Monday, June 15, 2015

Khadijah White: Blackness Isn't Something That Can Be Acquired With A Little Bronzer

   More bad arguments for dissociating the Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner Case from the Rachel Dolezal Case. 
   I'm stuck in house renovation hell, so this has to be something of a drive-by...
   White's arguments fail in part because she leans on the always-disastrous "x is socially constructed" jargon, using it both to mean roughly "The word 'x' has meant different things at different times," and "x-ness is constituted by social roles." That terminology basically destroys every discussion it enters into...  Such confusion invites equivocation of the form We've meant different things by 'black,' so being black is merely a matter of fulfilling certain social roles. Which is patently invalid, and which inference White at least flirts with.
  Also, White argues that Dolezal hasn't experienced anti-black discrimination, so isn't "really" black. But that's also true of Jenner. In fact, it's probably more true of Jenner. Women also experience discrimination, and Jenner's had none of that.  
  The "Dolezal was dishonest" claim also makes a prominent appearance... But, first, if that were a legitimate objection, then folks in this sector would have to admit that someone who is transexual/transgendered and passes on the sly is doing something wrong. And they have made it clear that they don't want to do that. Furthermore, the "she's dishonest" point seems to beg the question--it presupposed the very point at issue. Dolezal is claiming that she is black. Arguments deployed in the Jenner case (mutatis mutandis) seem to back her up. So you can't argue that Dolezal is dishonest in order to undermine the claim that the Jenner arguments back up Dolezal. Rather, you have to first show that the arguments are inapplicable. (And that she should have realized that.) Then you can conclude that Dolezal was wrong and/or dishonest. (I might be confused on all this...but damn I'm in a hurry!)  
   It's also worth nothing that, though White makes reference to a consensus among scholars to the effect that race and gender are "social constructs," there simply aren't authorities on these matters like there are in, say, physics, climatology, history, etc. The relevant academic disciplines are highly politicized, and have a strong activist bent. To appeal to such folk is basically to appeal to partisans of one side in these debates. Unlike, say, climatology, an intelligent layperson can master the relevant reasoning in a rather short period of time. And if you do so, you'll see that the reasons in support of the relevant scholarly consensus (in e.g. gender studies) are flimsy at best. So deference to alleged experts is out of place here, I'd argue.  
   That's all really fast and sloppy...
   
   Anyway, I really do think that the most important point here is a meta-point: the relevant sectors of the left started by insisting that we all accept conclusions about Jenner (and all transexual/transgendered folk) that simply seem to be false. That sector also insisted that the conclusions must be accepted without any question. To suggest that they were questionable or in need of discussion was decreed bigoted. Such irrationalist, totalitarian diktats are dangerous and illiberal in the extreme. As I noted, we'd never accept Jenner-type conclusions with respect to race. Then the Dolezal case appears...from the perspective of someone who wants to think rationally about both cases, it's manna from heaven... But the usual suspects are not falling all over themselves to insist that we not seek consistency in our beliefs, but insisting that it's obvious that the Dolezal case has nothing to do with the Jenner case. Which is false. They are, at least prima facie, very similar. Perhaps if we thought about it a lot, we'd conclude that they have nothing to do with each other. But I very much doubt that. A lot of words are being fired at the problem in an effort to obscure the similarities...and it's always possible to throw up a rhetorical smokescreen that will befuddle many people...but the arguments I've seen thus far simply aren't sound. But, however the first-order issues shake out, the most alarming thing here is at the second-order--the full-court press by the left to bully us collectively into not thinking, and simply doing and believing as we're told. 

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