The Uproar Over ‘Transracialism’

The Uproar Over ‘Transracialism’

The New York Times

Rogers Brubaker, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles

Rachel Dolezal in 2015. The controversy over her choice to identify as black has lingered.
Credit Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review, via Associated Press

Rogers Brubaker is a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author, most recently, of “Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities.”

The world of academic philosophy is ordinarily a rather esoteric one. But Rebecca Tuvel’s article “In Defense of Transracialism,” published in the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia this spring, has generated a broad public discussion.

Dr. Tuvel was prompted to write her article by the controversy that erupted when Rachel Dolezal, the former local N.A.A.C.P. official who had long presented herself as black, was revealed to have grown up white. The Dolezal story broke just 10 days after Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair debut, and the two discussions merged. If Ms. Jenner could identify as a woman, could Ms. Dolezal identify as black? If transgender was a legitimate social identity, might transracial be as well? Dr. Tuvel’s article subjected these public debates to philosophical scrutiny.

The idea of transracialism had been rejected out of hand by the cultural left. Some worried — as many cultural conservatives indeed hoped — that this seemingly absurd idea might undermine the legitimacy of transgender claims. Others argued that if self-identification were to replace ancestry or phenotype as the touchstone of racial identity, this would encourage “racial fraud” and cultural appropriation. Because race has always been first and foremost an externally imposed classification, it is understandable that the idea of people declaring themselves transracial struck many as offensively dismissive of the social realities of race…

Read the entire article here.

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