From Rebecca Tuvel’s “In Defense of Transracialism”:
Many forms of donning a black identity are insulting because they are just that—the donning of a black identity. I take it that those who don a black identity do not express a genuine identification with blackness. Rather, they assume a black physical appearance, or appropriate certain exaggerated or maliciously concocted features of black culture for a brief period of time, usually for questionable ends. Yet we are examining the possibility of a person who genuinely identifies as black. This is completely different from someone who identifies as white but who pretends to be a black person precisely for the purpose of ridicule and reinforcement of racial stereotypes. The latter is appropriately deemed pretense because it relies on the fact that this person’s core identity is not who she publicly and permanently purports to be. Someone who genuinely identifies as black and feels that she is black is not pretending to be black. A person who genuinely identifies as black is thus not likely to don a black identity for a few hours or even days, weeks, and months, intending thereafter to resume a white identity. Instead, such a person is more likely to try to live as a black person, day in day out, year in year out, in perpetuity. Dolezal may well have been putting on a black identity for nefarious purposes. But the possibility that she was not is a reminder that we must keep these different ways of assuming an identity morally distinct. Someone who genuinely identifies with blackness could perhaps be viewed as affirming blackness instead of insulting it, insofar as this suggests it is desirable to be black. In a world where the worth and value of blackness is routinely denied, perhaps Dolezal’s transition could therefore be viewed in a positive light.
See also Jesse Singal’s “This Is What a Modern-Day Witch Hunt Looks Like,” written in response to the outcry provoked by Tuvel’s article.
Emma Smith: “Shakespeare is the apex predator in a cultural ecosystem where he has no rivals, only prey. The literary rabbits and deer and mice need to watch out.”
Sarah Boxer: “Bloggers assume that if you’re reading them, you’re one of their friends, or at least in on the gossip, the joke, or the names they drop. They often begin their posts mid-thought or mid-rant—in medias craze. They don’t care if they leave you in the dust. They’re not responsible for your education. Bloggers, as Mark Liberman, one of the founders of the blog called Language Log, once noted, are like Plato. The unspoken message is: Hey, I’m here talking with my buddies. Keep up with me or don’t. It’s up to you.”