What does it say about America that Rachel Dolezal and Jessica Krug wanted to pass as black?
I’m the hugest fan of your work and writing; I’m so grateful for this perspective during this extremely confusing era of ours.
I would love it if you were able to research and write about the way education is failing poor kids and kids of color due to allowing different standards for different types of kids. The APM reports about phonics and public schools is so enlightening and an example of good intentions doing real harm. I abhor racism and I can see how well intentioned progressives are unintentionally creating racist systems in education.
Has anyone looked into, in cases like these and others, need to belong?
I had a (white, vaguely agnostic, middle-aged) professor who claimed she had no culture -- really what it was is she was a member of the dominant culture and didn't feel connected to anything because of it.
As a Jew, I may not spend a lot of time involved in my community, but I feel connected that community. I have my family over for Sabbath dinner Fridays. I text with my rabbi and call him by his first name when we're in informal settings. I have a place where I fit in and people who will count me as part of their circles simply because I'm Jewish; if we have nothing else identifiable in common, it's an invitation to the table (usually literally).
But when a bunch of white, vaguely Christian or agnostic people get together in public and celebrate who they are, that feels a lot like a white supremacist rally, and people who are craving community might be willing to try to pass as part of a community they don't naturally belong to rather than try to be part of what seems to them a dangerous, or at least undesirable, group of people "like them."
Thanks for another brilliant essay. I love your work and would think it needs no defense, but a few readers are missing crucial points. You say:
“one can situate individuals along a path that ends with Dolezal and Krug. Stage One … [begins] with the music ... dance, dress, movement, speech style, even “attitude,” and ... dating partners.”
This explains the puzzle; “why only 2, not 2,000 or 2 million?” The two are the end of the spectrum, just like the 140 mph fire tornado in Southern California was a one-of-a-kind extreme caused by the fire-suppression that affects all our wildfires here in the West.
As to the complaint, “Don't tell me to be outraged at Dolezal and Krug as long as blacks and their liberal fellow travelers…,” I most enjoyed that you were understanding of those caught in the wokeness delusion:
“Just as Dolezal and Krug were wrongly deemed crazy … there is a little bit of Dolezal and Krug in quite a few black people. The reasons are understandable … However, they require us to avoid the infantilizing treatment that the gurus of antiracist enlightenment insist upon.”
Yes, “Dolezal and Krug are bellwethers of a sort” — canaries in the coal mine — who can serve to alert us to a much larger danger. I had been hoping for someone to explain this, and no one could have done a better job of it.
What does it say about America, and what does it say about academia? In our current political and intellectual climate, and especially in certain fields, an academic who suggests to her students that the conditions of life for African Americans has improved since, say, the 1950s is likely to be reported for bias. This is not an exaggeration. Even pointing out that there are many ways for scholars to measure legal, social, political, and economic well being; that we use such measures and criteria to assess the well-being of a wide range of groups around the world; and that these measures are crucial for understanding how to improve the well-being of disfavored and underrepresented groups isn't likely to deter students from calling for such a professor to be punished. I'm interested in what this phenomenon of white women academics masquerading as black tells us about current politics, including but not exclusively racial politics. But don't miss the part of this essay that addresses what can and cannot be spoken in college classrooms.
Does this explain Elizabeth Warren?
I genuinely appreciate your writing. You have inspired an expansion of my own thoughts on race and culture. Thank you!
All this from a data sample of two?
"Blackface"? Krug and Dolezal never looked "black." They simply took advantage of the foolish black elite devotion to forced hypodescent. It is hypocritical to condemn Krug and Dolezal unless you also condemn blacks who insist that "blacks" can "look white" and only "pass for white" because they aren't good enough to call themselves "white" - or so say blacks.
The black-identified filmmaker described in the link below thought she was going to track down relatives who "passed for white" and inform them and their children that they were "really black." She did not succeed because they continued to identify as white despite learning of distant "black" descent. If you condemn anyone, condemn blacks and pretend-blacks who promote the "one drop" myth and insist that people who DON'T WANT TO BE BLACK should be forced into it. Don't tell me to be outraged at Dolezal and Krug as long as blacks and their liberal fellow travelers continue to promote a "one drop" myth.
Dolezal and Krug's true "crime" is inadvertently making fools of the "black race" and their devotion to the "one drop" myth.