Normally, nobody cares if a person dresses up and fancies himself to be something false. If you don’t have much of a self to be true to, then imagination allows us to escape for a little while. I can put on a Yankees cap, swing a Louisville slugger and remember how becoming the next Mickey Mantle seemed only a little bit of hard work away. It’s fantasy.
When the person begins taking it seriously and is accepted in an academic position and is elevated to positions of responsibility because of his fantasy– watch out. Now it’s insanity, socially approved insanity and actual insult. The fantasy has begun corrupting everything it touches. Eastern Washington University, the NAACP, the Spokane police all lose credibility for aiding and abetting the cheat. Again, she may be mentally ill. Trauma may have created some disassociative disorder. But she doesn’t sound mad. She sounds like she’s enjoying the attention. Thankfully, some people are recognizing that this stunt degrades the civil rights story from a struggle in which real lives were lost and real blood was shed, into just one more sideshow, just one more reality TV freak show. New York Times columnist Charles Blow and I have deep disagreements. But not on this one.
If this were simply a matter of a person appreciating, emulating or even appropriating the presentation and performance of a race other than the one society prescribes to her based simply on her appearance, it wouldn’t be a story.
But this isn’t simply that. This is about privilege, deceitful performance and a tortured attempt to avoid truth and confession by co-opting the language of struggle, infusing labyrinthine logic with the authority of the academy, and coat-tailing very real struggles of transgender people and transracial adoptees to defend one’s deception.
This is a spectacular exercise in hubris, narcissism and deflection.