Saturday, June 13, 2015

When 'Soul Man' Was Real and Not Funny UPDATED

This film was up for a reboot anyway.
In 1986, a movie called Soul Man depicted C. Thomas Howell as Marcus Watson, a white college student who got a perm and bronzed his skin in order to earn a scholarship for African Americans to go to Harvard. Hilarity ensued...maybe. I was 8 when I saw it, so it could have been a cinematic abortion. My 8-year old judgement cannot be trusted. As we all know, children are idiots. I still believed that a fat old white man annually came down my chimney and gave me presents based on arduous scrutiny of my behaviour. You know how stupid I was? WE NEVER HAD A CHIMNEY!
Well, Soul Man just played out in real life: Rachel Dolezal, head of the Spokane Washington NAACP, was just outed as being white, by her parents, no less. This sounds like the plot of a reboot, and why not a Rule 63 version? Sadly, it is nowhere near as funny, not even to my 8-year old self. It brings up frustration and anger for so many reasons, and not from the usual sources.
There is a cadre of seemingly sociology experts even though they are currently doing extensive studying in their parents’ basements in between stints at 7-11, who bring out the who “race is a social construct, and being mad at Dolezal means you’re a perpetrator of it”. That is a very nice sentiment that is also a load of socially constructed bullshit. Yes, race as we know it is a social construct. It was put in place to justify dehumanizing others, from Middle Eastern natives and  Africans and indigenous North and South Americans to Italians and Greeks and Irish and Italians. You know what else is a social construct? Marriage. Property ownership. City, province, and country border designations. Society is a social construct.

The fact is that with many social constructs, race has not gone away, and likely will not any time soon. If I am stopped by a policeman who says that he is responding to a call of a black man looking suspect in the neighbourhood, I can’t say, “Well, that can’t be me, because your perception of my blackness is a social construct”, and expect to not get locked up at best. Talk to the families of the few hundred unarmed black people who have been killed in the last few years about how their offspring, siblings, and parents were victims of the “social construct”, and see how much traction you get with them. Justice is a social construct as well, and they don’t have that. People who harp incessantly on the “social construct” of race and racism are oddly in the same camp as the #AllLivesMatter camp, who are “I’m-not-racist-but...” racists. You’re all just whitesplaining, and you’re not helping.
I'd like to think this is how she was found out.
Some think that the outrage is ONLY because she was imitating black as a race. Had she done this to another race, there would be no ripples in the water, because for some reason, African American is the Yale of complaining about unjust things that happen to us, no matter what. Tell that to Emma Watson and yutz who cast her to portray an Asian/native Hawaiian, when her skin is so porcelain, it is nearly certain that she had to sleep in a coffin during the day while shooting on location to prevent bursting into flames. People of all ethnicities are somewhat offended when they see someone not of their ethnicity portraying real historical figures who were definitely NOT white. I would expect just as much pushback of Samuel L. Jackson playing King Henry VIII in a biopic as there was when Christian Bale portrayed BatMoses. Keep in mind, fictional characters are free territory, so calm down nerds. Your griping about a black Spider-Man are still unwarranted. If DC makes a white Steel tomorrow, the world won't implode.
Another annoying group of individuals is the one who conflates this case of “transraciality” with transsexuality. It shows how badly we need to do better with teaching science and sexuality in our schools, and how mind-numbingly ignorant some people are. Rachel Dolezal wasn’t born thinking she was missing an ethnicity, or that she always should have been black. She took on the persona of what she thinks a black person is and ran with it. Ask any transperson, and they will acknowledge that something felt off or wrong about them. Transexuality, like homosexuality and bisexuality is more a physiological state than merely an emotional state. The only thing physiological that Rachel Dolezal shares with African Americans is that she is human…I guess now she gets to share the “joy” of her every move being overly scrutinized.

Dolezal during her Howard years
Here is the most annoying thing about Ms. Dolezal’s shenanigans: SHE NEVER HAD TO LIE. She was white when she went to Howard University, an historically black university. She was white when she married her black husband. She was white when she took family photos with her ethnically diverse family. No one batted an eye. She was accepted as a pretty decent person. Why lie when joining and leading the NAACP? It’s the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and that includes if your color is pasty super-light beige. NAACP does NOT have an exclusionary policy when it comes to membership or leadership. It’s not the black KKK. It was founded by both black and white people, and there are chapters that were lead by people who are not black. Before The Internet lost its mind over this story, you could actually google the term “White NAACP Chapter Presidents” and get a few hits. ethnic identity is not, and will never be, a criterion for membership or leadership in the NAACP, contrary to what talking heads say. Half of the NAACP national president is white, for crying out loud!

Even though the NAACP stood by her and Dolezal resigned from her post, hopefully this will blow over soon. Is Rachel Dolezal just another Iggy Azalea or Vanilla Ice, though? She DEFINITELY appropriated an entire culture that was not originally hers, and she doesn't seem too apologetic or contrite about it, so you be the judge. The saddest part about this debacle is that now Spokane, WA now has no black people.

For future reference, though, people, no one has a problem with a person revering a American black culture. Go to an HBCU. Focus your studies on African American history and African cultures. Be the most educated white person on black history in your town. Focus your service activities on empowering underprivileged traditionally black communities. Enjoy some of our fashion and music. Hell, marry a black guy or woman or something. We will likely still respect you. Just DON’T LIE. 


Well, a few things came to the surface in the last few days since I first penned this. It seems Ms. Dolezal sued Howard University for racial discrimination in 2002. Obviously, she identified as white back then, or else there would be no impetous for suing a historically black college or university for discrimination. The court didn’t think she had a case, as the judge threw it out and made her pay Howard university’s $2,000 court fees. She also received a few pieces of hate mail...from herself.  She must have been black at that point. She claimed to have received hate mail and a noose in her PO box, but it was not sent through the US Post Office. The only way it could have gotten there was via someone with a key to her mailbox. Racist bigots don’t use the Post Office! Everyone know their favourite mail delivery is window/brick interface, stuffed in molotov cocktail, or ignited lowercase “T” on the lawn! Had she claimed to receive anthrax or ricin through the mail, she would have been more believable. Right wing nutjobs LOVE sending powder.

She also went on The Today Show and claimed she felt she was black since she was 5 years old. I guess she had a little bit of a “white spell” at Howard when she sued them, then.She also questioned the validity of her parents claiming that they were her real parents. beside the fact that they (used to) look like her, there is a large cache of photographic evidence that shows that they are definitely her blood.

The amount of cultural appropriation that Rachel Dolezal has done would make Iggy Azalea say, “That’s a bit too far, mate”, or “That shit ain’t trill, cuz”, depending on what day you see her. It was all unnecessary. She could have done everything she wanted to do without concocting such an elaborate ruse. She’s not Jane Goodall; she can appreciate, emulate, and support a culture and community WITHOUT making an entirely new persona and Pretending to BE a part of that community. This whole mess has completely derailed anything she may have achieved and any progress she was making on newer projects. I hope it was worth it to her.

Seriously, though, how the hell did she get her curls so TIGHT!? I know black women who spend $1,000s to get their hair UNcurly, but she mastered getting her hair as tight as lamb’s wool after a heavy rain! Maybe this was all a ruse to push hair care products...

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