Social Construction & Demolition, Inc.


The Rachel Dolezal story has provided me some innocent merriment for the last few days. For those pillar saints who haven’t yet heard, Rachel has been making a living for some years by impersonating a black woman. Recently her parents went public, swearing up and down that she’s ‘Caucasian’ — an Azerbaijani, perhaps? — with the usual American fictive admixture of an odd Cherokee somewhere in the more tenuous boughs of the family tree.

One does wonder why the parents decided to out her now. We’ll never know, probably. Families!

A great deal of metaphysical energy has been spent on the ontological conundra hereby posed. It seems that race needs to be simultaneously a bogus category (so racism has no basis) and a real one (so we can recognize the indisputable fact that there are racist people, racist practices, racist institutions, and that these harm some people more than others — people whom it’s mostly not very difficult to identify).

Speaking of identification, there’s also the highly charged question of ‘identity’ — what it consists of, what it’s good for, who’s allowed to claim it, and who’s entitled to say who’s allowed to claim it. The default position is that those who already have it are the ones allowed to rule on who can claim it. A bit like a country club. Though this standard has not gone undisputed.

Perhaps some, at least, of the animus against Rachel arises from the fact that her imposture has given her a not-bad career, a career which was, in effect, stolen from some real black person who would otherwise have had it. The Lump Of Opportunity Theory. She’s been a cuckoo’s egg in the nest, you might say. She forged a diversity card!

Perhaps one might suggest that there are some implications here about the value of ‘diversity’ as a response to racism.

Perhaps there are further implications. Transgender is a thing now, right? It’s universally acknowledged that there are people who are really women born into men’s bodies, and vice-versa. Soooo… why shouldn’t transracial be a thing, too? Maybe Rachel really is a black person, who had the misfortune to be born with ‘Caucasian’ ancestors and pale skin. I gather there’s been some disagreement among feminists about whether trans women are ‘really’ women, and no doubt similar perplexities will arise in connection with trans black people. Will the foundations of essentialism begin to crumble at every corner of the citadel? Probably not; but a guy can dream.

[Update: I thought this was an original idea, when I had it an hour ago, but I now discover that as usual, Twitter is way ahead of me, and the tweets are flying fast and furious from both sides, with the usual fervent dogmatism. Transrace is a thing! No, transrace is NOT a thing, you racist boob!

Just as a matter of logic, it seems to me that anybody who accepts transgender and rejects transrace has to carry the burden of proof. It shouldn’t be too difficult; when an analogy is bad, it’s usually easy to see why it’s bad.]

At the very least, one certainly senses a great opportunity here for medical entrepreneurs. And it’s very exciting to have been present at the birth of a whole new identity.

30 thoughts on “Social Construction & Demolition, Inc.

  1. I once dated a black girl whose parents were white, but she had dark skin and looked black. A different chromosome and she may have been white. Is it possible this lady is part black as well? If so she didn’t misrepresent herself by much.

    It does raise the question of what it means to be black. Is it a skin color, a culture or a personal identification? To the extent there is racism it can be a category others lock you up in, but is it fraud to put yourself in this category? What are the necessary qualifications? Since many blacks are mixed race how much black do you have to have to be considered black, and how do you quantify that?

    There are plenty of American Indians out there who look pretty damned white, and then there are the Ramapo Mountain Indians, many of whom look pretty damned black. Their mixed ancestry has been a stumbling block to their being recognized by the Feds as a “real” Indian tribe, irregardless of their cultural affiliation.

    Is diversity really about race after all? If not I see no reason a person cannot embrace black culture and become black in the same way immigrants are expected to assimilate and become American. If it is racist to impose a racial qualifier on becoming an American, what about becoming black?

  2. I have the race thing totally figured out. more on that later (not much). Researching Al Jolson, I came upon the word “burlesque”. THAT has to be the sexiest word in English. What could out-strip it?

    (Yeah I did go out with that (white) woman who robbed a “convenience store” with a shotgun. It was really not such a big deal. My “friend” rented her an apartment later.)


  3. “It’s very exciting to have been present at the birth of a whole new identity.” ROFL!

    Meanwhile, this Rachel person claims to have a passion for racial justice, yet never pondered what would happen when she got busted? To hell with her. She just did 1,000 times more damage to the cause than whatever positive she imagines she might have done in her wildest dreams.

    Bruce J, for all his apparent psychiatric challenges, ain’t trying to be NOW president.

