Absurd Identity Politics; Rachel Dolezal, et. al.

by Norman Berdichevsky (July 2015)

Prior to the mid-20th century, many individuals and families did their utmost to hide their multiracial heritage because of racial discrimination against minorities, predominantly against African-Americans. It was President Lyndon B. Johnson, the classic white southern politician with a guilt complex, struggling to wear/inherit the cape of the great fallen leader/martyr, who elaborated on the importance of “affirmative action” for groups rather than individuals when he stated:

What is enough then? This question remains unanswered but cannot be answered by checking a box marking a group identity on a form, and even less so by asking someone how they feel.

A height requirement that screens out many Hispanics and women, even if it can be demonstrated that height is an important job related consideration (among firefighters for example), may be held to be invalid today. The laws relating to affirmative action currently state that if a test for merit disproportionally eliminates one racial or gender group and some equally good merit test does not, then the employer has to use the latter test. The door is thus open to endless variations of “equally good merit tests” (until you find the one that works).

The absurd requirement demanding that individuals fill out the census and many application forms to indicate their racial and ethnic identity serves no other purposes than to document which group deserves more protection and “equality.” This has the unintended consequence of often promoting racial discrimination. Although realtors are forbidden by law to inform prospective buyers of a home anything about the racial makeup of the neighborhood where the house is located, the buyers can simply go online and look up the racial composition of each area based on the most recent census data (and avoid buying where they don’t like the profile).

If we were still a nation of individual citizens with equal rights and opportunities and with merit the only consideration for appointment to high office, none of the above would matter, but it is the selective use of DIVERSITY, like so much else, that is part of the Obama/Left/Liberal agenda that stands out for its hypocrisy. Ironically, the leading Ivy League schools who today push the Liberal/Left agenda in the country, used “geographical diversity” as a subterfuge in the 1930s to severely limit the admission of Jewish students.

Chief Justice John Roberts has rightly expressed his firm opposition to the “whole sordid business” of dividing the American population by race and ethnicity but the prospects are dim that we can escape the fate of all of us being forced into statistical boxes. My wife was born in Argentina and her first language is Spanish. Does she qualify as a Hispanic? Her parents were Yiddish speaking Jews who immigrated to Argentina in 1920. When she asked an official at the American Embassy in Madrid where she filled out the forms for a green card, if she should identify herself on the form as Hispanic, his reply was – “I haven’t got a clue.” And why should he? Only in the United States is the term “Hispanic” regarded as a racial rather than a cultural category – witness the confusion of the mass media in the case of George Zimmerman, identified first as a “white man” when all that was known about him was his name and the fact that he had killed a black man. Later, the revelation of his Hispanic origin made some commentators uncomfortable. It is no wonder that Rachel Dolezal could persuade herself and others that her “real identity” had been misunderstood.

A newspaper story featured on page one of the Orlando Sentinel entitled “Hispanic License Plate Could Sail to Approval.”(May 12, 2010).  A “Hispanic Achievers” plate design had been incorporated into a bill submitted to Governor Crist. Its original form simply stated “Hispanics Discovered Florida,” but the public relations team behind the proposal had to tone down the message and simply put the organization’s name on the design with a Spanish galleon in the center and the word UNIDOS in large print. Profits from the $25 tag fee would go to fund the group’s “administrative costs” and benefit Hispanic achievers. The group claimed a network of 14,000 subscribers, a drop in the bucket of the state’s more than three and a half million Hispanics.

Of course, the absurd irony that no one bothers to pay attention to, is that the same mentality of group pride and a balkanized identity of hyphenated-Americans originally led most politicians on both the state and local level to go along with cancelling “Columbus Day” to satisfy American Indian groups angry at the Spanish “discovery and conquest of the Americas” as “racial genocide.” Columbus Day was originally declared a federal holiday back in 1934 as an act by the Roosevelt administration to help assuage the feelings of many American Catholics, organized by the Knights of Columbus, especially of Italian origin (who claim Columbus as their own), that there was no national holiday that recognized an achievement by Catholics (and Italians). We have come full circle.

Our national motto “E Pluribus Unum” is out of date (as most certainly is “In God We Trust”). The reality of the last two generations of affirmative action policies could be summarized by what Aristotle said more than 2,300 years ago …. “The worst form of inequality is to try and make unequal things equal.”

