Rachel Dolezal lied, but as Jelani Cobb wrote, she lied about a lie—about race, about blackness, an identity that’s hardly monolithic, or defined, that is legitimized by history, but always in flux. Anyone who’s suffered though Iggy Azalea knows appropriation runs rampart, but Dolezal’s front does more than just callously call out culturally convenient signifiers—she doesn’t question the right to borrow from blackness, she claims the right to claim blackness. Because blackness, or at least the aspects of black womanhood Dolezal performed, accumulated a certain social capital, granted her a certain access, a certain membership, a certain right. Rachel Dolezal passed. Writer Jeremy Gordon, who’s biracial and identifies as Asian, also passes—but as white. Gordon described having an editor reject a pitch because he thought Gordon was another white man talking about a white issue. Later a friend asked Gordon: “Do you ever wish your name was more obviously Chinese, for career reasons?” Gordon answered, no, “it can’t be that cheap.” That’s what Dolezal did in, in a way, she cheapened blackness just to the signifiers that benefited her, while discarding or avoiding the discrimination and violence that keeps the toll of young black folk killed by the police rising. What does it mean, to “properly” pass as black or as white? If race is a lie, when does it matter who’s telling the truth?
Fuck That Noise indulges skepticism. It doesn’t buy into your bullshit, but it doesn’t write it off either. Instead it’s leaves you with more questions than answers.