The Wrongness of It Consists in How Darned *Wrong* It Is!

When it turned out that Rachel Dolezal, president of the Spokane NAACP, is (or at least was born) white, I  immediately said to a friend of mine, "This is going to require some mental gymnastics on the part of social progressives, in order to explain why what Dolezal has been doing was bad, but what Bruce Jenner did was heroic, because:

1) self-defining your gender is a good, progressive self-defining, while 

2) self-defining your race is a bad, not-at-all progressive self-defining."

So, as if to illustrate the maxim that ideology makes even smart people dumb on the topics affected by their ideology, Nick Gillespie steps into the breach and informs us that there is a vast difference between self-chosen gender and self-chosen race: "what [Dolezal has] been up to is a form of fraud."

But wait: if we get to choose our own identity as an X or a Y, why is choosing a black identity fraud? If our identity is self-chosen, then if Dolezal chooses to be black, she is black. Or, if it is fraud to "pretend" to be black even though one is "really" white, why isn't it fraud to "pretend" to be a "woman" even though one is "really" a man?

So why is what Jenner did great, but what Dolezal did fraud? Sigh... Do I have to explain this again?

1) self-defining your gender is a good, progressive self-defining, while 

2) self-defining your race is a bad, not-at-all progressive self-defining.

Gillespie goes on to question Dolezal's sanity: "Thanks to such odd, if not downright pathological, behavior..."

You see, when someone born a man wants to be seen as a woman, that is heroism. But when someone born white wants to be seen as black, that is a mental illness. Why? Well, see 1) and 2) above, you dimwit!

27 comments:

  1. Sadly, I don't think it requires that much mental gymnastics from most people. It is intuitive to right-thinking folks that one is Good and the other is Bad. What assertions you make to justify that ... does anyone really care? The important thing is to celebrate the Good and decry the Bad. Much more strenuous mental gymnastics would be required if there were any need for the sort of supporting arguments that could convince anyone. But everyone who counts knows the answer ahead of time.

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    1. Yes, exactly: Gillespie and the person he quotes just came up with a half-plausible sounding reason to say what all of the right thinking people were already thinking. That's why the explanation doesn't really make any sense.

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  2. Well, liberals believe that the biological differences between males and females still exist, but that gender is a psychological or social construct that need not correspond to that biological property. So Bruce Jenner has male body parts, but he can still choose to be a woman as a matter of gender identity.

    But what would be problematic would be for Jenner to say that he has one set of body parts when he really had another. Similarly, Dolezal tricked people into thinking that she was biologically/genetically black. And liberals see that as especially problematic, because she implicitly claiming that she was the descendant of slaves, and so she was stealing the heritage of the African American community.

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    1. "but that gender is a psychological or social construct..."

      But... race is supposed to be a social construct too!

      "Similarly, Dolezal tricked people into thinking that she was biologically/genetically black."

      Do you have evidence she ever said, "I am genetically black"?

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    2. And why isn't Jenner "stealing" the heritage of women?

      The whole thing is a pile of BS.

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    3. Yes, liberals would say that there is an extent to which race is a social construct. But what is not a social construct is whether you're genetically black, and whether you're the descendant of slaves.

      Now as far as whether Dolezal has said she is genetically black, yes she has: "During that telephone interview, which Dolezal ended abruptly, she maintained that she is African-American. "They can DNA test me if they want to," she said."

      The key point is, regardless of whether she said it explicitly, she deceived people into thinking she was genetically black. On an application form, she listed her race as "White, Black, and Native American." (The Native American part is true.) She presumably wrote that with the full knowledge that people would interpret that as saying that her ancestry is a mix of White people, Black people and Native Americans. So it is a clear case of deception.

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    4. If you have to be a descendant of American slaves to be an African American, then Barack Obama is also stealing the heritage of the African American community. He's a descendant of white slave owners, but not of African American slaves, or any African Americans at all.

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    5. "The key point is, regardless of whether she said it explicitly, she deceived people into thinking she was genetically black."

      Would liberals say that if I meet a "girl" at a bar that happens to have originally been a man, then there's a problem with "her" deceiving me just as in the case of Dolezal deceiving others about her ancestry?

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  3. It's just how that happened to evolve in the minds of people.

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  4. Here's an analogy: some people are highly allergic to peanuts, and some schools have banned peanuts to accommodate this. Now suppose someone responds to this by saying, "oh, so I can just claim that I'm allergic to meatloaf and you'll stop serving that too?"

    The answer to the guy would be no, because he's not actually allergic to meatloaf, he's just being a jerk.

    I don't really understand transgenderism, but the claim at least is that it is something deeply rooted in a person's psychology and/or biology. It's not like an episode of Bosom Buddies, where you claim to be a woman so you can get a cheaper apartment (or so you can get to shower with girls, as Huckabee suggested).

    As far as I know, there just is no racial equivalent to transgenderism. The closest thing to it that I can think of would be a person who has a mixed ancestry (say, 3/4ths white, 1/4 black) and in such cases we do in fact say that the person gets to determine what their racial identity is.

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    1. Well, I know that there is a CLAIM that transgenderism is significantly different than other divergences between biology and self-perception, but... is there any evidence for this? What if I claim my being Eskimo is deeply rooted in my biology? What if I claim that being treated as president of the US is deeply rooted in my psychology?

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    2. As far as I know, there just is no racial equivalent to transgenderism.

      But this case is itself very strong evidence that such things do indeed happen. She lived as a black woman for more than ten years uninterrupted until ambush TV journalists decided to 'out' her. This behavior, if directed towards transgenders or gays would get those journalists fired from their jobs and blacklisted.

