When Black is White: The Politics of Self-identification

Updated: June 14, 2015


By Pablo James

I have never attended Ranger School, the Special Forces Qualification Course, BUDs, or whatever training the guys from the Special Missions Units go through. I don’t care. I declare here and now that I am a highly skilled, well-trained operator. And I don’t give two shits what you guys think about it.

Ok, that’s not exactly true. But I am seriously considering self-identifying as an operator. Here’s why:

screen-shot-2015-06-12-at-12-10-20-pmLast week, Rachael Dolezal, the president of the Spokane Chapter of the NAACP, rose to infamy when her parents, a white couple from Montana, disclosed that she is actually white, but has been posing and blatantly fucking lying to everyone she meets self-identifying as black for several years. In an interview with Sky News, Dolezal addressed those questioning her racial identify by saying, “I don’t give two shits what you guys think.”

The NAACP, it appears, is standing behind Dolezal. They issued a statement that read, in part, “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.”

Here’s the thing – I, to paraphrase Ms. Dolezal, don’t give two shits how she self-identifies racially…or any other way. I do think her dedication to civil rights and her efforts on behalf of the black community are commendable. What I do have an issue with is someone taking on the persona of being oppressed when they haven’t actually been oppressed.

Apparently, we’re reaching a point in our culture where you don’t actually have to be something, you simply have to self-identify with something. That’s all it takes.

In 2013, California passed a law allowing students to use the bathroom of their choice, depending on how they self-identified their own gender. In other words, a biological male who identifies as a female would be legally permitted to use the female bathrooms or locker rooms. Likewise, a biological female who identifies as a male could use the male bathroom or locker room.

Bruce Caitlyn Jenner self-identifies as a female now. As does convicted traitor Chelsea Manning, the prisoner formerly known as Bradley.

Not to sound like the old guy in the room, but when I was coming up, we called people who self-identified as something other than what they actually are posers, fakers, delusional, or confused. Maybe I’m just old school (or maybe I just self-identify as old school…it’s so hard to tell these days).

But here’s the thing, if the only criteria to be something is to say you are something, even in the face of such once undeniable qualities like skin color and type of genitalia, then everything else should be on the table, too.

I don’t qualify for this loan? That’s cute. You see, Mr. Banker, although my credit score is a dismal 300, I actually self-identify as a guy with really exceptional credit. So, why don’t you scurry away and get my check?

Tim Kennedy, I know you are a professional fighter and a former Special Forces commando, but before you come after me for talking shit about you online, I should warn you…I self-identify as a professional motherfucking bad ass of biblical proportions, not as the middle-aged, balding married guy that I appear to be to the rest of the world. My self-identified self will kick the ever-living shit out of you, so think it through.

If self-identity is enough, what is the purpose of working hard or overcoming difficulties? I’m a smart guy who writes well enough to get an article or two in the Rhino Den – why finish graduate school. I can just self-identify as guy with a graduate degree and save myself thousands of dollars and a lot of work writing papers.

Realistically, we can just do away with programs like Affirmative Action and minority hiring. College and job applicants need only self-identify as white, heterosexual men for a few short minutes – about the time it takes to complete the application and the interview process. Problem solved.

There will be some downsides, of course. Hate crimes are a thing of the past. The homophobic redneck that beats the shit out of the poor gay kid who was just minding his business will simply have to tell the judge he self-identifies as a gay kid and, just like that, no more hate crime.

The burglar who gets caught breaking into your house would merely tell the arresting officers that he self-identifies as a family member and a resident of the home and those handcuffs will just magically fall off.

2013-12_LT-WalterMitty1Am I getting through to anyone? This place we live…it’s a place called real life. As much as we’d all love to live in some magical world where you can be Walter Mitty binge drinking apple pie moonshine and eating psilocybin mushrooms so you can wish all your problems and shortcomings away, that just isn’t reality.

There are some things you can do. Are you ready? This is the part of the article where I unveil the secret… If you don’t like your lot in life, work hard and see how much your luck can change. And guess what? Even that brings ZERO guarantees with it.

The valedictorian of my high school class immigrated to the United States with his family from China five or six years before we graduated. He spoke NO ENGLISH. Through hard work, studying, and some innate (or parent enforced) ability to not feel sorry for himself and quit, he went from ESOL, to remedial English, to regular English, to Honors English, to AP English. He graduated with a higher GPA than any of his American-born peers.

He didn’t pull this off by walking into the school office one day and declaring that he wanted to self-identify as the class valedictorian. He did it by working his ass off and putting in more effort than most of his peers had to put in.

Rachel Dolezal holds a Master’s degree from Howard University and has taught African History, African American Art History, and African American Culture at the university level. She has a litany of accolades on her resume for work she has done on behalf of the black community. She is, by every metric, a dedicated and fearless advocate for equality.

She didn’t have to lie. She didn’t have to “self-identify” herself as someone she is not and claim the struggle of people who have, and continue to, struggle for the American dream. She cheapened and squandered all of her hard earned accomplishments because she had to be something she was not.

You may disagree with my ideas or you may think I am an asshole. You might be right. You might be wrong. What I do know is that it won’t be because I self-identified as something that I am not.



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