CONTROVERSIAL advocate of ‘racial fluidity’ and ‘trans-racialism’ is to visit South Africa according to the BBC, to promote her biography, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World . The arrival of Rachel Dolezal is bound to kick up a storm in the ongoing debate being waged between non-racialists and multi-racialists. The latest round has seen non-racialists being accused of hiding behind a smokescreen of privilege, effectively using the idea to escape responsibility for past injustices.
Non-racialism is the result of successive ideological developments within South African politics, beginning with Robert Sobukwe’s claim at his treason trial: “There is only one race, the human race” and “multiracialism is racism multiplied”; This was followed by Steve Biko’s historic 1971 statement: “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation — being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”
The ANC, once a champion of multiracialism, adopted the non-racial agenda after Nelson Mandela was converted to the cause on Robben Island. According to Mandela, ‘race was to be rendered immaterial’, ‘all persons were to enjoy equality before the law’. That the current administration gives such nuances of non-racialism and equality lip-service (both ideas enshrined in the country’s constitution) can be seen in the abundance of one ethnic group in the latest cabinet, all given preferential treatment under the current Kwazula-Natal focused administration of Jacob Zuma — this while race classification issues and the legacy of apartheid continue to dog the regime.
This writer is currently under sanctions by a local court for denying his appointed ‘race category’, following an offensive race-testing probe by an apartheid media firm. Remarkably, critics of Dolezal, appear to judge her case on the basis of special criteria (see below), in the same way that a special clause, known as the Sobukwe clause was added to legislation in order to justify the founder of the PAC’s continued incarceration. It should be remembered the apartheid regime insisted on the existence of discrete racial categories and thus racial bias in a system supported by scientific racism. There is no scientific basis for the assertion that race exists as anything more than an informal taxonomy.
Critics of non-racialism often confuse issues of class exploitation and poverty. While South Africa is an example of a tragic ‘confluence of race and class’, in which persons labelled black are more likely to be poor, (and dramatically so) there is no direct correlation as such, which would make this a universal rule. As science shows, adaptive traits such as hair and skin colour are not indicative of a separation between the species, there is thus no direct correlation between one’s genes and one’s physical appearance, and being wealthy and being poor. In other words historic racism is not the same as institutional racism. Blackness is not the result of a preponderance of African ancestry, if this were so, Native Americans for instance, would be white.
Attempts to define people according to physical features and anatomy have invariably resulted in discrimination. One should thus not mistake the impact of past exploitation on the basis of race criteria, for normality, and in so doing, assert that race criteria is or should be the norm. The ‘racial wealth gap’ is not overcome by resorting to more racism.
That the strange idea persists can be seen by a recent comment this week: “Race is real the way maths is real. It’s something humans created that can be used to our detriment or to our advantage.” The assertion without any evidence, was made by a reporter associated with The Citizen in an online debate on social media on Friday, following the breaking of the Dolezal story, and is consistent with the position of Media24. One can only respond: “There is no ‘maths of race’. The only persons making such statements have been discredited eugenicists.
Another participant in the discussion, was even harsher in her use of irony: “Please come to South Africa and enjoy the full experience which the majority of black woman endure. There are plenty of overworked maid jobs with below the breadline pay …” The various criticisms of Dolezal, that she is effectively ‘trading off the misery of others’, is ‘passing herself off’ as something which she is not, and is ‘guilty of cultural appropriation’, need to be seen within the context of similar criticisms of Mother Teresa and others. The criticism has no basis nor place in human rights law. Cultural appropriation (in whatever form) is a factor of life in a polyglot, globalised society, one remarkably difference from the former colonial empire, based as it was on ideals of racial purity and for which cross-pollination itself was anathema. That Dolezal herself is breaking taboos within the so-called white community from which she sprung, is hardly remarked upon by opinion-makers slamming her membership of the NAACP.
That body presentation and identity issues are par for the course in the 21st Century can be seen by the fact that nobody would think the unthinkable and slam albino model Thandi Hopa for not having enough melanin, and trading off the resulting racial dysphoria. Instead in Rachel’s case, her attempts to deal with her ‘black experience’ , resulted in an obscene racial witch-hunt, and highly public race-probe based upon discredited apartheid race science. Doleza says that “challenging the construct of race is at the core of evolving human consciousness”
Dolezal has an adopted black brother Izaiah , and a black child from a black man. To put this in a nut-shell, Rachel isn’t “pretending to be black”, her life is not a parody as in ‘blackface’, but rather the result of attempting to deal with her existence, in particular her troubling relationship with her brother Ezra. The mix of reactions around the globe is certainly unprecedented, and indicative of a new far-right discourse which has entered the mainstream.