  4. Merriment indeed! Haw! …a few decades ago they kicked open the door to the fun house and disembarked the ship of fools who volubly reeled down the maze smack dab into the wall of absurdity; but wait, that didn’t hurt at all, they’re runnin’ still. It’s a one-way door. C’mon in! The more the merrier, which takes us by a circuitous route to.. merriment.

    Let me be the first to denounce that pea-pickin’ bigot Mendel!

  5. One of my favorite tweets from the past week went something like:

    Blackness isn’t something you can’t turn on and off.

    …and with that out of the way, I’m thinking that while it’s bad enough that she’s a fraud, it’s even worse that she’s a sociopath. Her first act upon being canned by the NAACP wasn’t to just go home and hide in shame for a while — nope, she lined up a big-ass media tour, including stops at the TODAY show, and Melissa Harris-F’tang-F’tang-Bus -Stop-Biscuit-Barrel-Perry’s program.

    Yeah, that’s right, this shameless huckster is going to get a right fluffing from Melissa Harris-Perry, of all people… which seems apropos somehow, as MHP is something of a fraud herself.

    Somewhere, the Duggar family is thanking their God and Rachel Dolezal for diverting media attention from their child molestation issues.

  6. Oh well you all know my sad affliction with hyperbole (but the shotgun lady story is real). Anyway, I was raised in a part of Connecticut where there lived people of many races, ethnicities, religions, etc. And I was given to compulsive exploration.

    Perhaps the most successful USian minority is the Chinese-USian cohort. They have profound disconnection with what passes for putative “white” culture, such as it is, from racial, ethnic, and religious perspectives. And most importantly, they tend to interact with putative “white” culture very frictionlessly in these times. The Jews are similar, but there is some serious friction for them, unfortunately. Now about the blacks.

    There is currently a great debate about whether the notion of race is real, or not. I say it’s real, but it’s not at all what most people think it is. If one individual has “white” skin and another “black”, that in itself hardly counts as a difference in terms of race. In Africa, where people first evolved, there must be hundreds of different races, all with “black” skin. Consider:

    Genesis And Giants (A quote found in a Steve Quayle website)

    “The Watusi are black, but they are not Negroes. The spectacularly tall, slender, and statuesque tribesmen are a proud Hamitic or Nilotic people who migrated to Ruanda-Urundi country over four centuries ago. Many grow to heights of seven feet or more. John Gunther, who spent some time in Ruanda gathering material for his book, Inside Africa, found many things about the country fascinating, but what makes it the most distinctive, he writes, is the Watutsi6 giants, who, because of their size, rule over the medium-size Bantu people and the Pygmies. “Outside the hotel in Astrida, next to a woman cupping a child’s head to her naked breast,” he recalls, “we ran into the tallest man I have seen except in a circus. He made the American playwright Robert E. Sherwood, who is six foot seven, look like a dwarf. He must have been at least seven and a half feet tall.”7

    7 Gunther, Inside Africa, p. 685.

    Obviously, skin color is not very relevant to much at all. However, we white folks arrested them in their native Africa and shipped them over here in helter-skelter fashion; so they lost their original ethnic and religious roots and became a serf culture. But by the time I was a kid in grade school, they had become culturally almost like the “whites”. Except the great majority of “whites” were afraid of them and looked down upon them. So they were subject to all sorts of discrimination (often subtle). However, our (at that time) “liberal” and dedicated school teachers would have us be singing “old negro spirituals”.

    Unlike my “white” friends (yeah I’m “white”), I would go to the so-called “bad” end of town and sit with the “negros” on these big couches they had on their porches and palaver; and did get some flack for that. This “bad” end was later torn down (via “redevelopment”), a mall was put up, and these folks were shuffled off to new “projects” that then became crime infested and dangerous, and this in turn led to an absurd “badass” culture. Sad indeed. (I was also the only “white” who was allowed to observe meetings of the Black Panthers — but they have all been mysteriously killed off.)

    I had a best friend who, although likely to have been raised to harbor some latent racism, was not given to complaining about “blacks”. Then later, he became a cop. So when I would meet up with him and his cop buddies they would spend most of their conversation going on and on about racist issues, talking of “Hershey bars” and stuff like that. I began to understand that the main basis for prejudice is simply groupthink. And that if there exists any such thing as “education”, it’s 90% comprised of learning to rise above the force of groupthink.

    As for the thing with the woman who pretended to be “black”, it doesn’t matter to me, really. It’s the shameless yet ubiquitous groupthink that vexes me.

