Alrighty. I’m going to do my best here to explain why this is an issue and address your questions/statements, IntensePlayer. I’m assuming that you genuinely just don’t understand what I’m trying to point out rather than assuming that you are willfully refusing to see that there is an issue.
Before I get into this, I’d love to point out that if a massive portion of a population is saying there is a problem (i.e. the black community saying that this is wrong), then sometimes we just need to suspend our personal disbelief and simply accept that. If ten women say that a particular action by a man bothers them, sometimes they don’t need to justify it, the behavior simply needs to stop.
Moving on to your various issues (and I’m gonna go ahead and apologize to everyone because this will likely get long
. I’m going to start off by saying that it’s impossible for a black person to be racist against a white person (bear with me here). It is possible for a black person to be prejudiced
to a white person (and that can certainly appear in the form of discrimination or violence), but racism implies that the person wielding that racism has a societal advantage. In short, white people can be racist (in America). Other races are prejudiced. This is the generally accepted definition in today’s current racial studies, particularly in America (and keep in mind, we’re discussing an American issue here).
I’ll touch on the hair. The thing is, Dolesal does
have an influence on how people see her hair. Do you honestly believe that she chose knots and dreads simply because she liked the style and thought it was pretty? She didn’t. She chose the style precisely because
it is associated with the black community. This isn’t the case of a white girl choosing a style that she likes and copying it because she’s genuinely a fan…this is the case of a white woman taking a traditionally black hairstyle and wearing it in order to make herself appear black precisely because
she knows that hairstyle is associated with the black community.
As far as the n-word…I’m…I’m really not sure how to answer this. I’m assuming you’re not American? If you are, you would understand how charged this word is. To a certain extent, the black community has reclaimed the n-word in the same way that the gay community has reclaimed the word ‘fag’ (over-simplification, but I’m using it for an example). White people cannot
use that word because of the history. It was a word used exclusively
by white people with the intention of being hateful and exclusionary and, oftentimes, violent.
What you’re arguing with the hair and the word is that, effectively, history is irrelevant. By that logic it would be perfectly acceptable for me to use a blessed cross as a doorstopper or a Nazi armband as a decoration on a jacket simply because I liked the pattern. It would imply, in the best case scenario, a gross ignorance of the significance of those items and what they mean to people, and by appropriating them for my own personal convenience I would be disrespecting others. If I wore a Nazi armband as a decoration because I like the symbol, would it be wrong for a Jew to be insulted? That’s effectively the same argument as saying that a white woman wearing a black hairstyle (again, with the intention of pretending she’s black, not out of ignorance) should be able to do so without black people being insulted by it or commenting on it. I hope that clarifies things a bit?
Alrighty! Moving on to the idea of why things have to remain exclusive to black culture…well, they don’t. The key issue is the difference between appropriation and appreciation. Check out this
article…it should help explain things a little bit. To break things down a little bit, no one is saying that black people can’t compose country music. No one is saying that white people can’t rap. What people are
saying is that because these art forms are tied to tradition, that tradition must be respected and handled delicately. For instance, a black person who came from Africa and began singing about prejudiced, red-neck stereotypes would not be appreciated, just as white rappers from high-income suburban neighborhoods aren’t respected when they rap about being from the ‘ghetto’. Taking an art form and making it your own is fine, providing you use your power and platform to help raise those around you.
The primary issue with appropriation is that white people take something valued by ethnic minorities (take the bindi, for example), and they strip it entirely of it’s meaning. They use these things because they think it’s ‘cool’ or ‘pretty’. In Dolezal’s case, she used it because for some reason she wanted to align herself with a traditionally ill-treated group.
To address your point that black people should be able to express themselves however they want…well, again, ideal world. That would be great. The issue is, they can’t. They can’t, because those cultural differences are often seen as threatening by white people, so oftentimes when someone black is acting ‘white’, it’s because they have been pressured into doing so in order to fit in. The issue with white people doing that is that, again, you’re assuming both races are on a level playing field. I think it’s quite telling that society as a whole finds things edgy when white people do it but ‘gross’ or ‘thuggish’ when a black person does it. Again, even playing field, this would be all fine and dandy, but since racially we aren’t all even in America and don’t all have the same opportunities, not everyone gets to take culturally significant things from other people.
Alrighty moving onto the whole problematic Caitlyn Jenner/Dolezal comparison. Read this
article please. It breaks down, a little bit, the fact that the differences in the brain chemistry of people who are transgendered is actually observable. It is absolutely not
true that difference in brains between black and white have been observed. Until you can provide legitimate science to prove that black and white brains are notably different in the same way that male and female brains are different, and also prove that white people are born with ‘black’ brains, please leave this particular point alone.
Here’s the thing. I don’t need objective proof to say that Dolezal is wrong or lying. The person making the claim is the one who has to provide proof (and that’s how our legal system works, and it’s how science works).
Aaaaand moving on again. You seem to understand the cousin comparison, so I’ll stick with that. Perhaps you
wouldn’t lash out at that person who lied to you…but then again, would you really sit there and say that no one had the right to be mad? That your fake cousin, in lying to you, hadn’t harmed you? That a lie that big hadn’t left a psychological scar on you? You’re saying that you wouldn’t judge that fake cousin but you would be angry and you would assume they were mentally ill. Interestingly, you don’t seem to be assuming that about Dolezal…you seem to be arguing that she has every right to do what she’s doing and that no one can prove that she doesn’t actually feel like she’s black inside, so she deserves to present herself that way. How is that different from your fake cousin scenario? Why are you able to defend one, but not the other?
And onto the final point! (I know this is getting long). You asked how Dolezal is hurting the black community? Here are a couple of ways. One: she is taking black identity in America and boiling it down to what she, a white woman, has stereotyped black people to be. This includes styling her hair in a specific way and attending an HBCU. Effectively, she’s reducing their heritage to a mere presentation. Two, she took a spot from a woman of color in an HBCU (in a community where educational access is often limited because of systemic racism, this isn’t just her hurting one person, it’s her damaging a part of the community). She may well have taken a spot from someone who had to overcome childhood hardships that she never had to face). Three, at the NAACP she used her experiences as “a black woman” to lend credibility to her anti-racism messages. All of those messages are now called into question as to their legitimacy because she lied about the major premise upon which she was presenting them, i.e. that she had experienced that racism herself rather than simply observing it. Fourthly, and arguably most importantly, as proved by your own point…she has, in her lies, caused a conversation that is now causing many white
people to question what it is to be black. That’s frankly not our place. People who have never been black are now invalidating the black experience in America by saying, “Well, huh, why shouldn’t she be able to do it? Race is just a construct, so why can’t anyone jump in?”. Finally, by doing this, it proves that white people still can and still do take other identities and make them their own for selfish reasons. She wanted to feel black, I hypothesize, because she wanted to be a part of the ‘other’, of the minority. It’s not unlike kids joining the goths at school rather than the cheerleaders, except for, oh, you know, the damage it inflicts on the community. She wanted to be a victim. She wanted the attention that comes with being a victim, so she chose to lie about being a part of a group that is victimized regularly. Just like when women falsely claim rape and then undermine legitimate rape cases, Dolezal undermined the struggle of black men and women in America.
Whewwwwwww. Long post, and I hope I explained things a bit; I hope I explained them calmly. This is an emotional topic, IntensePlayer, but I think that you may want to keep in mind that minorities don’t owe you an explanation for their feelings. This is one of those situations where it may well be better to simply say “I don’t understand it fully, but if the vast majority of this population is angry and hurt by this, there must be a visceral reaction to this situation because of damage I can’t understand”. That would be my suggestion.