Should We Accept Anyone’s Self-Identity as Legitimate?

Rachel Dolezal was the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. Her biological parents, who are both white, told the public that she was white, and she was forced to resign her position with the NAACP. The event caused a rather large hubbub in the news, as we would expect. The local city government removed her from a police oversight committee. Dolezal has been quoted as saying:

I identify as black . . . I am more black than I am white . . . That’s the accurate answer from my truth . . . [as a child] I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon and the black curly hair . . . I felt a spiritual, visceral, just very instinctual connection with the ‘black is beautiful’ — just the black experience from a very young age. 

Dolezal spoke of being conditioned to ignore her identity from childhood, a situation that was “thrust upon me and narrated to me. And so I kind of felt pretty awkward with that at times.” Even Dolezal’s parents admitted that she was attracted to black people throughout her life, even though they said that she was Caucasian is “just a fact.”

The media response is interesting. Many articles have focused on Dolezal’s historic honesty, or lack thereof, as if that had any impact on whether her feelings of identity are genuine. In our current cultural climate, whether or not Dolezal has been honest has nothing to do with whether we should accept her current statements that she has always felt black. As she claimed, she may have often felt pressured to hide her identity. Have not many homosexuals felt pressured in the past to hide? Are we to deny their current statements because they used to live and talk differently? Are we to drag their name through the mud as dishonest people?

The public response is interesting. A New York Times opinion piece titled “The Delusions of Rachel Dolezal” spoke of an “elaborate scheme of deception,” “deceitful performance and tortured attempt to avoid the truth.” She was described as “pretending to be black.” A crisis manager called Dolezal a liar, and suggested she stop talking in public and apologize. One author said flatly that Dolezal “did not have the right to the identity she claimed.” The reaction went on and on.

I am immediately reminded of the gender identity issues that are thrust into the pubic eye. The latest alphabet soup of gender, nearest I can tell, is LGBTIQ, representing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Questioning. I move that we should merely shorten this to GC, for gender confused.

The entire basis for such gender confusion is personal feelings of identity. We are told by the gender confused community that a feeling is right for no more nor less that it is felt. If someone feels an attraction to another sex, or feels that they should be another gender, or feels one gender or in between, we are told it is justified and the rest of society must accept it. No matter what the genital hardware and chromosomes are in reality — feelings triumph over all, and we are not to question someone’ s self-proclaimed gender identity. The gender confused use the same reasoning as Dolezal, that they felt this way from an early age, they felt confused when society pressed a gender upon them, that the attractions were always there and therefore the gender identity can be different from the physical reality of their body.

We therefore have no logical, reasonable grounds for accepting the gender confusion and not accepting racial confusion. One author, Ryan Cooper, apparently aware of the logical contradiction, attempts to brush it away by claiming “gender is more deeply rooted in one’s own mind, while race is more forcibly imposed by the surrounding society.” But is this true? Why should it be so? Cooper offers no support for such a claim, and the logic rings hollow. If we turned to the feminist writers of the 1960’s, we would find them decrying the gender roles forced on women by society.

We therefore are discovering the bitter fruit of a few bad philosophical positions. One is that we can base our society on how each individual feels, for feelings are not based in any reality other than the sinful human mind that all of us have. A second flaw is that such feelings do not have consequences for others, as the Dolezal case clearly refutes.

A third flaw, perhaps the most fundamental, is found buried in one of Dolezal’s statements. Upon describing her feelings of racial identity, she justifies it by saying “That’s the accurate answer from my truth.” As long as we allow individual’s to have their own private basis of truth, then we will never have any grounds to make any judgments of reality. The public outcry about Dolezal is inconsistent: it accepts those who identify with gender that is contrary to fact, but rejects those who identify with race contrary to fact.

For more about what happens when we base decisions on feelings, see here. 

(PS: The NAACP’s website says their hiring practices do not discriminate based on race.)

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Should We Accept Anyone’s Self-Identity as Legitimate?

  1. Salli says:

    Well said. I’d say that until I came to Jesus, I was pretty confused myself. I am so glad that people took the time to be kind to me and explain things in a way that I could understand. I appreciate the efforts of apologists like yourself who work to give the Christian community the tools we need to present the Gospel to them that need it.

  2. dwwork says:

    What I find interesting about Rachel Dolezal is that she sued Howard university for discriminating against her because she was white. Odd is she identified as black her whole life.

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