Monday, June 15, 2015

P.S. on the Dolezal Affair

Regarding the Rachel Dolezal affair about which I posted earlier, a friend of mine also wrote on the topic at his blog Thought Sifter (which I highly recommend) and said this:
I had been tempted to make a post about Jenner’s liberation from masculinity. But since it’s been one of the main headlines in the news, that typically means there are a number of other issues that are far more worthy of our attention. But even so, I had thought of commenting on how ironic it is that Jenner would be praised for his courage and bravery for doing something that would bring instant praise and adoration from millions of people.

I also thought of writing about how frightening and demoralizing it is that the President of the United States would commend someone for doing something that, in any sane society, would warrant a diagnosis of a profound psychiatric disorder. I also thought about speculating whether or not in ten or fifteen years the science of gender transformation will have developed enough to liberate people from the prison of being one gender and allow them the freedom to impregnate themselves, and how this might lower the divorce rate and benefit kids in making it easier for them to spend more quality time with both parents.
I thought this whole passage was very incisive and the last line very clever.

The Incredible Blackness of Rachel Dolezal

Perhaps by now you're tired of the Rachel Dolezal brouhaha, but perhaps, on the other hand, you have no idea what the Rachel Dolezal brouhaha is all about. If the latter is the case then read on.

Rachel is a white woman who has for years claimed to be black, and even rose to the presidency of a local NAACP chapter before being "outed" by her parents who revealed that she's actually as white as the driven snow. This has created some credibility problems for Rachel, as you might imagine, and also gives cause for concern about her mental health. For that reason we should have compassion for her.

The episode, though, has led to an interesting question, a question that some in the progressive left are angrily denouncing.

The impertinent question is this: If Bruce Jenner can claim he's a woman, and we must all ooh and ahh at the wonder and beauty of transgenderism, should we not also embrace Rachel Dolezal's claim to be black? If Bruce was a woman trapped in a man's body, why not acknowledge that Rachel is a black woman trapped in a white woman's body? She claimed to be black because despite having white parents she just felt black. If that's enough to make Jenner a woman why isn't it enough to make Dolezal black? This is thought to be an insulting question to ask largely, it seems, because those who wish to affirm Jenner's "courage" in coming out as a woman have no good answer to it.

It will not do to reply that transgendered people like Jenner aren't lying about their identity as Dolezal did. That's beside the point. The question is, how does Dolezal see herself? If she sees herself as black then she's black according to those who think that truth is whatever the individual has been conditioned by her society to fervently believe. It's her truth and who are we to question it?

Unfortunately, to call this nonsense and to assert that she's deluded about her blackness is to imply that Jenner is also deluded about his femaleness, and that all of his enthusiastic supporters are equally deluded. So, the progressives resent being confronted with the question and take the well-traveled road of calling people who insist on raising it unhinged. As the always insightful Robert Tracinski puts it in summing up his excellent column on Bruce (Kaitlyn) Jenner "[I]n an era when the insane are normal, the normal are insane."

Yet, despite the outrage of those who think that the two cases should not be compared, as far as I can see the parallels between them are substantial, and I haven't seen any argument, as opposed to simple demands that people shut up about it, that would show that the question is unreasonable. What's unreasonable, of course, is the post-modern view of truth progressives often embrace that says that despite having male plumbing and male accoutrements a man is a woman if he thinks he is. But then why couldn't Michael Jackson be white if he thinks he is or Rachel Dolezal be black if she thinks she is? It's all very puzzling.

Liberals are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to avoid admitting the two cases are basically equivalent. I heard one fellow on tv argue that the cases are different because race is a social construction whereas gender is biologically determined (or was it the other way around? It was hard to tell.), but then he seemed to realize that, if that's so, there's no way he could think that Jenner was female since his biology determined his maleness whether he liked it or not. And, the tv fellow had to admit, if race is socially constructed and we're whatever race others see us as, Dolezal could be black despite not having a single drop of African blood in her whole lily-white body. It was all as amusing as it was confusing.

A couple of short articles on the contretemps over Ms Dolezal that are especially good are one by Mollie Hemmingway and another by Sean Davis, both at The Federalist, and a longer one by JazzShaw at Hot Air.

Perhaps this incident will help us get over the silly notion of the relativity of truth and admit that maybe there are objective facts about human nature after all, facts both about race and gender.