Identifying Wrong

All the buzz in social media right now is about an NAACP official who turns out to not be black as claimed.  She was born to a white couple and raised with black adoptees.  There have been other articles wondering whether or not being transracial is analogous to being transgendered.  And other articles about syndromes of delusion.

Rachel Dolezal claimed she was African American and says she was the victim of a number of hate crimes. Jan. 16, 2015 Rachel Dolezal, the president of the NAACP in Spokane, Wash., meets Joseph M. King, left, and Scott Finnie at an event on public safety and criminal justice in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review via AP) source Washington Post article

Clearly, it is very complicated! A meaty topic for Transracial adoptees.  Discuss!

6 thoughts on “Identifying Wrong

  1. Pingback: Identifying Wrong | Adoption News

  2. She appropriated another culture and race from a point of white privilege, and proceeded to act as a spokesperson for that race and “civil rights activist”. No doubt she was well intentioned but she was wrong. She had no right to act black and by doing so she makes a mockery of those of us who actually do get treated differently because of our race. She could have been a white champion of blacks people but instead she decided to deceive people into thinking she was black, and deny her actual family. Woman has issues.

  3. So much goes through my head. I think back to my high school, and the epithets reserved for white kids who hung out with the black students. The whole notion of “passing”. Ideas of “slumming it”, knowing you can safely retreat. Minstrelsy. What gets me most is her seeming inability to acknowledge or understand any of the historical references to what she herself did. But there’s something lurking even deeper here which is the de facto binary of identity and identification that allows for a concept of “trans” to begin with. [It’s late; I think that’s all I can muster for today….]

  4. It seems she does have Afro-American ancestors. Adoption confuses things for so many adoptees but isn’t it our right to identify with whichever group we choose?

    • But is it that easy? And is it really our “right”? Or more our luxury/privilege to affect an identity that others are often “stuck” with, or hard-pressed to escape? And again, as is common in the US, there is no discussion of class as a marker or a straitjacket. She has a fluidity that her adopted brothers do not have. Personally I refuse to “identity” or “label” myself until that fluidity is universal. It doesn’t seem right….

  5. Below I’ve pasted parts of a discussion I had with my daughter on Facebook.

    “In trying to understand, I wonder if a lot of people just think of race as a tribe that one can adopt? That literal family ties makes her (Rachel) black by proxy? It’s the very definition of privilege that a white person wouldn’t understand how sincerely identifying in one’s heart can never equal being the actual thing. It’s why I don’t really think of this as just cultural appropriation but more expressing what she thinks is real. So, in that sense, yes delusional. I think skin color or DNA is just a technicality to her. The lie thing – once you’ve not been truthful, not explaining can grow exponentially into a whole superstructure of lies…I guess this is the extreme outcome of being raised by color-blind parents?…I also saw today a review of a movie at the SF black film festival talking about how one of the films in particular could make blacks feel proud and how badly that was needed. It made me pause because in my “mildly racist” mind I imagine, as survivors of oppression, they are all proud. I’m sure in Spokane things are pretty racist. And I can say that growing up around white hics can really make you not proud to be white. Or, raised white like me. I think there’s a whole lotta people like Rachel who choose to identify with something they can feel more proud of. The sad thing for me is that it’s easier to co-opt and take on tribal markers than to explore one’s own discomfort and grapple with one’s own privilege, which is where the real work in society lies. I think this is a huge issue across America and one reason why black art and expression is copied so much. There’s a whole lotta people just like Rachel but the difference is she lied on some paperwork…”


    “My response…is that she is possibly a narcissist? She’s taken great pains to become the champion of black people and had the formal and informal knowledge to back it up – and posing as a black person may have also been part of her observation, research, and study bolstering that claim of knowledge….Filing a claim about racist hate mail is like the ultimate affirmation that she knows what it is to be black. And she’s probably a personal hero to her adopted brother, so adopting him gives her daily affirmation at home.”

    I also can’t count the number of times I’ve met white siblings of adopted people of color and been shocked by their identification with their siblings and their siblings’ original culture, to a disturbing degree. I met two men in Korea who were living in Korea and dating Korean women and had chosen Korea because their siblings were adopted from Korea. Their siblings chose to live in the U.S.

    I sometimes wonder if adopting transracially is therapy and antidote for not grappling with the guilt of white privilege. What would being raised itransracialized n a household that values its racial gestures so much do to a person, the person not adopted? Is that the crucible for (or petri dish for) promoting racial narcissism?

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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