      Somehow, people think that carrying on this way for ten years is not 'deeply rooted' enough; Rachel has just been 'pretending'. But on the other hand, Bruce jenner can get a pair of fake tits and a dress, and he's a woman because he says so! We have more evidence that this woman is 'really' black than that Jenner is 'really' a woman.

      How anyone can fail to see the gross inconsistency here is beyond me.

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    3. One's ancestry and genetics is not affected by subsequent maturation. Sex is. Hormones do not affect who your father was, but they affect your brain and body. So the equivalence Gene is drawing is very poor.
      Put more abstractly, ancestry is not a part of the expressed phenotype. But much of one's behavior or its determinants, in the sense of proclivities and urges, is. And these are complex phenomena. It is not absurd to think that the results might not always fit a binary division.

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    4. "I don't really understand transgenderism, but the claim at least is that it is something deeply rooted in a person's psychology and/or biology. It's not like an episode of Bosom Buddies, where you claim to be a woman so you can get a cheaper apartment (or so you can get to shower with girls, as Huckabee suggested).

      ...As far as I know, there just is no racial equivalent to transgenderism. The closest thing to it that I can think of would be a person who has a mixed ancestry (say, 3/4ths white, 1/4 black) and in such cases we do in fact say that the person gets to determine what their racial identity is."

      Josiah, I apologize, but I think that this is bad reasoning. If transgenderism is something that is deeply rooted in a person's psychological outlook, then the *reason* for this person's psychological outlook outlook doesn't matter. If I want to shower with women, it doesn't follow that I shouldn't be able to shower with women according to transgender theory (at least, if we accept the definition that was given above). What follows that I *should* be able to shower with women if doing so accords with how I "deeply" psychologically perceive myself. You are conflating the *reasons* for someone's psychological perceptions of themselves with their *deep seated feelings* of themselves. If someone says that they are black, and they *deeply* feel this way, then denying him that based on something *other* than his his deeply associated feeling with the given race is to deny that an individual can define himself despite his deeply held psychological feelings. But if we accept that someone can define himself as a woman according to his psychological feelings so long as those feelings are deeply held, then it is arbitrary to say that someone cannot do the same thing with race, ethnicity, etc. When you say that the metaphysics of an individual (who he is) is contingent on how he *subjectively* perceives himself, you can't then appeal to *objective* facts about who he is - so your claim that there is "no racial equivalent to transgenderism" is false. This is exactly what Gene has been trying to point out.

      The other horn of the dilemma is this: if you believe the individual is to be defined as how he psychological perceives himself *and* his biological makeup, then there is no such thing as a transgendered person - because you cannot be a man who is (also) a woman: you might deeply feel that you are a woman - and you might psychologically associate as one - but you are not *biologically* a woman if you are a man. The statement "you are a woman if psychologically associate as a woman AND you are biologically female" requires both sides of the conjunct to be true - not just one of them.

      The point is this: there is no reason to deny that some people who deeply feel that they are a certain ethnicity are not that ethnicity if we believe that individuals are to be defined as how they 'associate' or 'feel' about it, which is what transgender theory suggests. Reducing the identity of an individual to what he says he is - without respect to objective facts - leads us to absurdities such as a white woman defining herself as black. But if we say that what constitutes a person is dependent, in some way, on objective facts (the way that the world is regardless of his own personal feelings), then we have thrown the Progressive metaphysics of the individual out of the window.

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    5. "So the equivalence Gene is drawing is very poor. "

      Can we take up a collection for it?

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  5. Bruenig has treated the issue rather impartially here and asks the same questions that you do.

    Personally, I am wavering between being okay with what she did and thinking that she's just confused or distressed or something.

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  6. You see, when someone born a man wants to be seen as a woman, that is heroism.

    That is seen as heroism?

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    1. That is seen as heroism?

      ESPN is giving Jenner its courage award. Obama tweeted about how courageous she was. So yes, heroism.

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  7. Here is a summary of some of the evidence.

    AFAIK there isn't a consensus as to what causes transgenderism. But gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition, whereas racial dysphoria is not.

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  8. One difference is tha Jenner did not deceive people. She actually claimed that a black man to whom she pointed was her father. Which also answers the question whether she claimed to be (at least half) black by birth.

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    1. Ken,

      That is a difference. However, suppose Dolezal had been upfront and said "I have two white parents, but I'm a black person trapped inside a white person's body etc" no one would have taken her seriously. Whereas when Jenner says equivalent things people do take him seriously.

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    2. One difference is tha Jenner did not deceive people

      But this is really beside the point of gene's post. Would we say that a transgender person's gender identity is somehow invalid because (s)he has a penis without telling people or lying about it? That would certainly be deception, but hardly evidence that the gender identity was not real.

      But gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition, whereas racial dysphoria is not.
      This is probably because passing for a woman may require extensive surgeries and courses of hormone treatments which require a doctor's prescription.

      Meanwhile transracial individuals can manage with cosmetic procedures, if any at all. Thus it is not a medical condition because transracial men and women have no reason to request the assistance of medical professionals. But this has little bearing on the question of whether transracial individuals should be recognized in the same way that transgender individuals are.

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    3. Who are you to say who her father really is, Ken?

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    4. I hope that's a joke Gene.

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    5. Josiah
      Yes, that's true. But a major reason they don't lies in the point I made. We all agrre hormones and experience affect your feelings about sex. We don't agree they affect your skin color or parentage. Jenner made a claim about his mind. She made a claim about her ancestry.

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    6. Yes, somewhat. But the larger point I make in my new post is that this whole father thing is a red herring: if she had never made any claim about actual black DNA, almost every single person objecting to her actions would still object.

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  9. For every who argued for a biological basis for transgenderism: this runs completely contrary to the "gender is just a social construct" argument that is ALSO put forward for transgenderism. So, stop: you can't have it both ways!

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