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June 13, 2015

WHEN BLACK IS WHITE, AND MEN ARE WOMEN: So now that NAACP’s Rachel Dolezal has been “outed” as “white,” it makes me wonder: What is “white” anyway? Okay, admittedly, Dolezal doesn’t appear to have any African ancestry in her blood, as her parents say she is of German, Czech, and Swedish ancestry, with a smidgen of Native American in there somewhere.

Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in the famous “separate but equal” Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, was 7/8 white and 1/8 black, and so he was required, by Louisiana’s law, to ride in the “colored” railway car.  Plessy argued that he had a “right” to ride in the white railway car:

It is claimed by the plaintiff in error that, in any mixed community, the reputation of belonging to the dominant race, in this instance the white race, is property in the same sense that a right of action or of inheritance is property. Conceding this to be so for the purposes of this case, we are unable to see how this statute deprives him of, or in any way affects his right to, such property. If he be a white man and assigned to a colored coach, he may have his action for damages against the company for being deprived of his so-called property.

But of course the Supreme Court never indicated how, exactly, Mr. Plessy could “prove” that he was “white”– i.e., how much “white blood” was required to be “white.”

Since Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court has generally not countenanced any race-based distinctions in law, as they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet the Court has, oddly, allowed race-conscious admissions programs in public universities, on the rationale that achieving racial “diversity” is a compelling government objective.  Yet clearly, this race-consciousness flows in one direction, in favor of “minority” students who are supposedly “underrepresented.” It does not seem to favor “overrepresented” minorities, such as Asians, who have recently filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, claiming they are discriminated against because they are too well-qualified.

So given the high importance the law apparently places on being a member of a “minority” group, how does the law decide whether an individual is a member of such a minority group?

The question arises more recently with our current President, Barack Obama, whose mother is white and father is black/Kenyan. Despite this 50/50 white/black ancestry, President Obama self-identifies as “black.”  But why? If one is of “mixed” race, may one simply choose whichever race one wishes?

What makes someone “black,” for example? Was Plessy really “black”? The railroad conductor thought he was. Is one’s race merely a subjective matter of self-identification?

Self-identification does appear, at least to the political left, to be the sine qua non of gender. Progressives/liberals have aggressively defended the “right” of Bruce Jenner to call himself a “woman,” if/when he so desires, despite the fact that he has not yet had his male genitalia removed, and will always have male XY chromosomes.

If gender is merely a matter of self-identification, should not race be also? I have always thought that, given the affirmative action-laden higher education admissions process, applicants should self-identify as “black” or “Native American” whenever they so desire.  I mean, why not? If they feel black or Native American, should not they be able to claim such an identity, as Rachel Dolezal has done? Doing so would quickly cause affirmative action to collapse of its own ridiculous weight.

Indeed, all of this race balkanization–with such extreme emphasis as belonging to this or that race–only further divides us, as race baiters like Al Sharpton well know. So why not accept the progressives’ terms of the debate–that our gender and race is all simply a matter of self-identity–and identify as a member of races that are favored/more protected by law? After all, no one can ever really know what lies in another’s heart. Does Bruce Jenner sincerely believe he is a female, or does he simply like to dress up in women’s clothes? Does Rachel Dolezal sincerely believe she is black? No one can possibly know the answer, perhaps not even Mr./Ms. Jenner and Ms. Dolezal.

What would a university do if an applicant self-identified as “black” on an application but showed up looking “white”? And if the university made such a judgment, what on earth would that mean? How would the university defend its belief that a student didn’t “look” black?  What sort of bizarre racial stereotypes would it rely upon in making such an appearance-based judgment? And if the university actually decided to take action against the student for racial misrepresentation, what on earth would that mean? How would the university judge whether the student was really “black”?  What percentage of blood would suffice for such a progressive institution? Fifty percent? Ten percent? One percent?

And if an individual, like Rachel Dolezal, has no black ancestry at all, would a progressive/liberal university allow her to self-identify as black, as they would (presumably) do for gender classification, if the student was born male and self-identified as a transgendered male (without yet having any surgery)? After all, the EEOC recently ruled in the Lusardi case that an individual in the Army who was born male, yet self-identified as female (but had not undergone surgery to remove his male genitalia) was to be considered a female and allowed to use the women’s bathroom.

The problem with progressive thinking is that black is white, male is female, and as Orwell observed in 1984, “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” After all, if one can destroy words, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”