“Pinky” and the Centuries’ Long Passing of Blacks into the White Population

The film honestly confronts racial animosity from all sides as Pinky eventually reconciles with a stern wealthy white dowager Miss Em (played by Ethel Barrymore) whom she instinctively dislikes only to later discover that Miss Em had nursed her grandmother back to health and left Pinky a fortune in her will.

Both Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge (Hollywood’s most famous very light complexioned African-American stars who were both very anxious to play the role of Pinky) were passed over to give the part to a white lesser known actress. Critics were unanimous that she did not bring to the role the required intensity and passion that either of the more well-known Afro-American stars would have brought.

The film surprisingly enjoyed wide success in the southern United States, although it was banned in several southern towns and played to segregated movie theaters in those states where miscegenation was forbidden by law. It also figured in a landmark decision of the Supreme Court extending the privileges of the First Amendment’s right to free speech to cover films as well as speech and print.

The Jews Wishing to Pass as Gentiles Had No Choice

Hiding one’s identity has been an option for a only minority of oppressed peoples. Tens of millions of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe who immigrated to the United States felt a social pressure to conform, learn English as soon as possible, which the great majority did, and adjust to American culture. A large number of them did so by also changing and shortening their family names (see NER November 2010 “What’s in a Name?”).

Many Jewish immigrants to modern Israel and the United States also changed their names to erase memories of the oppressive Russian, Austrian, Polish “exiles countries” where Jews had often been humiliated.

Although certain “typical Jewish” names  in particular ending -berg, -stein or -man are actually of German origin, and those ending  -sky and -vitz are Slavic, they nevertheless came to be regarded as reminiscent of a humiliating past. It was not only a family name but in countless ways that Jews tried to hide their identity and assimilate even before the rise of Hitler. I have a friend whose parents felt that they would face less anti-Semitism in the United States by changing the spelling of their name from the German/Jewish Fried to Freed!

In his semi-autobiographical work, Israeli author Amos Oz, recounts the close connections his family maintained with relatives in Europe and the sense of wonder, confidence, creativity and inspiration that infused the Zionist-Hebrew alliance among young Jews in Eastern Europe in coping with the prevailing sense of apprehension, depression and fear that increasingly paralyzed Jewish communities throughout the world.

Nobody imagines what was really in store, but already in the twenties almost everyone knew deep down that there was no future for the Jews with Stalin or in Poland, or anywhere else in eastern Europe, and so the pull of Palestine became stronger and stronger. Not with everyone, naturally. The religious Jews were very much against it, and so were the Bundists, the Yiddishists, the communists, and the assimilated Jews who thought they were already more Polish than Paderewski…But many ordinary Jews in Rovno in the twenties were keen that their children should learn Hebrew….and the echoes that came back to us from the Land were simply wonderful – the young people were just waiting, when would your turn come? Meanwhile everyone read newspapers in Hebrew, argued, sang songs from the Land of Israel, recited Bialik and Tschernikhowsky, split up into rival factions and parties, ran up uniforms and banners, there was a kind of tremendous excitement about everything national…

It was the same form of a regained proud identity that many Afro-Americans chose, starting in the 1950s, that “Black is Beautiful.”

In “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” Amoz Oz’s aunt Sonja, a native of Rovno tells in her own words what she and her sister felt after finally succeeding in being able to leave Poland just before the outbreak of the war and what her “homecoming” to the Land of Israel meant after her many years in the Tarbut Hebrew Culture and educational movement…

The authentic feeling of elation cannot be acted or created at the expense of disowning one’s own parents and their heritage as Rachel Dolezal has done, no matter how successful she was at imitating a dialect, adopting Afro hairstyles, loving soul food, or darkening her complexion.

There could never be a doubt about the Jewish identity of those immigrants to Israel who had thrown off the desire to integrate and regard themselves as Germans or Hungarians or Poles of the “Mosaic faith.” Very few of their “fellow citizens” from the larger gentile society would have welcomed them, no matter how well they imitated speaking the national language with perfect diction. No Gentile, no matter how sympathetic to Zionism or Jewish culture, music, art, philosophy and religious tradition would have posed as a Jew as Rachel Dolezal has done with her adopted “Black” identity.


Norman Berdichevsky is the author of The Left is Seldom Right and Modern Hebrew: The Past and Future of a Revitalized Language.


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