Mar 23, 2017
Two years ago, Rachel Dolezal enjoyed a good reputation as a civil rights activist and a well-respected professor at Eastern Washington University. She was the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Spokane. Today, she has a hard time finding a job.
Her tragic change of fortune came suddenly when an interviewer on a local TV station asked her the seemingly innocuous question: "Are you African American?" After all, she looked like she was; and, her work for the NAACP made the very question rather strange. But stranger yet was the truth soon uncovered.
Dolezal was born white. Both her parents were white. At one time, she even filed a lawsuit as a Howard University graduate student. She claimed that the historically black university had discriminated against her because she was a white woman. But, now she identifies herself as black and insists that others must accept this. She claims that race "is not a biological reality. It's a hierarchical system that was created to leverage power and privilege between different groups of people." For Dolezal, race is merely a social construct.
In many quarters today, the question of identity has become extremely fluid. Anyone can identify themselves as whatever they wish: white, black, male, female or other. Taking quite literally the theory that one determines one's own identity, the City of New York allows its residents to choose from 31 different categories to define themselves. In the last two years, 731 New Yorkers have changed the gender on their birth certificate. Of these, forty-one were minors who had their parents' consent. Today, all that is required to make the change is simply the approval of a licensed medical or mental-health provider.