Friday, January 1, 2021

Identity-Theft Politics Strikes Again!

Having some sort of ethnicity is now seen as advantageous.  So expect to see more white people claiming an ethnicity in the future.

People gave Elizabeth Warren a hard time for claiming to be Indian, or should I say, Native American.  It was an old game back in the day as I noted before - White people all wanted to trace their ancestry back the Charlemagne - to get into the whites-only clubs like the Mayflower Madams or the Daughters of Thomas Jefferson (whoops).  My own Grandparents did it, to hide their more plebeian roots and be accepted into "proper" society.  It's what you did back then - to survive.

So my Grandfather Wiggins, who grew up poor after his father killed himself and his mother tried to raise the family by going "into business" buying and selling second mortgages (a trades-person! begone with you!) was re-imagined as a descendant of English royalty, which landed him as Mayor of Larchmont, NY and partner in a law firm representing what is today, Citibank.  And they say there are no second chapters in American life.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the family, my Dad re-imagined himself as a Protestant "Scots-Irish" in order to advance up the corporate ladder - hiding his Irish-Catholic roots.  "No Irish need apply!" was the wording after "help wanted" when his Grandfather Bell immigrated from Ireland in the 1800's.  Back in the 1940's and 1950's, there were few Irish in the boardroom or in management.  Dad did what he had to do to get ahead.  And I guess part of that was marrying a crazy closeted lesbian because she came from a "wealthy" family - although I guess Grandpa Wiggins bamboozled him, as well as the citizenry of Larchmont.

We all pretend to be things we are not, I guess.   Back in the 1960's, you wanted to be white, of course, as that was - and is - the dominate race in America (70% of us fuckers). But it was also deemed romantic or interesting to allege you had some sort of mixed-race background, provided it was several generations back, and provided it wasn't black, of course.

That's why in the illustration above, Normal Rockwell, that paragon of white, middle-class values (although his own life is something of a different story) shows a "family tree" that has one "Indian Squaw" in it, which for a middle-class white family in the 1960's would be "interesting" and "intriguing" but not enough to get you booted from the country club - in fact, it might actually help you get in.  The chart also implies, perhaps some sort of ethnic pirate and his Spanish lady - enough generations back to make it safe, though.  Not shown:  The great-grandmother abolitionist who married a former slave.  That keeps you out of the country club - and the boardroom - for sure.  Or at least it did, back then.

We have made progress, and we should congratulate ourselves on that.  In 19 days, we will inaugurate only the second Catholic President in the history of the United States.  We shot the last one, and the way things are going, I can only hope the crazies don't take a pot-shot at this one.  This time around, though, the hatred is along political lines, not ethnic or religious ones, so I guess that is progress of sorts.

But part of this progress is that not only are opportunities better for minorities of all stripes, but that to some extent, it is becoming trendy to be a minority of some sort or another.  After all, who wants to be identified as "the oppressor" anyway?  This has lead to a number of Americans "identifying" as various racial, religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities, sometimes just to get attention, other times to get some sort of advantage.  A Lutheran teenager from the Midwest decides to convert to Islam, in part because it scares the crap out of his parents, and it gets attention (both good and bad - but like with publicity to a Hollywood star, there is no such thing as bad attention, to a teen) from the kids at school.   And I wonder how many people are claiming to be "trans" or "bi" or even gay in order to get some sort of attention. There have been documented cases of this - but they are very rare.

We had Rachael Doezel, who was a white girl from Minnesota, who dyed her skin, teased her hair, and "identified as black" - and became the head of the local NAACP chapter until her parents said "enough!" and "outed" her as a white person.  Then we had Jessica Krug teaching African-American studies at one of my Alma Maters - before she confessed to what was pretty obvious, she was a white girl.  Ward Churchill, who claimed the victims of the 9/11 attack had it coming to them, was outed as a fake Indian (Native American).  Satchuel Cole appropriated the name of a famous baseball player - and his race as well.  And then there is something called a "CV Vitolo-Haddad" which claimed to be gender-something and black as well.

Today, we find another one.   And it is no less than Alec Baldwin's wife, Hillary, who re-branded herself as "Spanish" Hilaria, which would be hilarious if it weren't so sad.  And apparently, according to some sources, she appropriated this Spanish persona (and a horrible fake accent) to help promote her Yoga videos and accessories or some such.

Just how many of these folks are out there?  Because these are only the famous ones we hear about - a wife of a celebrity, college professors, political candidates, and so on.   I suspect there are far more than we think, and this goes back further than we think.  Decades ago, I heard an epithet leveled against young white women who affected inner-city accents and mannerisms - it rhymes with the N-word but begins with W.  Many folks were mystified why someone would appropriate the cultural values of another race back then - particularly when back then, such cultural values were often frowned upon.

