Thursday, June 18, 2015

Of race and Rachel Dolezal, pt 2

Some international adoptees are not too happy about the horrible Rachel Dolezal.
Transracial adoptees and their allies are speaking out about Rachel Dolezal's and other's use of the term "transracial" in conversations wrestling with her identity, arguing that it does not mean choosing to change one's race, rather it means the adoption of a child, usually a child of color, by a family of another race, usually a Caucasian family.
A number of trans-racial adoptess have written an open letter on the subject.
This past weekend the world took to social media to dissect the events surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the former president of Spokane’s NAACP chapter who came under heavy scrutiny for falsely representing herself as black. As part of this real-time discussion, the term transracial is being co-opted to describe Dolezal identifying as black despite being born white.
As members of the adoption community — particularly those of us who identify as transracial adoptees — we are deeply alarmed by the gross mischaracterization of this term. We find the misuse of “transracial,” describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of “blackness” in order to pass as “black,” to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.
About the rest of the letter I will say nothing.  I am familiar with several of the signers and find their views about trans-racial adoption... a little extreme.

Nevertheless, this is another dimension to the sorry tale of Rachel Dolezal that is important to those of us in the adoption community.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Of race and Rachel Dolezal

The now-resigned president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, has been much in the news lately because it came out that she, born to white parents, has been representing herself as black.
Dolezal's estranged parents have spoken to the media about her supposed misrepresentation. 
"We are her birth parents," her father, Lawrence Dolezal, said Friday. "We do not understand why she feels it's necessary to misrepresent her ethnicity." 
CNN contacted Dolezal last week, and she declined an interview. She said she stands by her record of service. 
Her adopted brother, Ezra Dolezal, said she took him aside three years ago and asked him "not to blow her cover" about her alternate identity. 
"She said she was starting a new life ... and this one person over there was actually going to be her black father," he said.*

Dolezal then and now

To put it mildly, I am outraged.  Quite aside from the issue of this woman lying for personal gain (I think I may be excused for supposing that, had she identified as white, she NEVER would have gotten a presumably high-paying position in the NAACP), what am I as a trans-racial adoptive parent to make of what she's done?

From our first classes as prospective parents of a non-white child, we were warned of the problems that race can cause.  Trans-racial adoptive children often report feeling "somewhere between": they feel part of their (usually white) parents' culture, but when they are not with their parents, nobody automatically assumes this (the term, I believe, is "borrowing whiteness").  Now we have a very prominent case of somebody outright claiming to be another race and being supported with the frankly ludicrous idea that race is something that one can simply select as he would a suit of clothes.  Dolezal "made" herself black by lying about her past, co-opting others to do so, and disguising herself by dyeing her skin and changing her hair.  Familiar?

FILE - This 1927 image originally released by Warner Bros., shows Al Jolson in blackface makeup in the movie "The Jazz Singer." Historically, blackface emerged in the mid-19th century, representing a combination of put-down, fear and morbid fascination with black culture. Among the most prominent examples: Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. Today, there’s a fine line between mockery and tribute. (AP Photo/Warner Bros.)
Al Jolson in blackface, 1927

We have spent decades in our country trying to get past the idea that race ought to play a role in how we deal with each other.  We have spent decades trying to convince ourselves that people of a given race ought to be proud of it (Black History Month?  HELLO!).  Now, we're told that race is not only vital to how a person ought to be seen, but that it's a matter of personal preference.  Presumably, a person can be whatever race he chooses on any given day.  Might come in handy for some job interviews, I suppose.

Let me be blunt: Dolezal is a horrible, horrible person.  Her disgraceful efforts to wear blackface - to PROFIT by wearing blackface - are a slap in the face to every person in our country, especially those who have felt the lash of racism.  I hope that she is roundly condemned for what she's done.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Discrimination against Asian-Americans in college

I have written before about discrimination against Asian-American students in various colleges.  This, apparently, is an ongoing problem, so much so that businesses have opened to help prospective college students... look less Asian.

From the Boston Globe:
Brian Taylor is director of Ivy Coach, a Manhattan company that advises families on how to get their students into elite colleges. A number of his clients are Asian American, and Taylor is frank about his strategy for them.
“While it is controversial, this is what we do,’’ he says. “We will make them appear less Asian when they apply.”
[James] Chen founded Asian Advantage College Consulting 20 years ago in response to what he considers bias against top Asian students in elite college admissions. His firm, which is based in Alameda, Calif., also has clients on the East Coast, he says, including Boston.
“The admissions officers are seeing a bunch of people who all look alike: high test scores, high grades, many play musical instruments and tend not to engage in more physical sports like football,” Chen says.
If students come to him early in high school, Chen will direct them to “switch to another musical instrument” or “play a sport a little bit out of their element.” 
And for the college essay, don’t write about your immigrant family, he tells them: “Don’t talk about your family coming from Vietnam with $2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks.”
To put it mildly, this sort of thing makes me see red, and I like to think that it would do so even if my daughter wasn't Asian.  We tell kids to work hard in school, to get good grades, to take harder classes, to study, to go out for sports and other extracurricular activities, to volunteer after school, all with the goal of getting into the best schools to give them a leg up when they enter the job market.  

But not if they are Asian.

The article continues:
In a 2014 lawsuit against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the nonprofit Students For Fair Admission allege that both schools discriminate against Asian applicants in favor of less qualified African-American and Latino students. The suit cited a 2009 Princeton University study of seven top colleges that concluded an Asian applicant needed an average 1460 SAT score to be admitted, while whites with similar academic qualifications needed 1320, Hispanics 1190, and blacks 1010.
Harvard’s general counsel, Robert Iuliano, defended the school’s admissions policy. “As the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, including on race, transforms the educational experience of students from every background and prepares our graduates for an increasingly pluralistic world,” he said.
Ironically, that our daughter is adopted and has an Anglo name may work to her advantage: no admissions officer will automatically shuffle her application to the bottom of the pile as he might if her last name was Chen or Liang or Qi.
We come then to the question presented: does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Who knew that we'd gone back to 1953?