Monday, June 15, 2015

Melissa Harris-Perry Loses Her Mind Over Rachel Dolezal

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Previous Related Posts:
Twitter Mocks Rachel Dolezal
Rachel Dolezal: Con Artist Passing as Black Causes Confusion


It's a strange thing that sometimes people will agree with a notorious person as long as their philosophies or narratives somehow mesh. I guess that's what is meant by "strange bedfellows" in politics.

In the case of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman posing as a black woman, things are more muddled than that.

For some reason, Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC (#nerdland) decided to defend Dolezal in an very hypothetical and even nonsensical way, using the analogy of transexuals who seek to find their "real" identity. What she avoided was any semblance of a news story with facts.

From The Root

On Saturday, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry met the ire of social media after seemingly asserting that Dolezal could actually be black, despite the fact that Dolezal’s parents have said that their background was everything but black—Czech, Swedish and German.
“Is it possible that she might actually be black?” Harris-Perry questioned.
“I want to be very careful here, because I don’t want to say it’s the equivalent of the transgender experience,” she said. “But there is a useful language in ‘trans’ and ‘cis,’ which is just to say some of us are born cisgendered and some of us are born transgendered.”

Okay, now first of all, while Harris-Perry believes that "race is a social construct," it is clearly different from judging someone's gender identity - how they perceive themselves sexually in a subjective personal way. Dolezal is by all accounts objectively lying about facts and details of her life, travels and resume. Facts are facts in the real world, and not everything is conjecture. Her real white parents know who they are. Her adopted black brother knows who she is. Other people did not know the reality of Dolezal's life, and her own spin has simply been dishonest on many levels.

What infuriated Harris-Perry's viewers was that she seemed to breeze right past the idea that Dolezal is a rampant liar, as if that wasn't relevant to the story. Harris-Perry mainly wanted to make some larger point about racial identity being a personal choice. And maybe that's true for anyone who isn't a public figure. But the fact is, Rachel Dolezal has chosen to become a public figure, a university professor, and the head of the Spokane NAACP. Someone can "pass" as anything but a public figure has to bear scrutiny by the public, and cannot just keep lying to the point of being delusional.

The real world isn't make-believe.

The following day, Harris-Perry did another segment defending her first piece, defending herself while admitting that Twitter reaction was nearly unanimous - that it was "inherently problematic" to ask if Dolezal could actually be truly black. But she kept referring to "race being policed" because it is perceived as "fixed," and that shows she was missing the point again.

Trans-activist Cherno Biko made the important point that "Dolezal made a decision to start acting, while trans-folk need to stop acting."  But Harris-Perry then had another "derp" moment:

What if she (Dolezal) is not pretending? And not Rachel in particular . . . Is it possble to be born into a body that is not an authentic expression of your racial identity? And what words that might look like?

Her panel seemed dumbfounded and stared in disbelief, and no one responded because they could tell the crazy train had left the station. When Jamelle Bouie pointed out that some racial identity is imposed, then Harris-Perry asked whether gender identity wasn't also "imposed," which is also nutty considering several people on the set with her were transexuals who had "chosen" to find their "real" identities. Truly one of the most awkward moments on a talk show I've seen in my 55 years.


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