“Fake Black?”

“Fake Black?”

brian bantum: theology, culture, and life in-between

Brian Bantum, Associate Professor of Theology
Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington

Theorist Stuart Hall suggests identity is better understood as identification. That is, our identities are not fixed as essential realities whether gender, or race or nationality. We are always living into or out of the ideas and representations of what these things are.

Rachael Dolezal apparent presentation of herself as black shows this to an extent. She is living into a people with whom she has seemed to identify with. But this process requires point of departure and a point of entry. You identify from a particular place and a particular body, and this is part of the process of negotiating your identity.

To act as if you have no point of departure is to persist in a delusion and re-enact Americas fundamental racial sin – to pretend there was no history before you arrived, then co-opt the resources of the land for your benefit. Perhaps her life had deep resonances with aspects of the African American community. But to really understand that community, to understand their history also has to be an acknowledgement of what her white body signifies in that history. To even say that one is mixed must be to confess the complicated realities of mulatto identity and colorism in American racial history…

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