The tragic murder of nine black Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina has taken the wind out of the controversy surrounding the borrowed identity of Rachel Dolezal. The fire isn’t out completely. But national attention is slowly being diverted away from Dolezal, and back to matters of importance.
This is good because the less attention given to Dolezal, the better. Rather than slink away after being exposed as a fraud, the woman who spent decades pretending to be black has gone on national television to defend her charade. She refuses to believe that just because she was born to a white family in Montana, she can’t just up and switch races. Her intransigence speaks to the larger issue of what we mean when we say “race” and what it means to be black in America.
Conservatives have a point in all this hubbub: if race is a pure social construct with no biological foundation, Dolezal should unquestionably be able to claim the mantle of blackness. Anyone who challengers her is a bigot, ignorant of basic social science. Thus, Dolezal might have been born to a white family and grew up white, but can still identify as black without the fear of being unaccepted. That’s the logical conclusion of the “race is not biology” meme.