The curious incident of Rachel Dolezal and other mysteries, it's been deemed by the media. We the public all get to weigh in on this woman's racial identification, based on her dubious self-identification as black. We know that she was pretending to be black, although she is biologically Caucasian, or white. She has skirted the biological question in interviews, apparently privy to the fact that any admission of the truth would bring skepticism towards herself. But we also know that she was raised in a household with black siblings, and now identifies as their race, too. Should we trust her leadership? Let alone her integrity, honesty, and with that, the whole shebang of physical appearances when it comes to trusting in others, too?
As a member of that public, my short answer is that as long as the people whom she serves--her mentors, mentees, local constituents, and larger governing body in the NAACP--can continue to trust and support her, then that is all that really matters. The rest is of very little consequence.
Racial identification is often a complicated, and sometimes, very personal thing. For as long as I can remember, any time someone asked me what my "race" was, I paused. Today, when you ask me that question, I will say with confidence that I identify as Asian American more so than white. But I am, equally split, both. I identify even more with being biracial, mixed-race, or "hapa." But yeah, if you had to break it down into predetermined boxes that do not allow for the latter blends, I would side with Asian.
This has everything to do with my upbringing and my personal philosophies. Even though I am biologically half and half, I feel more Asian. I think that I think more Asian. My palate is more Asian, and plenty of things about my physicality are more Asian even if my face (which is a de-facto yet untrustworthy racial indicator) is not as much. I recognize others who are Asian as my people. I don't harbor ill feelings towards others but I do harbor that instinctual kindred spirit. I don't really understand it fully myself.
But maybe--just maybe--this has something to do with early experiences where I was harassed for being "other." Which manifested somehow into embracing that otherness.
I already know that there are plenty of trolls and average people out there who will call me exploitative, manipulative, and desperate for attention or distinction. I don't care. I don't necessarily intend to invite skepticism, but I want to make a point.
Race is a sticky question, especially in today's atmosphere, where race is shoddily defined at best--"Hispanic" not being a race--and underscoring of growing tangents of blends meanwhile. It can manifest in many ways through individuals, giving way to more unique feelings than we can even imagine or attempt to put on paper. Neither my nor Rachel's story is the strangest by far. This might mean offense to some, but I know that to some others, they will find solace and empowerment. Because some people always felt "other, squared." If we can recognize and embrace transgenders or even the sibling monikers to those of other races--as well as respect the privacy and specificity that these self-identifications might invite--then I know we can do this, too.
Public service announcement: teach your kids to embrace, not harass, "otherness." Then we might not have to debate these ultimately pointless and distracting debates.