicity.

The reality is that ethnicity is almost as fluid as language and this mightily complicates anyone’s attempt at any sort of identity. Take for example someone like Barak Obama who is half-African and half-Caucasian; should he identify himself as one or the other? Based on what, the dominance of one parent’s genes over the other, what he looks more like, based on how he talks, based on what cultural practices he observes? While Barack Obama looks more African than Caucasian, he definitely acts more Caucasian than African. Maybe both ethnicities should reject him as a strange anomaly or as something less than either (and member of both ethnicities surely do). And what would we make of someone who is equal parts African, Caucasian, Asian and Latino? So, we can’t (or shouldn’t) base the acceptance or rejection of someone within a cultural group based on their genetic constitution. If Rachel Dolezal identifies herself as ‘colored’ because that is what she feels inside, this should be exactly the same as Bruce Jenner wanting to change his identity because of how he feels inside. But if we’re going to bring genetics into the argument, that Bruce is good to go because he’s staying within the same ethnicity, the reality is that one can no more actually become a woman than one can become African. But if changing one’s identity is just a matter of drug therapy and surgery, than anyone can become another gender or ethnicity and the stewards of today’s social justice will have to accept it.

Although I am no fan of Kylie Jenner, the black community should get off her back for putting her hair in cornrows. She’s a 17-year old nitwit who hasn’t formed her own identity yet. But when she does, if forming her identity means she is going to walk, talk and look like she’s black, her identity must be accepted for there to be any consistence to the term ‘social justice.’ On the other hand, if what’s really going on here is that it is okay to be racist if you’re from a disadvantaged class because historical Caucasians haven’t treated your group well, well then, let’s call a spade a spade and recognize today’s ‘social justice’ for what it really is – vengeance.

No comments: