Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Confusing Question

One of my favorite interviews on TV of late was the one where the local TV reporter asked Spokane WA NAACP branch president Rachel Dolezal if she was African American.  “I… I don’t understand the question.”   Granted, that is a very confusing question.  It’s great TV to see the lid blown off like that, isn’t it?  She then did the smart thing and hid in a bunker somewhere waiting for the media storm to blow over, which was easily her best option.  Unfortunately for her, nothing that crazy has happened anywhere else and the media firestorm rages on.  She obviously hooked up with a “PR Crisis” expert and appeared on The Today Show this morning where she changed her rhetoric to “I identify as black” and trotting out the term “transracial”.  I literally can’t get enough of it.  Buzzwords were flying around everywhere! 

The “transracial” concept is fabulous.  The idea is:  “I am deciding my own identity just like Bruce Jenner and his Courageous Journey.”  (Note, any time people do anything now, it is a “journey”.  It sounds so much more epic than saying “I did this”.)  While the concept that she is the same as Bruce Jenner “identifying” as a woman and changing his appearance is at first a compelling argument, the idea falls apart when you consider that Bruce Jenner has never tried to deceive anyone into thinking he was a woman.  It’s not like Bruce Jenner worked for the National Organization For Women and then was caught being a man.  “Caitlyn… Are you a man that won the Men’s Decathlon in the 1976 Olympics?”  Umm… I don’t understand the question?
It is an interesting turn our society has taken where everything that is concrete is now up for debate.  There are no longer any things which are absolutes.  The fear of offending anyone allows us to take what are obviously illogical concepts and pretend that all the pieces fit together.  Maybe I am crazy, but here’s how I think.  If you are born with male genitalia, you are a man.  If I paint stripes on a horse, I can’t display it at a zoo as a zebra.  A horse is a horse (of course).  While Rachel Dolezal is clearly very enthusiastic about African American culture and being involved within that community, a hair style and dark makeup doesn’t make her black.   

I used to live next to this guy that was a big reggae fan.  He was one of these guys that discovered Bob Marley and ganja at an impressionable age, and suddenly he was listening to Natty Dread all day, walking around in genie pants and his Rasta knit cap.  Soon enough he was trying to grow dreadlocks and used the word “Jah” liberally in conversation.  He was all in.  While he was known as the nickname of “Tosh”, that guy was no more Jamaican than I am.  Take off the costume, and he is still “Neil” from Northwest Ohio.  The whole thing was absurd, but Neil seemed to be happy so everyone just let it go.

Why do I think that this Rachel Dolezal has something like Tosh going on?  For whatever reason she embraced a culture outside of her own, and became obsessive about it.  She just got so excited about it that reality got confusing.  She found new friends and a place in that community much like Tosh did in that really stinky VW van he drove around in.  It became her peer group, and she desperately wanted to fit in.  It can’t have been that big of a secret.  I just think everyone rolled with it because she was good at her job and people must have liked her.  Hey, I know plenty of people that have Polish parents on one side and Italian on the other that plays up the Italian side so much you feel like they just slunk off the set of “Goodfellas”.  We try to be how we want the world to view us.   

It’s a tough break to get called out in international media.  I certainly don’t want Matt Lauer calling me out on the carpet at 7:15 am on a Tuesday.  My only hope is that there are plenty of new TV show appearances on the way and plenty more awkward verbal exchanges.  While “transracial” is an amazing new term, the real question is how many more can be tossed out?  It’s a new age, and I like it!


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