NEW YORK — Who can forget Rachel Dolezal? The former president of the NAACP’s Spokane, Washington, chapter was outed in 2015 for being, of all things, white! Apparently, she had undergone a “transformational” life — from an openly Caucasian upbringing by two unassuming white parents to a new-and-improved existence as a tanned, dreadlocked, black civil-rights activist.
The — ahem — black-and-white contrast between Dolezal’s reputation and reality generated widespread ridicule, not unlike the national guffaws that erupted after the epic fail of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent ethnic-identity stunt.
The Dolezal fiasco could not have occurred at a more awkward time. Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner had come out as transgender, to a virtual standing ovation from the cognoscenti. Claims of Jenner’s courage and heroism abounded. Glamour magazine even named Caitlyn Jenner “Woman of the Year.” Jenner’s acclaim represented a wave of the pompoms on behalf of the transgender community.
Beyond the coastal glitterati, this surely prompted significant head scratching. Just as mainstream Americans began getting comfortable with Supreme Court-sanctioned gay marriage, the social goalpost movers suddenly confronted them with new policies on restroom access, fresh discussions on sex-change operations, and the new-found ability for people to “identify and express” themselves as more than just male or female, usually without the permanence that scalpels deliver. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio recently signed legislation in New York City letting those who consider themselves neither male nor female signify their genders as “X” on their birth certificates. Facebook is far more imaginative. Its U.S. users may choose from among 50 gender options. British Facebook customers have 71 such choices.
But the denunciations of Dolezal versus the jumps for joy around Jenner revealed an obvious hypocrisy: How could one celebrate gender fluidity yet mock malleability of race? How could it be de rigueur to ignore someone’s sex organs (original or reconstituted) while defining gender, yet verboten to overlook melanin when defining race?
The NAACP — already reeling from its embrace of the literally chameleonic Dolezal —found itself between a boulder and a spear regarding “racial fluidity.” Ultimately, the organization acquiesced and even defended Dolezal: “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria [sic] or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership,” the venerated group declared.
While she is no Rosa Parks, Rachel Dolezal indeed pioneered a radical concept: racial self-identification. This idea lately has become common on college applications and other paperwork that asks not what your race is but how you identify. How one identifies on these forms affects not only race-based data collection, but potentially a host of racial-preference programs. The more that people exercise this new freedom, the harder it will become for racial bean counters to determine whether a black bean is truly a black bean or merely a navy bean that identifies and expresses as a black bean.
Senator Warren’s exploitation of her “Native American heritage” seemed to legitimize the often-devious practice of “box-checking” — until it didn’t. Republicans harangued Warren on this issue during her 2012 Senate campaign. President Trump reignited this controversy by repeatedly lampooning the Massachusetts Democrat as “Pocahontas.” (She also has been dubbed Lie-a-watha.)
The provocation worked. Last week, Warren’s team “proved” her Native American Indian heritage. Stanford University professor Carlos Bustamente’s DNA analysis showed that Warren may be between 1/64 to 1/1,024 Native American Indian.
To tell a family secret, my great-grandfather was Chinese. Memories are blurry and early-20th Century documents scarce. However, we believe he was a native of either Hong Kong or Canton (now Guangzhou). Thus, I am between eight and 128 times more Chinese than Senator Warren is Cherokee.
Although Warren’s original story initially made headlines as yet another stick-in-the-eye for President Trump, it quickly enraged Warren’s erstwhile ancestral kin.“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship,” Cherokee Nation leader Chuck Hoskin Jr. rebuked Warren. Warren’s assertions of Native American Indian blood is “inappropriate and wrong,” Hoskin said, “while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens.”
It would have been bad enough if Warren simply were caught red-handed practicing cultural appropriation to boost her “it” factor. Far worse, she face-painted herself Cherokee as Harvard Law School’s first “woman of color.” The blue-eyed blonde contributed to a cookbook of Native American Indian recipes called Pow Wow Chow. In an era of identity politics, Warren faked her identity to advance her career.
As with Dolezal’s scandal, Warren’s timing could not be worse. On October 15, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The plaintiffs allege that the university’s admissions office discriminates against those of Asian descent.
But such a trial hardly seems necessary. If students of Chinese, East Indian, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese heritage believe that the university gates have been slammed in their faces, why don’t they simply re-identify as black or Hispanic? And since it is taboo to say that someone “looks” like a certain race, “sounds” like a certain race, or is “assumed” to be a certain race, who would dare challenge someone who claims to be black or Hispanic, never mind her yellowish skin, shiny black hair, and narrow eyes?
If these applicants with sky-high SAT scores and stellar STEM grades suddenly identify and express as black or brown, who will speak up if they start to displace more convincingly black and Hispanic applicants whose test scores and grades might not be quite as elevated? With ethnic fluidity and racial self-identification now joining gender fluidity and gender self-identification in the pantheon of liberal values, don’t even try.
Dolezal and Warren have had a profound impact on the civil rights movement, although perhaps in ways diametrically opposite of what they intended.
Rachel Dolezal ultimately realized the damage she did and resigned from the NAACP. Now that she has made a similar dog’s breakfast of civil rights, Elizabeth Warren should follow Dolezal’s example and resign from the U.S. Senate.
Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News Contributor and an emeritus media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.