Rachel Dolezal is not ridiculous, only deeply misunderstood. She, in fact, stands proudly at the cutting edge of ethnic identity and in the future we will see how limited our perspectives were. It does not matter that she was a blond teenager shyly smiling into the camera in the photograph being paraded unfairly across the media. Unfairly because right next to it is a photo of the real Rachel Dolezal, with curly deep auburn hair and confident eyes staring down the photographer. She is now a complete, rounded adult who has found her inner ethnic identity. It’s not a case of her lying about having actual African-American heritage, along with white and Native American. It’s about that disconnect between one’s inner core and assigned ethnic identity.

Transgender is of course, firmly placed in the mainstream of cultural consciousness. From Navy Seals to Olympians, they are here and they are proud. So why not Transethnics? Rachel Dolezal has always been black. She just did not realize it. And if she has to place fake hate mail packages and create suspect situations of racial harassment or even hate crimes that most likely had not have ever occurred, she points to a more profound truth: the emotional rather than the scientific. Just as rape is not defined by the evidence but by the social construct within which it might occur, so ethnic identity is not defined by one’s genes but rather one’s inner self, one’s chosen ethnic identity.

Rachel has come out of the closet and should be welcomed with applause and support. She needs to proudly state who she is and all she has done for race relations in Idaho and Spokane. And of course, she has a diverse and fascinating academic career ahead of her: Transethnic Studies. She gets to build on her current career as a part-time professor in Africana Studies in Eastern Washington University. That’s not a typo: Africana deals with the African diaspora as well as Africa itself, and now Rachel has through her own pioneering efforts uncovered the far greater diaspora: those around the globe who are black and don’t realize it. Perhaps some of those in the African-American community who have dedicated their lives to combating racism will disparage such a perspective; radical new ideas always meet resistance from entrenched bourgeoisie elites. Fear not professor Dolezal, you are the future.

Comments