It seems so easy for me to recognize inequality.
I glare at it, letting it foment in my self-righteousness, until such a point that it’s out of sight or I explode. I’m not alone in this. There isn’t that pause of, “Hmm, ok, now what?” The formula is simply See it, Get angry, Act; a visceral emotional reaction.
This is not one of those times.
It must suck to be Rachel Dolezal right now. Her statement stepping down as president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane listed off some of the things she and the organization feel she accomplished in that position. Unfortunately, her accomplishments and the work she’s done for equal rights is a footnote to the conversation, much in the same way the public’s strange and divided reaction is a footnote to the conversation, one which is more worthy of examination than Dolezal’s identity.
For all the discussion about her actions and how they pertain to race, equality, privilege and America’s shifting sense of social justice, what we’ve really been given is not another scandal to rail against, but an opportunity to examine our own motives and reactions to race, identity, and equality. The conversation has hardly been as divisively divided as many others to which I’ve been party, nor have the arguments and discussions been full of the angry vitriol indicative of political and racial discussions in the past. The civility is a good sign, indicating that all sides feel conflicted and confused, and most people are unsure whether to be angry, sympathetic, or simply indifferent.
Perhaps I’m reading too deeply, but I see a lot of other reactions, ones I didn’t expect, hidden beneath the surface. Some supporters of Dolezal, who argue that she should be able to choose her identity or, to a greater degree, her race, have smatterings of hope: hope that race is on its way to losing its significance; hope that people can be accepting of all lifestyle choices; hope, selfishly yet reasonably, that they can rise above their own societal hurdles. On the other side, detractors show elements of caring and preservation, often arguing not exclusivity, but a culture of respect.
What’s most fascinating to me is that both sides, despite differences in what they say on the surface, are arguing for equality.