  7. “She’s set back the cause by 40 years!!!” just what cause is that? using race to obscure issues of class?

    thanks MJS (& comments). good stuff as always. who creates this hysteria about racial boundaries anyway? Uncle Honkey that’s who. and gender boundaries? The Man, that’s who. the “people” magazine crowd just loves this stuff. I find myself being pretty dismissive of this story & Jenner. But the woman will be out as the Bard said.

  8. I hope more people manage to call this grand social bluff. Just think–if this woman had been an orphan, or if she’d paid off her parents…or constructed a fake childhood-in-the-cloud, replete with creative commons or photoshopped pictures…none of this would have happened.

    At some point, wishfully political people of all races are going to have to confront the reality of their fantasy, and ask:

    1) Which genes are required to qualify for special treatment as an “historical victim”?

    2) Which genes are required to qualify for extractive treatment as an “historical oppressor”?

    3) Can an individual be forced to take genetic tests in order to position itself in any given role?

    4) Who gets to define the said genetic boundaries? Who gets to define the appearance-based boundaries (if any)?

    5) If one meets the requisite genes/appearance standards, is one then immunized from accusations of “ism” should one engage in actions which adversely affect other qualifying members of that gene/appearance set?

    Caitlyn Jenner can use the women’s restroom (we know that already), but can she stay at the domestic violence shelter? Does she get alimony and reduced sentences and presumption of child custody? Can she hit … Calling the Grand Social Bluff.

  9. Get a load of this. The super-rich should not ever be “Drought Shamed”! Their golf courses must remain green. Even if we starve.

    It’s nature’s way. Survival of the richest. The rest of us should “die with dignity.” Or not. Maybe just disapear. This is how the better class sees it.

    Sputnik — 6/16/15 — ‘Drought-Shamed’ Super Wealthy California Residents Refuse to Cut Water Use

    A resident of Rancho Santa Fe, an ultra wealthy community that uses five times the statewide average of water, believes that water is not a basic human right to be shared and preserved for all to use, but rather a commodity similar to gas.

    People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas wrote on social media.

    “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he told the Washington Post. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

    After Governor Jerry Brown called for a 25% reduction in the state’s water use in April, Rancho Santa Fe snubbed their wealthy noses at the directive and actually used 9% more water than the previous month.

    Now the community will be subject to water rationing beginning on July 1, forcing them to cut their usage by 36%. Residents will have a certain allocation of water, and if they use more than that, they will face heavy fines and penalties. As fines aren’t a major deterrent for the extremely wealthy in the area, they may also become subject to flow restrictors that will limit their water flow — or possibly even have their tap shut off entirely.

    “I call it the war on suburbia,” Brett Barbre of Yorba City, another wealthy community facing the same rationing, told the Washington Post.

    I like that idea. The “Drought Shamed Rich”.

  10. The more I think about this Rachel Dolezal thing, the less surprised I am. But I’ve seen a lot of strange things. She probably just started out doing it as a sort of experiment, and found herself getting sucked in more and more. When she was a “white kid” she must have had many advantages that were unavailable to those with darker skin. Really a lot of strange things happen in “racial” interactions. One time a good friend of mine who was “black” gave a stirring speech about how the evil “white man” was the root cause of all the troubles of the world. I am “white” but the speech was very well delivered, so I had to congratulate him at the end of it. Technically it was racist, but that didn’t seem relevant in the circumstances. Sometimes it makes no sense to think like a lawyer.

      • I think you may be creeping a bit into insanity here, sk. Consider:

        1) Poor black man murders slightly-less-poor white man as punishment for the Zimmerman verdict.

        2) Poor black man rapes middle class white girl because she’s a stuck up bitch who wouldn’t accede to his advances.

        3) Poor white woman gives sub-par customer service to middle class Hispanic woman at a restaurant. Hispanic woman complains to manager; poor white woman is fired.

        Where does the “power” spectrum exist in each of these cases? In our daily lives, we each pass through many varieties of power and subordination. Many white women, both wealthy and poor, feel constantly subordinated to poor black teenage boys, and statistically speaking, the poorer ones are frequently placed in just such a position, by virtue of mere physical strength. Who holds the power there?

        And if a black man does rape a white woman from a higher social class, how have their power relations changed? Was his act racist? Was it racist if he specifically enunciated it as racist to the victim during penetration?

        Or consider an example from the local bookstore: two young, reasonably attractive, physically fit, black guys, make loud fun of a fat white businessman (with a wispy dyed comb-over) as he buys coffee. They make fun of him for being white, for being fat, for being a fag (even though I think he was on his phone with his wife during some of his wait in the line), etc.

