By Victoria Massie
I’m trying to do a better job of not writing when I’m heated. Much of this rooted in a deep sense of self-care. For this reason I ask that people redirect their energies toward something more productive. Rachel Dolezal is not novel. Every aspect of how she hit the stage, of how we know her name is based on the culmination of all the many ways white supremacy operates and has sustained itself since this country’s inception.
We have even found ourselves festering on each other’s flesh, conflating gender with racial identity, two modes of inscribing power inequalities into our everyday lives, but quite distinctly. While both are socially constructed, they are done so quite differently. You do not inherit a gender from your parents, or else you would only need one, and we would have very little reason to do the serious work of policing our presentation through our style and actions that gender inequalities requires. Not to mention all of the ways that race often erases the cis-gendered hierarchy. How often are black women and girls treated like men, not as equally women and girls as their white counterparts? This would a classic moments for scholars to revisit Hortense Spillers’ “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.”
Race doesn’t work like that. While there is no biological basis, biology has served as material manipulated to give salience to phenotype and consequently substantiate the modes of violence done in its name, and ensure them as inheritable. Rachel is not passing; she is embodying blackface, a living case of plagiarism, because passing has NEVER been fluid; it has never been a move from one end to another without cutting off some part of yourself for your “benefit.” That choice has never been as boundless for actually black people as it presents itself for this white woman. But beyond this, this conflation of gender and race, employs erasure by further erasing people who are already living in a very vulnerable state of erasability: our black trans siblings. We are sitting here debating ourselves for her, all the while draining ourselves, eating each other alive on the way.
My hope is that for self-care, put your energies toward talking about things that actually matter to black people: anything from McKinney; to Arnesha Bowers; to the 12 year old girl in Cincinnati who just had her neck broken by a cop while playing at a pool; talk about our Haitian siblings who have become stateless; to the young black girl who just earned over $3 million in scholarships.
For all the people who are actually black, we know that our lives are not debatable. That’s the core value of #BlackLivesMatter, or to #SayHerName. We need each other, and every second we continue to waste on her makes it all the more difficult for us to do the work to ensure our liberation, something most certainly will not come from white people who do not respect boundaries, who cross them to be us (shout out to Audre Lorde’s essay “Learning from the 60s”).
For all the black women and black girls out there, maybe the point today for #WCW is to love on yourself.