Rachel Dolezal nearly wrecked everyone’s Father’s Day.
You don’t often see a daughter outed so publicly by her white father for passing
as an African American, but I guess post-racial filial love isn’t necessarily
I admit to being somewhat sympathetic of Rachel D., at first. The Census, our
demographic standard, is, after all, a “you are what you say you are”
proposition. You can self-identify to your heart’s content. No one is going to
enforce a “one drop rule,” like they did in Virginia for hundreds of years to
keep marriage a segregated institution.
But Dolezal’s “no drop” rule can also be problematic. And when her family’s
outing her became like a reality show audition, leave it to the black man whom
she called dad, Albert Wilkerson, to bring things back to earth. “There are
bigger issues in this country to be discussing,” he told People magazine. “But
I’m not going to throw her under the bus.”
Now that’s the kind of love you’ll only find from a real, though fake, “Dad.”
I’m sure you too were begging for another big story to knock old Rachel D. back
into obscurity, as Dolezal caught flak from all sides of the race debate.
But she did show how America isn’t really ready to tackle the 21st century
racial identity problems she poses.
Is race really as fluid as she says? If a biological white person can be black,
then why don’t we simply solve our diversity ills by having all whites declare
themselves people of color? Why bother finding, recruiting, and training real
people of color? Solving diversity with white privilege would be an HR officer’s
Far-fetched? In the Pew report on
America’s growing multiracial community, race was seen less as a biological
notion and defined more as a “set of experiences, attitudes, and social
interactions that are more closely aligned with the black community.”
That might aid “No Drop” Rachel in her self-identifying claim, but it sure
creates categorical issues.
For example, 60 percent of black/white biracials saw themselves as black. And
the others were white?
Biracial Asian/whites were just the opposite, quick to identify more white than
And yet white/Asian biracials were still subjected to slurs and jokes at the
same level as white/black biracials.
Being part white is no passport to acceptance.
If you think race is complicated now, just wait a generation.
In the meantime, as Rachel D.
recedes from the headlines, who expected she’d be shoved from the news by Dylann
The emergence of Roof and his old school white supremacy is a reminder that the
bad old things of the past have never been truly dealt with and are still a pus
ball away at all times.
South Carolina has white supremacy all over its historical DNA.
But the profile of Roof that emerges is one of young, fresh-faced millennial
A roommate of Roof’s, Dalton Tyler, told news media that Roof was “big on
segregation” and “planning something like the shootings for six months” because
African Americans were “taking over the world,” and that he wanted to start a
Roof himself told his victims in the church before he shot them that African
Americans were “raping our women” and “taking over our country.”
Sexual anxiety mixed with vindictive white supremacy?
When I heard Roof say that, it practically made my Father’s Day.
That’s the kind of talk Filipino Americans heard from whites in one of the more
racist periods in California in the 1920s and 1930s.
It’s what my father heard when he arrived to America. Besides being called
“monkey” or “goo-goo.”
My favorite passages in Ron Takaki’s “Strangers from a Different Shore” are
those on the fears of white men that Filipinos were taking their jobs and their
“Unlike men from China, Japan, Korea and India, men from the Philippines seemed
to seek out white female companionship and to be attractive to white women,”
Takaki wrote. Quoting a California businessman, Takaki added, “The Filipinos
are hot little rabbits and many of these white women like them for this
Those sentiments led to a concern over racial purity and the creation of a “new
type of mulatto.”
In Congressional hearings on Filipino immigration, V.S. McClatchy, the owner and
publisher of the Sacramento Bee, testified: “You can realize, with the
declared preference of the Filipino for white women and the willingness on the
part of some white females to yield to that preference, the situation which
Why, of course, a situation that could easily be avoided with McClatchy’s
exclusionist proposals, which would limit Filipino immigration and even deport
those already here. As he said, it was all done “to protect the nation, as well
as itself, against the peaceful penetration of another colored race.”
But before any legislation, there were numerous instances of violence throughout
California against Fillipinos. The most famous case involved hundreds of white
men armed with pistols and clubs in Watsonville, January 1930, which ended in
the shooting death of 22-year-old Fermin Tobera.
Roof’s deeds at the historical Emanuel AME church? Asian Americans deplore the
act. We too have felt the sting of white supremacy past and stand united against
it in the present.
My youngest daughter had never heard of Fermin Tobera, or the white
exclusionists of California in her grandfather’s day.
I gave her a copy of Takaki’s famous Asian American historical narrative.
It was her Father’s Day gift from me.