Transracialism

Can someone cross between races as we express other genders? Transracialism is not a good analogy for transgender, either for those seeking to support transracialism or oppose transgender.

When considering transition, one of the ways I argued myself out of it was to imagine what Afro-Caribbean friends would think if I blacked up. Blacking up for entertainment is seen as repulsive and racist, but transition is not blacking up: Drag queen expression is more like it. We do not perform a caricature to mock, we seek to live our lives normally. Now women perform imitating drag queens, and some say they are appropriating gay culture, and should not.

White people use black people’s art forms- white rappers, white jazz players, without pretending to be black. Could we not dress in brighter, softer fabrics without claiming to be women? No- playing the piano is only part of my being, my nature, and would be so even if I did it as a full time job. Improvising in words or music, the free flow rather than planning and executing the plan- or planning in advance a musical edifice, an epic poem, a symphony- is human, not of one race. No. I could not have softened and presented as a soft male. Others could, perhaps, I could not. I was too terrified of it. As a man I had to be Manly. Only as Clare could I free my soft self.

In one way, transracialism may be more justified. People who appear white may have black ancestry. In Black and British: a forgotten history David Olusoga met apparently white people who had black ancestors, who intermarried rather than being part of a black community. Those people should be allowed to celebrate their heritage. And they do not have black skin in a white-dominated world.

Why would you pretend to be black? When I googled “Rachel Dolezal” I found she had changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. She taught African Studies, and tried to advance her career through the NAACP and the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission. She told lies, claiming to be the victim of hate crimes which did not happen, using the title “Professor” without being entitled, copying JMW Turner’s paintings without acknowledgment. Her lies were designed to produce career advantage and social capital. She is a fraudster. It is therefore not clear that her claim to be black is based on her internal sense of her identity, rather than a feeling that a black person might have an advantage in the career path she chose.

As a teacher, she would be a role model for black students. She has no right to that. I do not claim to be a role-model for girls. That is one of the attacks on us, that we prescribe an ideal femininity, we enact the patriarchal oppression that this is the way to be a woman, but I do not imagine my way of being is ideal for anyone but myself, or deny the good of “manly” virtue in women, or assert that they should not exemplify any virtue seen as unfeminine. I speak for no-one. My identity as a woman is cultural not biological, and so I exemplify the freedom to alter cultural identity.

The NAACP has white officials, black people have white friends, and it is not clear that any Caucasian self-identifies as Black as a matter of identity rather than a way of fraudulently seeking advantage. The analogy of Nkechi Diallo breaks down, and the analogy of some transracialism for other motives is worthless, as such transracialism does not exist.

(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

6 thoughts on “Transracialism

  1. To be honest, I don’t understand what “race” is supposed to be. Replace it with “culture” or “ethnicity” and it has meaning for me. In this context “trans” makes sense to me. Looking at it this way, it doesn’t make much difference in the manner one is trans. It could be by gender, ethnicity (or race if you really want to use that word, but I think it is well past its use-by date) or (in my case) neurology.

    For example, my wife has fully embraced the Kiwi culture, which she prefers over her own because she finds the permitted behaviour of females too restrictive – almost suffocating.

    On the other hand, I find myself being constantly “clobbered” by others when I behave in a manner that is comfortable to me. But acting in the manner of neurotypicals is uncomfortable and exhausting for me. Wherever possible I prefer to be my natural self, which does seem to put some people at unease.

    Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, one can legally identify oneself as Māori if one has an affiliation to an iwi (tribe). Typically this is by having an ancestor that is Māori, but the number of generations between oneself and the ancestor is irrelevant. More important is how one identifies oneself – feels most at home with.

    I’m guessing being transgendered is much the same. It’s one being oneself rather than acting in a manner that is considered “appropriate” for one’s birth gender. And I’m guessing that the pressures put on the transgendered are cultural in a similar way that pressure is put on ethnic minorities and neurodivergent people to conform to the dominant culture.

    To me, it doesn’t matter whether wanting to identify differently from one’s birth gender is cultural or biological (or both). I would like to see a society where all forms of diversity are not only accepted by valued.

    Liked by 2 people

    • For Aspies, NT behaviour is often seen as Normal or Healthy- you only behave otherwise because you are disabled. We all need a wider understanding of normal and acceptable.

      On race, in the U.S. the distinction between races was preserved by seeing any Black ancestry as making one Black- hence the foul word “octoroon” meaning a person with one Black great grandparent, and “miscegenation” as if people should not love beyond arbitrary groups.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Neither of the words you used in regards to mixed ancestry are familiar to me, but then even the word “race” is one that’s infrequently used here except in the context of someone being racist. Otherwise “ethnicity” or “culture” is used.

        What you say about Aspies is true, but the same can also apply to minority ethnic groups particularly if they are immigrants. Minorities are often only considered “successful” if in all outward appearances the behave exactly like the dominant culture. Integration is not enough. What is required is total assimilation.

        I’m all for as much diversity as possible. It makes life much more interesting. There’s possibly a selfish reason on my part why I want acceptance of diversity – my own quirks will likely be more acceptable, or at least tolerated.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Cultural appropriation is a weird one for me. I can understand why it can offend in certain circumstances, but am dismayed we don’t live in an ideal world where it isn’t an issue. We want everyone to have freedom of expression, freedom to express themselves in a way they are comfortable – but then it all becomes awkward when that makes us uncomfortable. We have to analyse why we are uncomfortable, as well as being sensitive to reasons that cause others discomfort. Tildeb told me he wants to be called Ms Chipmunk (or something silly) because he thinks every random request is equivalent to every other request, and he uses this transracial story as an example. So this is a great post separating out the issues and also getting to the heart of a well-publicised story.

    Like

    • Thank you. I have been away, and have just read this.

      I would be happy to call Tildeb Ms Chipmunk, because that would be silly and humiliating. I doubt I will remember- he is not important enough to me for me to take such details, but I will take him off moderation here so that if he comments and I remember I will call him that. Or I could call him that if I see him on your blog. It would humiliate and make him ridiculous, and perhaps make him realise that he had not made a useful point after all.

      Like

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