Of course, this also applied to a legion of young white men who wanted to play at being "gansta" and proclaim to be rap stars - and some actually were, too.  Again, like with rock music, we steal from blacks, re-brand it with a safe white label, and then sell it to the masses. Marshal Mathers or Elvis Presley, they both have a lot to answer for.  But again, it draws attention - negative attention - from parents, and schoolmates, as you are posing yourself as a bad-ass "gangsta" in what is the blackface of the new millennia.

Think about it for a second, what sort of message does it send?  That "acting black" means acting criminal or thuggish, crude and unsophisticated, or just like an animal.  Talk about white people perpetuating black stereotypes!   But at the end of the day, as I noted, the white kid from the suburbs can put away his ghetto stylings and be absorbed into larger white culture - and reap the financial benefits thereof.  It is just a play-acting stage of adolescents, much as many of us posed as "hippies" or disco dancers, or heavy-metal-heads back in the 1960's and 1970's.

But as it has become more hip to be a minority, it shouldn't come as any surprise that people start to claim minority status.  In fact, it would be shocking if it didn't happen. When society sets a norm, people move toward it. And many folks are "accepting" of a token minority, particularly if it is stylish to do so.  Having that gay friend, for example, can give you bragging rights.

You laugh, it happens. Women approach me, thinking I will be their new gay friend who will go shopping with them and help them pick out a new purse.  They are disappointed when they find out that at most, I might help them change the oil in their car.  I guess I'm a lesbian trapped in a gay man's body.  Wait, wouldn't that make me heterosexual?  I'm so confused - like most of society today.

And a token minority who is "articulate" and well-spoken and acts just like you because they are just like you makes it even better!  If you are going to have a token minority in your university faculty or in the management of your company, wouldn't be easier all around if the token minority was actually white?  I mean, just think of how convenient that would be!  During the day, they could be minority, but after-work, they could go back to being "normal" like the rest of us!

The sarcasm light is lit, in case you didn't get it.

In the case of Hillary Baldwin, some are claiming that her Espanish persona helped her sell her Yoga brand.  And I suppose it didn't hurt Baldwin's career, either, as a left-leaning Trump impersonator.  After all, he's open-minded enough to marry a minority!  Well, sort of, as Spanish isn't really a minority - or is it?  Even more convenient, she's actually white!  So he gets to check off a couple of boxes on the political correctness form without letting one of them into his life.

OK, that was over-the-top.  But you have to wonder what sort of mental illness one would have to have in order to make such a bold move.  I mean, it wasn't like with Elizabeth Warren, where she claimed her mother told her some story (in her defense, the same sort of story my mother told me).  Hillary knew she wasn't "Spanish" and she literally changed her name and adopted a mangled accent worse than Sacha Baron Cohen's "Southie" Boston accent in The Chicago 7.

I mean, do these folks think they won't ever be found out?  It must be very stressful living a lie like that.   And in a way, I feel sorry for these people, as they are obviously very confused in life to even try such a thing - and it must make them very unhappy.

Of course, maybe this is just a sign of a new thing - that you can change races just as you can change genders these days.  Some say that Rachel Doezel is welcomed by (fellow) blacks, even after she was discovered to be white.   What is race, anyway?  Is it some genetic marker, a skin tone, a language, an accent, a name, cultural values, or what?  Ms. Doezel was white and raised by white parents who adopted black children, and no doubt that affected her "orientation" along the way.

Black children adopted by and raised by whites, tend not to have "ghetto" accents or values - and are often called names (after a certain cookie) by fellow blacks raised in the inner-city.   Maybe race is not actually a thing, but what you make it to be.  And that goes for racists as well - their perception of race is colored (sorry) by their perception that they are superior to that race, and what's more, that they need to keep those races down.

Maybe in the future, people will choose their gender, race, sexuality, language, accent, and cultural values from a catalog.  Or maybe they will "come out" as their essential being.  Perhaps - but I think perhaps not.   Maybe a better idea is that we treat people the same regardless of their skin color, genetic makeup, gender, or personal lives.   Maybe we just need to provide equal opportunities - but not equal outcomes to people based on their abilities, and not superficial things.

We can use race to divide us or unite us.  And it seems that lately, we are making race more and more into a dividing thing, but postulating that different races are different people, and that we shouldn't treat people equally, but advance one over the other - which is sort of what we were trying to get away from in the first place.  When it becomes advantageous to be a minority, people will claim minority status.  It already occurs in government contracting - put your business in your wife's name and you get a set-aside.  Take on an Hispanic or Black partner, you get a set-aside.   As a (former) government contractor, I know this, as they asked me every year whether I qualified.

At the time, I didn't.  Today, well, who knows?   But frankly, I would rather succeed on the merits, than on pity.

UPDATE:  See this article for more fun and games!