Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Passing for Super Heroes

We all remember Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who passed as black for so many years and who was so convincing that no one questioned it until her parents outed her.

Well, she has finally put forth an admission of being white—such as the admission is—herself.

Also, there is another white person in the public eye who has been passing himself off as black, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King. Unlike Dolezal, King still claims that he is, at least partially, black.

What to make of this?

Among black people, passing for white has a long history, due to the existence of the “one drop rule.” This social practice has its foundation in slavery, which I’ve talked about before, in regard to a certain person.

The “black” people who passed for white did so for one specific and logical reason: it made their lives easier—financially, socially, and, one would guess, emotionally. But, it seems that for people like Dolezal and King, the area which is chiefly effected is the emotional one. The specific emotion? It’s obviously self-hatred and hatred of parents. I’ve witnessed this pathology before.

I had an acquaintance who is white and he decided to immerse himself in the Armenian culture; he was well-versed in the history, the social customs, spoke the language, married an ethnic Armenian, and he considered himself to be an Armenian. While I have absolutely nothing against marrying outside one’s ethnicity, nor against being well-acquainted with the spouse’s heritage, I find it odd that one would put on someone else's ethnic identity and I said so to this man. His answer was telling: he said that he had no culture worth holding onto--that he despised his own culture. He also mentioned more than once that he is somewhat estranged from his parents.

There’s a significant factor present in all three cases. It’s the Savior Syndrome. My acquaintance was an active advocate for the United States government’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide. (It’s a worthy advocacy to be sure, but I’m not discussing its worth.) And both King and Dolezal have styled themselves as champions against black oppression as they see it.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with being interested in and celebrating/defending another ethnicity and/or culture. But it’s the combination of those with hatred of self and one’s own ethnicity/culture that produces these odd ducks who wish to shake off their original identities and turn themselves in Super Heroes for [insert ethnicity here.]

The problem with that is that one can never really become not-themselves—not without going crazy.

In short, these people are nuts.

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