Everyone heard of Rachel Dolezal? If not, here's a recent interview with her that points out all the things I'm about to rant on. Good? Good.
This lady has problems. Like, I wanna be a hot brown arabic princess with wizard powers, but I don't identify as one. Wanna be a spaceman too but I ain't no astronaut. Really hate seeing people with mental disorders trotted out on the news instead of given some goddamn therapy. The issue isn't that she wants a black hairstyle or dark skin, it's that as a white woman, she has power, and privilege, and taking on the black struggle like she lived it, like her children will live it, like her parents and grandparents and theirs before that through generations of colonialisation and slavery and saying "I know enough about this, I know the feeling, I know the hate, it all happened to me" is fucking fucked up. When you appropriate a culture -- and make no mistake, that's what she's doing, despite having her four black brothers or whatever -- you don't bring that culture up to your level. Americans love this idea, that when you get a dreamweaver tattoo or some Maori shit you are making yourself a part of that culture, bringing it onto this global stage or whatever, that it's a part of you. Well it's not. I still don't feel comfortable getting a chinese tattoo and 我可以说中文. Because seven months in China chilling and getting wasted with a bunch of Ozzies (much love) isn't me becoming Chinese. YOU don't get to say you're part of a culture. YOU don't get to say you deserve a tattoo of someone else's religious icons -- and this is coming from someone who thinks ALL religions are as real as Lord of the Rings. And that analogy carries! You wouldn't get a fucking tattoo of the One Ring without reading the damn book, would you? And if you do, you're a goddamn idiot and any LOTR fan, who is part of a nerd culture, will look at you and go "What the fuck, dude?"
Culture is like a nickname. You don't give yourself a nickname, you don't make up your own, you can't change it yourself -- it's given to you by other people. It's something you earn, for good or ill, and I don't think black america told Rachel Dolezal that she could be black, and put on blackface, and identify as someone who shares their history and culture. Every white liberal in America is desperate for a nigga to come up and call them "nigga," because then you're "not part of the problem" you're "part of the solution." You're "one of them." Well you're not. They're your friends, you are their friend, but you are not black and never will be no matter how many black people say "you my nigga." The cops will not pull you over or beat you. Your job application will not be denied out of hand because your name is Shaniqua (Rachel.)
You still have privilege. Try to give it up as much as you like, it's a part of you and always will be. It's up to us to use that privilege to help, to spread it around, to raise people up from oppression, not join in that oppression and pretend to be a victim. Rachel Dolezal is a crazy person with identity issues and I feel bad for her. But what she's doing is cultural appropriation. It encourages racists and takes attention away from the real victims of racism like Tamir Rice and the countless other dead black men and women murdered at the hands of a racist police state. And it must be condemned.