It’s Impossible to Lie About Your Race

It’s Impossible to Lie About Your Race

The Huffington Post

Ann Morning, Associate Professor of Sociology
New York University

There’s an important question being left out of the furor over charges that Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter, has been “lying” about her race: How can you lie about something that doesn’t have any objective truth to it in the first place?

The frenzy over Dolezal has erupted because her claim to black identity defies a longstanding American belief that human beings come in three or four or five flavors called “races,” which are linked to the geographical areas from which our ancestors came, and which are characterized by physical characteristics that are passed down from one generation to the next. According to this dominant view, Dolezal is objectively white because her parents are white Americans whose recent ancestors were from Europe.

But instead of being a matter of natural, objective facts, race is more like astrology. It’s a way of dividing human beings up into different categories, and we are the ones who invent those categories, not Mother Nature. The idea that there are “black” people and “white” people is no different than the belief that there are Geminis and Scorpios. Indeed, astrology and racial classification both claim to be grounded in nature. Race ostensibly reflects our biological constitution, while sun signs are meant to capture planetary forces that imprinted us at birth. But it’s not too hard to see that a whole lot of human cultural thinking has gone into both. The reality is that scientists are far from any agreement on what race has to do with genes. And the racial classifications so familiar to Americans today are actually products of the 1700s, when they were forged by Europeans who were trying to explain the physical, social and moral qualities of peoples they had come to colonize across the world.

So when Rachel Dolezal says she is black when we consider her white, it’s akin to her claiming to be a Virgo when by our lights she’s a Leo. Would it really be a lie to say you’re a Virgo instead of a Leo when both of those categories are made up in the first place?…

Read the entire article here.

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