Every week is an interesting Cher week. Many recent Cher tweets have hit the news feeds included this conservative freak out at Biz Pac Review. The tone screams masked bitterness.
Cher's initial tweet fights over Rachel Dolezal also appeared on Billboard.com.
I sympathized with Cher on these tweets because for a split second I did too sympathize with this lady. After all, I live with an archaeologist/anthropologist and I've read scores of essays about gender theory (in service to Cher scholarship and understanding why people call Cher a female drag queen).
Race and gender are constructs of our culture, albeit still very strong ones. There’s no genetic component to black and whiteness or liking Hello Kitty. Humans like to categorize much more than God did apparently. So the idea of fluid borders seems feasible in some humane future world. And the tradition of “passing” has a long history in our society. However, this is the first big story of passing to occur from white to black, from a privileged group to an oppressed group.
I’m not all that offended by white people appropriating black culture (from sampling to the all-out, so-called “wigger”) or by black people assimilating to white culture. Cross-culture happens. It's been happening since the dawn of man. You might ask why it's called appropriating one way and assimilating the other? This is the language of power structures. Assimilation goes to the power group. Appropriation happens from the minority group.
I’m not even so much offended by the lying part. Passing is, by definition, lying. And the real lie is the idea of race in the first place. However, I understand that is an intellectual idea not a living, breathing, bleeding reality.
Listening to commentator/author Goldie Taylor on The Bill Press Show this morning, I can see this situation has clearly upset many people. Taylor admitted her response to the story was emotional and called these discussion about the anthropology of race aggravating and beside-the-point because what Dolezal was doing was really nothing more than “the long con.”
I would argue that’s what passing is. I would also argue that if Barak Obama, Mariah Carey, or Dwayne Johnson decided to identify as white one day and black another, that time is always a good opportunity to talk about the “social construct of race.” No matter what the good or bad intentions are of the individuals are. Taylor expressed anger that Dolezal was appropriating blackness without understanding what it was really like to be black in a historical context. This is entirely true. But it’s also true for transgendered women. You could argue there are shades of passing involved here, too. For transgendered women moving from a position of power to minority, they don’t know what it means to be a lifelong woman. And in their case, they are targets and victims of hate violence because of their passing.
However, once again the ability to engage in passing at all favors outward physical characteristics and this continues to stack the deck. Children of mixed race can pass more easily. They have more, forgive the silliness, pass-abilities.
But in Dolezal's case, there are many more complications to her passing:
- There was money to be made. She used race as a competitive edge to gain a position of leadership. In doing so, she disenfranchised other black contenders.
- She can’t have it both ways. She sued Brown College for discriminating against her because she was white.
- As long as there is still white privilege, maybe there should be black privilege, too.
- The person in question is quite possibly a nutter and a narcissist.
This morning Goldie Taylor also expressed dismay that we’ll remember this woman’s name years to come but we wont remember the names of the victims of this week’s Church massacre in Charleston. She eloquently read the names of all the victims on The Bill Press Show. This is tragically the case for every American gun massacre of the last 20 years, black or white. And it brings up a point Mr. Cher Scholar made yesterday. This white kid killed more people than the Boston bombers did. And yet their crime was called an act of terrorism and a Muslim conspiracy. It was not called an act of “domestic terrorism” which it was, but terrorism outright. Everyone was outraged.
In Charleston, more people died but the story is being treated as the act of one crazy kid. Were the Boston bombers two crazy kids? Yes, they were. So let’s be clear, the massacre in Charleston was an act of terror and every bit a part of a conspiracy of hatred against American citizens by white supremacists, every bit as reprehensible as the Boston bombing.
In any case, I don’t fault Cher for saying what she did, speaking as a mother of someone who has culturally transitioned between one uncomfortable (and probably false) cultural idea to another. I had the same thoughts initially myself. Identities are shifting and we might not always understand why people don’t want to live inside their own skin. Dolezal is definitely not a good poster child for this phenomenon.
- US Magazine
- The Hollywood Gossip
- The Independent (UK)
- USA Today who said her reactions were "perfect" and that we needed to “Consider this your daily reminder that Cher’s Twitter is too good for this world.”
I don’t think you can become president if you engage in bitch fights with pop stars. You obviously can’t prioritize enemy urgencies.
Cher also tweeted about the Charleston shooting and learned hatred.
Learn more about the people who were gunned down at church this week.