It will be interesting to see how Dolezal presents herself to an audience remarkably different from the one which pilloried her femininity and for which her latest biography is her considered response. Medialternatives therefore takes this opportunity to unreservedly welcome Rachel to South Africa.
Medialternatives has followed the Dolezal story and you can read previous postings here.
THOUGHT I should post some resources for readers after yet another overseas race scandal of Dolezal proportions. (See my earlier post on this here).
First, there is some popular literature on the subject:
Newsweek’s There is no such thing as race
The Guardian’s Why racism is not backed up by science
Check out some books
Everyone is African – How Science Explodes the Myth of Race (Paperback) by Daniel J Fairbanks
The Myth of Race – The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea (Hardcover) by Robert Wald Sussman
The Myth of Race (Paperback) by Jefferson M. Fish
All books available via Loot or Amazon.
Or go ahead and read the scientific literature on the subject.
APARTHEID never worked, thousands of South Africans were reclassified according to the various race categories created under apartheid. It was enough to have just “one drop of niggers blood” reminds Louis Farrakhan to be considered black.
It was enough to associate with black persons via fraternisation and (Lord forbid) fornication for the authorities to take steps. Families were split down the middle. Much the same way the Rachel Dolezal story is playing itself out. Except here, her Christian Conservative family are apparently denouncing their daughter for being a white turncoat, a traitor to the supposed white race.
Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.” – Steven Biko
If Dolezal was passing herself off as blonde, nobody would question her hair colour. If she was a transexual, or became a man ditto, but in an eerie flashback to the scientific racism of apartheid and the race segregation of the American Deep South, the world is now being entertained by the question behind her motives for wanting to be black, or the crass possibility of lucrative contracts.
The Huffington Post’s Zeba Blay has gone so far as attacking Dolezal’s perm for being “culturally appropriative“, and suggests comparisons with transgendered persons are “detrimental to trans and racial progress”. In the process reducing blackness (and race oppression) to some weird physiognomy club, that excludes albinos, Asians and anyone who doesn’t pass the proverbial “pencil test”. The tragic case of Happy Sindane “the boy who tried for white” springs to mind.
The last time I read such an obscene resort to cultural norms, community standards and simple appearances, was during apartheid, when South African ministers routinely trotted out arguments about Christian “good neighbourliness” “own affairs” and “separate but equal.”
None of the accusations conveyed by the press are supported by any science or rational argument, for a good reason, there is no science behind race. Nations are not races. The legal fiction of affirmative action is just that, a fiction. And so what if Rachel Dolezol ended up employed by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) for a decade, doing a sterling job fighting to the rights of minorities as a black changeling? Let’s read that again: National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, for a minute there, I thought it said: African Americans, as in Africa, the continent, not Coloured as in Mixed Race Identity Syndrome.
The NAACP was founded in 1909, is America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, it advocates for rights for ethnic minorities but also fights for social justice for all Americans. The term “Coloured” is anachronistic and harks back to the days of racial segregation, when being a bastard could result in sterilisation.
Scientific racism along with eugenics and the apartheid heresy is a discredited field of research. There are no objective criteria which hold true for all human beings and proposals for such criteria tend to reinforce the problems with apartheid, which was a race-based system which never worked.(1)
Thousands of South Africans were imprisoned for resisting institutional racism, a system in which millions of people were classified by the state, and often forceably reclassified, or forced by the Immorality Act and Group Areas Act to apply for reclassification merely so that lovers and lifetime acquaintances were not separated by the law. One can only wonder at how the lesson of apartheid appears to have been lost on a Post-Mandela generation brought up on ready-to-eat TV meals.
What is irksome is the bald assertion that Dolezal has lied or committed a fraud. In order to lie, Rachel Dolezol would have to assert something which is not true. Her assertions however, are entirely valid and true, unlike the many Ad Hominem objections being raised in the media. (According to Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker, if she was lying, she was lying about a lie, the lie of race.)
We are surely in dangerous terrain if we deny an individual’s right to an identity, to a self-identity, and instead reach out for the jackbooted arsenal of the apartheid-era Population Registration Act (which was abolished in South Africa in 1994), or like so many twitter users, argue for the creation of a new race classification board under some modern schema.
