Presuming what I’m currently hearing is vaguely the truth, I have found the response to the Rachel Dolezal story to be a fascinating example of the two ways that you can view reality. On the one hand it’s very easy to argue that she is white because both of her parents claim a European heritage. But is there even an argument for black?
We can start with: where does white start? Since everyone’s genes originated in Africa we all started as black, no? And so the question becomes: how black do you have to be before you can identify as black? Or how long do your genes have to be out of Africa before you’re considered 100% European? In Canada we define aboriginal treaty status all the way down to 1/8th. 1/8th?!
How can someone be 1/8th something? You have some of something in you is what that means. But statistically it’s pretty likely we all contain about 500,000 atoms of Shakespeare. So are we all a little English? Do you see how ridiculous these lines get? And who gets to do the dividing?
I was buoyed by the fact that the responses I saw most often to Rachel Dolezal were to question her questioners. People wondered why such a thing would matter? Why would what she called herself supersede what she had done for black people? I recall natives and white people criticized author Bill Kinsella for taking on the role of the Cree character Silas Erminskin in his series of books about an Alberta reserve. And yet I also met other aboriginals who said they felt that Kinsella had captured the essence of being native better than most native writers. The lines depend on who you ask.
Are any of these people wrong? Can they be wrong? These are their opinions and apply only to them. So what Rachel Dolezal calls herself is irrelevant. It’s who she identifies with that counts. Because there are countless immigrants I know in all kinds of countries who said the moment they landed they felt more at home than they ever had when they were back where they were born. Who you are is a state of mind. Anyone who can’t see that is blinded by the nature of ego. You either believe there is some Great Divider who is making absolute lines, or you can see an obvious truth: regardless of what any Divider could do, people will still only see the reality they create with their own thinking.
Adopted kids will live out identities that are both truth and fiction. Yes they are adopted, so their new family’s ancestral customs might be seen to some as inappropriate, but that is only because people don’t realize that even their own customs are nothing more than a performance handed down not by generations of blood but by the single example of one set of parents. Culture isn’t inherited by birth. It is at first modelled and later hopefully selected to best match the personality and natural drives of the individual in question.
As you work toward seeing the world clearly, try to catch yourself falling for various ego-created narrative myths like society, race, the economy, status, or work. These are all ideas not actual things. Learn to quiet your mind to discussions about the illusions in life and you will free a great deal of mental power to focus on the present moment. And I would highly recommend that because, in the end, that is where 100% of your life is lived.
Have yourself a wonderful day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.