        Now, the guy presumably has stuff the kids don’t have, like health insurance and his own car. And he probably drives home to a better zip code at night. But right then, he was terrified of them, and even other white people in the coffee area were snickering at him.

        Who has the power? Does that qualify as racist?

        And really, there are millions of white people out there who grew up abused nothings, in foster homes or with alcoholic relatives, no high school degree and no job, living in friends’ houses or on the street, and you’re denying that it’s possible for anyone to discriminate against them because George Washington?

        You may be drawing your race-based conclusions about things based more on a pleasant middle class, Hollywood perspective on black-white relations, rather than the kinds of realities that arise when you live in a community with a majority minority (sic).

      • “Racism without power is as inconceivable as…”

        I don’t know what this means. It’s quite obvious, from my experience, that racism is only vaguely associated with power. Actually, “racism” really means “anti-race-ism”. It has nothing to do with “hate” either. I can’t remember (except for one white former prisoner) anyone actually “hating” people of other races (or even their own). What it is is “badism”. They think of people of another race as being (generally in some abstract sense) as being “bad”. We seem to be obsessed with the notion of badness as being a very bad thing. Actually, it’s just bad, not very bad.

        The media implies we’re not supposed to understand such subtleties.

  11. This may be too obvious, but here goes. It seems to me that one “hates” (a strong emotion): 1) an individual or entity that has power to do harm and does harm; 2) less rationally, perhaps, individuals of a class or entity that does, or is perceived as doing, harm. If one is in the position of power or privilege or even neutral, he does not “hate,” but deprecates, demeans, despises, belittles, bemoans, bewails… Seldom would one hate what has no power (real or imagined) to hurt. (For example, once your vindictive now ex-spouse is defanged, hate softens to indifference… Once the interrogator who tormented you has faded into the past, you no longer plot his demise… on the other hand, if he tormented someone you cared about,,,,, hate dies harder than love…, but it may transform into a feeling of seeking Justice….)

  12. Hey Michael, off topic, but I hoped to brighten your day a little bit. I wanted to let you know that, for the past year or so, I’ve had difficulty not laughing during the quiet parts of several meetings as a result of remembering your anecdote about once being accosted near some event by an Alan Dershowitz lookalike. Kudos, sir; kudos.

    • Why thank you. I do believe it was the absurdity of the situation — and the individual — that brought into focus the absurdity of the argument. (And of course gave me a private-language name for it: The Tadjik Gambit.)

  13. Comrade Smith, you should start the Greek version of SMBVA! Looks like Greece is yet another country whose people should write off the idea of voting altogether.

  14. Dear MJS,
    Nothing heard since July 1. Please send up a flare so we will know you are not gone for good. Wishing you the best of health and a safe yachting season.

    • I believe that comrade MJS has followed Ms. Merkin’s suggestion and absconded to a hideout on Crete where he is currently setting up operations.

  15. on the one hand the NYT expects its readers to be shocked that, shudder, rape occurs during war, a lot, and on the other to be mystified that a couple of kids with high SAT scores were interested in ISIS. what? Dairy Queen (if they are “lucky”) & homecoming parade floats & the yearbook not enough for them? the adventure of paying off student loan debt is losing its thrill?

  16. Since Comrade Smith has abandoned us, I thought I should take the liberty of publishing my commentary regarding this article on Counterpunch today, which blames the Western diet of high fat and meat for obesity in Ireland:

    The article states that “There is no doubt that there is a link between levels of obesity and what is known as the Western pattern diet. The Western diet has been characterised by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains. It also typically contains high-fat dairy products, high-sugar drinks, and higher intakes of processed meat.”

    Being a woman of numbers, I couldn’t help but noticing that on the WHO chart, France fairs by far better than Hungry, the UK, and Ireland with less than half the rate of obesity in adults. Last time I looked up, the French had not switched to whole wheat baguettes and they continue to use a good deal of butter and cream in their food. Granted, they’re not solely dependent on red meat but I bet that any red meat is healthier than Foie Gras or Duck Confit! So I really have a problem with this line of thinking. Why not tackle the obvious and that is the portions of food that we consume. You could go on a Korean diet but if you double down on your bowls of Bibimbop and Japchae, you end up with the same results.

    The Western diet is not a new thing but the abundance of its high calorie elements is relatively new for the Westerners. This abundance makes it easier to over eat.

  17. Power Without Otherism is IMPOSSIBLE!!!
    There must always be the observers (powers) and the observees (serfs).
    They watch you.
    You may NOT watch them. (They have security clearances and hidden addresses.)

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