Individual identity or individuation is not reducible to skin colour or even genes. People are exposed to life experiences, and socialisation, (nurture as well as nature). In an interview with Dolezal’s parent’s, her family appear to have Native American heritage and thus could also be “trying for white”. The case also appears to be an abject lesson in what can go right or wrong in interracial adoption, when your “white child” adopts the identity of your “black child”. So much for appropriating oppression, this looks more like being faced with oppression head on.
Dolezal’s complicated background in which she appears to have either rejected, or has been rejected by her family, makes it even more difficult. According to a recent interview on network television, she “identified as a black person age 5, when she drew a self-portrait with a brown crayon”.
Dolazal believes herself to be black, for all we know, she was brought up in a ghetto, and has had a relationship with a black man. It is trite that like her parents, Dolezal “tried for white” in her teens and failed
The laws of gravity apply to all people equally regardless of shape, colour, gender, or sexual orientation. There is no black science or white science, and there should be no legal consequences attached to terms such as black or white.
Any definitions of race are therefore bound to be fictions, and bad fictions at that. Both assertions of whiteness and blackness in regard to Rachel Dolezal are therefore coincidental and also true. The solution is intersectionality, the delineation of race as an oppression, in and of itself, not further racism.
Sadly, as an activist and writer, I face similar accusations by an apartheid-era media company. (This blog has carried my expose of the company and its active involvement in the maintenance of apartheid and also a media cartel covering up the truth)
The ludicrous and incoherent 2010 labour court decision written up by a corrupt labour broker moonlighting as an acting judge of the Labour Court of SA, who I shall call Judge Cheat, states that I am an “absurdity” for referring to myself as a “coloured person”.
I further stand accused, variously in papers and court testimony of a) being a Hindu, b) passing myself off as a Jew, or not being a Jew c) not being an Observant Jew d) de facto fraternising with black people at a mixed race nightclub in breach of my supposed religion.
The courtroom inquiry held in Cape Town was anything but a model of fairness and impartiality (The acting justice faces criminal charges lodged with the NPA of corruption and forging of documents) involved obscene questions about my hair and body features, and exactly why did I say: Jou Ma se Robbie Jansen?
I have a history of involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle. I have been sectioned under apartheid laws and subject to prohibitions on intergroup fraternisation. I even have a Jewish Bobba from Maitland, who grew up with both a white card and the card enumerated by persons such as C Vogel and A Abdhuramen, who illustrate the problems of Coloured identity and the race criteria used by legal authorities. Viva District Six.
For some, I have been assimilated into the “coloured” community of Cape Town. For others, I have “multi-race identity syndrome” or worse “protest psychosis” and the black disease outlined by Johnathan M Metzl, who explains how schizophrenia became a black disease associated with runaway slaves and belligerence against colonial masters.
My petition before the Constitutional Court of SA (lodged with the JSC, not the JSE, but who can tell the difference these days?) for instance states amongst other things, that I am considered a Khoisan and a Griqua by the Griqua Nation. So far as the Khoisan are concerned, if you identify with the Earth, you are a Khoisan. Ditto for the Bantu. A Bantu by all accounts from South Africa is nothing less than a human being and arguing otherwise is likely to result in an assagai being thrown in your general direction.
So far as I am concerned, I am nether black nor white, but rather a member of the species homo sapiens sapiens. This is neither a liberal position, nor a solely humanist assertion, but rather, a plain and simple scientific fact.
So like the controversy over Dolezal, the case against me, (not in the Middle Ages, but in the modern era of democracy, the 21st Century), is rather what is absurd here, that I have somehow “passed myself off as a “Coloured Person” during the struggle to advance the cause of the Coloured, and on the basis of this deception, I have gained employment at a “Coloured” newspaper, published by South Press and then also Grassroots.” And now that bastion of race profiling and compartmentalised racism, the People’s Post. The whole thing stinks.
If people think there is anything to be gained by being a black man or woman, think again. Being niggarised like Jani Allen, or reduced to second class citizenship and labour servitude by white supremacists, isn’t what one could call good clean fun, and all this merely in order to be treated as a bone fide member of some or other dinkum race group?
Get out of here. Nobody in their right mind would think like this, unless of course, you just swallowed a load of bull put out by the Ku Klux Klan and their local offshoots, the AWB.