Neopolitan people and Rachel Dolezal

So the idea that Rachel Dolezal is in some way a fraud by taking the risks that she has to embrace a black identity to me are absurd for several reasons. I’ve seen all the analysis from various people of color on this, trying to paint Rachel as some kind of fraud by “appropriating” black culture…but this makes sense only when you realize that the perpetrator is actually is NOT giving up their primary identity. Elvis was appropriating African American culture …he didn’t identify with it beyond his use of the music…he didn’t want to BE black. Yet here comes Rachel, a woman who has actually embraced the identity of being black by going so far as to accept the label of being black when it is levied *against her* based on others perceptions of her appearance.

This is the critical piece, when she decided to identify as black is completely irrelevant….the fact is she really feels that she is black (in terms of experience) and is willing to suffer the thorns that come with *being black* by definition of that association.

Nothing else matters from that point, she was able to “pass” as black and by doing that, she immediately suffered everything of what it means to be black (as perceived by every one who saw her who was NOT black but assumed that SHE was black…such is the power of white entitlement) She tanned herself, she curled her hair…people (some non zero percentage) saw HER as black and thus TREATED her that way. She’s been confronted and is not giving up her appropriation….rather, like Jesus she’s choosing to wear the crown of thorns. Either she is suffering a deep psychosis OR she really feels a strong affinity to black experience to such a degree that she chooses to experience the pains of being black even though she does not have to.

That perception of treatment is enough….so now the question is how much of an experience of being black must a person have to be “black”. Is Beyonce “black “enough? Is Vanessa Williams “black” enough? Is Haile Berry “black” enough? Is Jennifer Lopez “black” enough?

As a Latino (yes, Hatians are Latino) I am very well aware of the weird middle zone that one is fitted into as a result of the binary tendencies of African Americans (twisted by the pathology of their unique experience, granted) …in a very similar way people of Haitian descent have been put into a limbo of ethnic experience….distinct from English speaking Caribbeans by virtue of language and culture, distinct from Spanish speaking Caribbeans by distinction of language…yet with no ability to “appropriate” either group as an identity because of phenotype association that exists for most Haitians. (They tend to “look” clearly, “black”) Ultimately Dolezal (mental illness or not) has a genuine perception of herself as “black” and the question is not weather or not she’s being authentic…but rather, why is it that we can’t accept that how she defines HERSELF is how we should accept her??? She is it appears a Neopolitan person…..she has chose to embrace the rainbow, sure it is the case that blacks lack that choice…but that is irrelevant to the fact that once she chooses to be black, once others see her as black….then the full weight of what that means falls on her in a very similar if not identical way to those “born” black.

The hypocrisy that stands out here from those who have attached Rachel for claims of “appropiation” is that if they feel Rachel can’t choose to be who she claims to be….then neither can any one else, I can’t embrace being “latino” because others think I don’t “look” latin enough, a person who claims being born female in a males body can’t either (yes, there is an intersection here….the math is clear). Another person who is half Asian and half Jewish and attends ceder can’t either…it goes on and on. And thus now we can look at what this all boils down to….when we consider what technology is doing at the moment.

In my chapter in the book The future of business, I cover the cosmecutical industry that I predict will be a billion dollar industry in the next 10 years. The ability to utilize gene editing technology to precisely modify genotype and phenotype will open up an entire new vista of possibilities particularly with regard to the pesky intersection of identity and race that the Dolezal event marks.

Within the next 10 years, Rachel will actually BE able to change her hair and skin color to phenotypes that are part of “black” dominant perception. Assuming she does this…..what level of experience does it take for her experience to be authentic? If a blonde Nordic person lives as a black person for 2 decades and suffers the various types of discrimination that entails fully aware of its existence why should we not recognize the embrace of that identity? How would that be measured?? Anyone in my view who is willing to jump into the fire is some one whose view should be respected (even if it inspires confusion).

Pick your flavor of “Eye Scream”

Originally published at on June 21, 2015.