Is Rachel Dolezal a trailblazing pioneer, educating us on transracial adoption?
In recent months we have heard the term transgender thrown around, with respect to Caitlyn Jenner. Today, we find ourselves summoning our inner Merriam-Webster to define the term transracial, as it is defined by Rachel Dolezal and now the rest of the world. Diving further into the sea of emotions, we are asked to examine the thoughts and feelings of individuals who have been adopted and raised by families of a completely different race than their own.
First, who is Rachel Dolezal and why is everyone talking about her? Checkout her interview with Matt Lauer on Today (here).
By the Numbers:
Rachel Dolezal explains how adopting two black children has miraculously transformed her identity. To put this in perspective, the U.S. Department of State reported that for fiscal year 2014, there were a grand total of 6,441 people adopted in the United States (adoption stats) – out of a population of 321 million people (census). Think you have Rachel Dolezal completely figured out? Those numbers suggest that you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning.
For me, growing up in a small town surrounded by bean and corn fields, with the musk of Quaker Oats in the background, it wouldn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t look anything like the famers sons and daughters around me. See as a biracial child adopted into an interracial marriage I can sympathize and empathize with those who are transracial – as defined above.
What does it mean to be transracial?
Prior to Rachel Dolezal dreaming up her own definition of transracial, researchers and adoptees throughout the years have defined it as, “The adoption of a child that is of a different race than the adoptive parents.”
See this open letter by members of the adoption community regarding the term. One of its authors Kimberly McKee, PhD is the Assistant Director/Advisory Council member of KAAN (The Korean American Adpotee Adoptive Family Network) – she certainly knows a thing or two about the issue.
NPR also wrote a very nice piece on the issue called, Growing up ‘White,’ Transracial Adoptee Learned To Be Black.
Does the term transracial need a 2015 makeover?
History has shown us that over time certain words begin to take on different meaning or even the way we interpret them can change. Such as the terms Republican and Democrat have completely different meanings in modern day America than they did back in the bayonet and musket days.
Rachel Dolezal argues that the term transracial should mean a person who is born one race but identifies with a completely different race. It is the equivalent of a white person checking the box ‘Black’ on a college application. She believes that race is not wholly defined by our biological makeup – that despite our appearance to the rest of the world, in our hearts and minds we can identify and essentially become part of a completely different race.
Has she lost her damn mind?
On the surface it seems like Rachel Dolezal has been drinking from Lil Wayne’s Styrofoam cup. But is it really beyond comprehension that, say, a white person who grows up in a predominately black community, immersed in black culture, attending a historically black college and church, could feel an incredibly deep connection and real association to the black race?
My sister, with her brown curly hair, green eyes and fair skin, appears to most people to be white. However, no different than me she is biracial (half black and half white). Despite the biological evidence to support her, it definitely didn’t stop people from giving her strange looks as she walked into an all-black church in southern Georgia – where my grandparents attended. Nor did it discourage my adoptive mother (or mom), who is 100% white, from receiving the word of the Lord that day.
According to Rachel’s biological parents, she was not raised in a predominately black neighborhood and she did not grow up attending historically black churches. Far from it. Although, she did attend an historically black college (Howard University) and as an adult tried to immerse herself in black culture by working and volunteering her time to those communities. Her dedication and commitment to the advancement of black people should not be overlooked or understated.
I identify with…
People in America can relate and identify with a whole host of different races, genders, colors, cereals, video games and movie characters. They might even believe in their hearts that they are Captain Jack Sparrow, and dress up like him every single day while singing 99 bottles of rum. But to suggest that we can just place ourselves into any race because we feel connected to it, is flagrantly inappropriate and misleading. Moreover, lying to people about what race you truly are based on your own made up definition is even more egregious and should not be tolerated.
If we as a community, particularly transracial adoptees, are willing to accept that there are certain circumstances in which a white-woman can become an honorary black person, we have completely fractured the foundation in which our cultural identity stands. Those within the adoption community, often face the exhausting challenge of substantiating their identity, when adopted into a family that does not look like them. In addition, the parents of those adoptees face the uncomfortable balance of giving space to their children as they explore and establish their own identity. Rachel Dolezal completely undermines these facts by trying to pass-off as black, simply because she has adopted a black son.
True pioneers are those who can stare adversity in the face and smile authentically.
Rachel Dolezal can be an ally to our cause by walking in solidarity with other woman and families who have adopted black children. Rachel Dolezal can be a leader by showing the world that white families can raise black sons and daughters without compromising their own identity. Finally, we as a community can support families like Rachel Dolezal’s by speaking out against the stereotypes and media that reinforces the faulty belief that parents of black kids must act and dress black.
Do you agree with Rachel Dolezal? Is there more to this thing called race that we have not discussed? Tell us what you think!