I know a young lady, who I will not name, who is in her 20’s, runs an online blog, and also speaks out across the web on feminist issues. For the sake of clarity, lets call her “L —”. L — writes, speaks and tweets heavily on the ideas of equality for women in all areas. She will vigorously defend all things feminine, no matter how great or small. Shes been retweeted and quoted by others, due to her gift for turning a written phrase. L — is also very active in many circles seeking to bring attention to, and advocate for the victims of date rape. Because, many who know her, or have read her blog, also know her to have been a date rape victim.
The problem is…
…she is NOT a victim of date rape.
She self-identifies as one, to be sure. But, she has never actually BEEN date raped.
Now, at the risk of being labelled a mysoginist, let me explain by paraphrasing what she wrote on her own blog (again, to protect her identity, I will change the wording so that you cant just Google her). L — was dating a young man, we’ll call him “M —”, back when she was 18 or so. They went to school together, and had been a couple for some time. One evening, M — was in the mood for sex, L — was not…and the exchange, as she tells it, went something like this:
L — : I’m really not in the mood.
M — : C’mon babe, you’re never in the mood anymore.
L — : No.
M — : How about just a blowjob?
L — : I don’t feel like it.
M — : Please?
L — : Fine.
Afterwards, L — began claiming date rape anywhere and everywhere.
Rape is defined as:
- unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.
Now, maybe I’m off base here, but, what happened to L — doesn’t seem like rape. In any sense of the word. If THAT is rape, there are a whole lot of people the world over who could claim it against their partner. Because, who hasn’t, at some point or another, had sex simply to offer pleasure to their partner, even when they themselves, might not be up for it at that moment? Maybe you were too tired. Maybe you were too stressed. Maybe you just weren’t in the mood at that moment. But, thats not “rape”. Thats a “relationship”.
But, this is not even the point.
The point is that L — has used this skewed version of the story to give her added cache when speaking in a myriad of female social issues. It wasn’t enough for her to say, “I sympathize with the victims of rape”, which is what the rest of us who have never been raped would say. Our not having experienced the actual horrible act in no way diminishes our need to stand up and fight for those who have. But, for some reason, simple empathy was not enough for L —. She needed to create a situation which would lend her activism, it seems in her mind, more gravitas.
Black as Self-identification
I wrote my original piece on Rachel Dolezal last friday, and as the weekend wore on, and more facts, interviews and statements poured forth, I continued to tumble it around in my mind.
Granted, when asked these days, I tell people I am bi-racial….because as an adult, I found out my mother was adopted, and SHE is bi-racial. (my bi-racial father I have never met, so fuck him, he will never bee more than a footnote in my story).
So, growing up, I only knew the black grandparents that raised my mom. I only knew being black. I only knew then, and am still influenced by, the black American experience.
Sure, nowadays, I am trying to learn more of my German heritage, but that is to understand the parts of my background I do not currently know, that would have been lived by ancestors that I will never get to know. I am not, at any point going to claim to be a white German, even though I have white German ancestry in my DNA. But, as crazy as it may sound, if I did claim the German part of myself over the black part….I would STILL have more of a leg to stand on than Dolezal.
She, like L —, has appropriated blackness in an effort to raise her own cache, to lend a little more gravitas to her origin story. And she does so as a direct smack in the face to those who have actually LIVED that life.
Rachel Dolezal never grew up hearing the stories from the old-heads about how they were treated in the segregated South. Hearing people she loved, people with dignity and worth, explain how as adults they were still talked down to like children, still told where they could and could not sit or eat or live. hearing the pain in an older relatives voice, as they explain the hurdles they jumped, the pitfalls they faced, simply to grow up in America AND be black. She never watched old civil rights footage and have someone she knew and trusted say, “Yeah….thats how it was”….instead, in her world, it was pointed at with the refrain of “That’s what we heard.”
She didn’t discover what racism was when her best friend in 4th grade came and said, “Daddy says I can’t play with you anymore, because I shouldn’t hang around with niggers.” She didn’t experience, which with her “complexion” she would have, being called “yella” or “red bone” or being both admired and disliked for her “good hair”.
“She’s only been African-American when it benefited her. She hasn’t been through all the struggles. She’s only been African-American the last few years.”
– Ezra Dolezal, Rachel’s brother, via CNN
There is a world of growing up black in America that she only knows as pop-culture and heresay.
Reading “Black Like Me”, listening to hip-hop and R&B, and hanging with some black kids doesn’t mean you have experienced BEING black.
No more than my reading a book about the Vietnam war and being the grandchild of a vet makes ME a Vietnam vet.
No more than empathizing with rape victims makes me a victim of rape.
L — could have simply shown empathy towards the victims of rape, and not lied to everyone she knew about a boy she was dating at school (I only know from her perspective here, but it seems that, at least among the “enlightened” and “progressive” student body that believed her, M — became a pariah). Instead, she lied, and built a life upon that foundation. And in the process, if ever found out, she risks belittling the experience, pain, and lifelong issues of the REAL victims of rape.
Rachel Dolezal, similarly, should simply have, stood as a white woman, beside her black brethren, in solidarity. This would have garnered her the respect and admiration of nearly all the people now vilifying her. Instead, she chose to lie.
And she built her life on that foundation.
And now, having been found out, she belittles the people she actually lied to.
Probably, for me, the biggest indication of proof, is the lack of anger for being labelled as something other than black. And the lack of understanding for those who would be hurt by her lie.