I just got my gray roots erased (a process I undertake every 2-3 weeks) by my favorite hairstylist Linda who is "Black." I'm "White" and we got to talking about the Rachel Dolezal case. Linda's take was "leave the woman alone, she's not hurting anyone, she's doing good, and who cares?" I have been thinking a lot about identity since this story broke and my Facebook Page filled up with far ranging opinions.
But as I sat in that beauty salon, I thought about Linda's statement "Who Cares?" And I thought about my own complex identity and who cares about it besides me. First of all, besides the beauty industry who make billions feeding off our insecurities and desires to look different than we do, straightening our hair if it's curly, curling it if it's straight, covering our gray to look younger, tanning if we are "too pale," "whitening" if we are too dark, injecting our skin if we are "too old," all that money making aside, Who Cares how we identify and what we look like? Most of us are "faking it" to some degree.
I have a very complex identity, as do most of my friends, which is probably why we feel so comfortable together. There is no bright line test of identity to be in our group like the Nazis had. My mother is Jewish and olive skinned. My father is Catholic and Nordic pale. The color of their skin or their religion didn't stop them from identifying with each other and with the African American people of the South whose human rights were routinely violated, and still are. They became civil rights activists in the 1960's and helped desegregate Durham, North Carolina while they were graduate students at Duke. I was born in a house that doubled as an NAACP chapter.
When you look at the big picture, all humans are African. Africa is the cradle of the human species. Maybe you could say that the Nazis, the Apartheid thugs and the Confederate flag waving racists are "faking it" because we are all linked as humans originating from Africa.
Culture is a different matter, and something to be prized. Who wants to live in a world where everyone is the same? It's bad enough that Starbucks and McDonalds have tried to homogenize "cuisine" around the planet! I love culture and am really proud of the Jewish culture that links me to a past thousands of years ago. Not so proud of the pillaging of my Viking forefathers, but what can I do? I love culture and traveling and experiencing difference. I love learning about different ways of living. But after all my travels, and I have traveled extensively, I have learned that we are more alike than different. And I identify deeply with all my fellow humans because we are all in the same boat on this planet, sharing the same resources, living for a better future for our children, or a least one not worse than what we've experienced as resources are threatened by human carelessness and overpopulation.
I may be light skinned, but I identify deeply with humans of all colors. As a lawyer in America, I have all the resources I need, but I identify strongly with those who don't and I work to make the world more just and I share what I have. As a straight woman who was able to marry the love of my life, I am committed to seeing equality in marriage rights for those who love a partner of their same sex.
I believe in honesty, and I understand how some people may feel that Rachel was deceptive about her race, but I just keep coming back to Who Cares? Throughout history, the ones who cared were overwhelmingly people who wanted to deny rights to others. I believe when some us are suffering, we all suffer as the human race, and when we uplift each other, we all win. We are all One, and that is something to celebrate along with the many cultures we have created.
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