I couldn’t help but roll my eyes real hard when I learned that yet another white woman was identifying as a woman of color. In 2015, there was Rachel Dolezal, the white woman and former NAACP leader who pretended to be black for more than 10 years and now identifies as transracial. Then there was German model Martina Adam who turned herself into a black woman with bad plastic surgery and an even worse tanning job.
Now there’s a white transgender woman from New Orleans who considers herself “transracial” and has decided to identify as Filipina. Apparently she started identifying as Filipina after watching WAY too much History Channel.
“Whenever I’m around the music, around the food, I feel like I’m in my own skin,” she told Tampa Bay’s 10News. “I’d watch the History Channel sometimes for hours, you know, whenever it came to that and you know, nothing else intrigued me more [than] things about Filipino culture.” I wanted to scream when I read this because let’s be honest, transracial is not real.
When Rachel Dolezal made national news for pretending to be a black woman, I refused to accept transracial as a thing. In my mind, Dolezal – who now goes by the Nigerian name Nkechi Amare Diallo by the way – was just a crazy privileged (emphasis on privileged) white woman who was culturally appropriating black culture. Sure, it was taken to an insane degree, especially because her entire career centered around her fake “blackness,” but it wasn’t the first time we’d seen white people trying to benefit from a marginalized group’s culture. Seriously, have you seen the Kardashian’s?
But after seeing photos of Martina Adam, who lived as a white woman as recently as 2016, and then transformed herself into a “black woman” via black face and insane amounts of plastic surgery and now Ja Du claiming to identify as Filipina, I realized that maybe we actually need to have a conversation around the concept of “transracial.”
Some people seem to think it’s possible for someone to be born into the “wrong” race and identify as transracial, much the way that some people are born identifying as a different gender than they are assigned at birth. Um, no.
In my opinion, the idea of someone identifying as transracial stems from white privilege. People of color do not have the luxury of passing as white with the help of a few strokes of makeup or even radical plastic surgery. Has anyone noticed that the only individuals that have thus far come out identifying as “transracial” have been white folks? Coincidence? I think not.
Civil rights activist Rosa Clemente recently said: “As people of color, no matter how hard we try, we cannot achieve whiteness but the fact that a white woman can achieve blackness and lie and take space and take resources, and on top of it be belligerent when confronted, is the epitome of white privilege.”
Another important fact is that all three of these white women chose to all of a sudden begin identifying as people of color as adults. They have NO idea how it feels to grow up as a person of color in this country and don’t have the faintest clue what the struggle looks like. They don’t know what it means to have their fathers, uncles, brothers, or sons stopped – or even killed – by white cops just for being black or brown. They’ve never experienced being treated less than just because of the color of their skin. They have no idea how it feels to get expelled from school or fired from a job just for wearing their hair in it’s natural state.
So while they’re walking around with fake tans and appropriating our cultures like it’s some sort of hip trend, they also have the luxury of not having to deal with the actual burdens that come with being a black or brown person.
Here’s the difference between a transracial person and a transgender person: A transgender person doesn’t get to choose their gender. These are individuals who are born feeling alienated from the gender they were originally assigned to. A transgender person can’t just wake up one day and decide to go back to their former gender after having had gender reassignment. But a white women like Dolezal can wash her fake tan off in the shower and grow out her bad curly perm if disguising herself like a black woman no longer were to work for her.
People of color have been colonized by Europeans for centuries and we’re still facing the consequences and oppression from it today. It’s the reason why bleaching creams sell like hot cakes in countries like India, Korea, Jamaica, and in many countries in Africa. It’s the reason so many Asian women get double eyelid and rhinoplasty surgery and women of African descent spend thousands of dollars relaxing their hair – all in efforts to obtain a more Eurocentric look. It’s the reason why POC, regardless of whether or not they were born or raised in the states, still have to defend their American-ness to racist white folks.
I’m sorry, but you can not attempt to literally destroy people of color for years and then try to reap the benefits of being us when we suddenly seem shiny, cool, and appealing. You can not deny the centuries-long struggles we’ve had to deal with to try our identities on like a trendy new haircut. This is not how it works. Sorry, but you are not pulling the transracial card with me. Not today. Not ever.