This week the Australian media reported the story of a woman who resigned from the prestigious U.S. black activist organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), when it was revealed that her claim to be of African American descent was false. Rachel Dolezal, 37, resigned as president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP. Former colleagues denounced Dolezal’s deception.
Some conservatives argue that Dolezal committed a “victimhood swindle” facilitated by the political left changing its civil rights agenda in the 1970s to save alleged victims of discrimination.[i] This is partly true but overlooks another important strategy adopted by the cosmopolitan left, which involved allying with ethnic minorities against white majorities to install multiculturalism and the institutional edifice erected to that end.
Dolezal’s career is a case of the “wages of blackness”, multiple benefits flowing from her (claimed) racial identity. The case contradicts the mainstream academic theory that the “wages of whiteness” – benefiting from having a white identity – enjoy a unique position in the U.S. and other white-majority countries, that non-white ethnic groups’ ethnocentrism pays no dividends. Posted at the end of this comment is a previous discussion of this ethnocentric academic ideology, which has spread to Australian universities.
Dolezal’s claim to be partly African-American by descent brought numerous benefits. She enrolled at the historically black Howard University claiming to be African American, where she received a full scholarship. She then built her career as an activist for the black community.[ii] Dolezal was hired as a weekly columnist for a Spokane newspaper. She also served as a mediator for the city’s police force.
The wages-of-whiteness narrative is true as far as it goes because people can benefit from passing for white. However, unlike the Dolezal case the benefits do not come from a racial-activist system. All ethnic groups show patterns of informal discrimination, as evidenced by people clustering by ethnicity in choice of friends, business partners and spouses. The resulting boundaries are real but blurred. This is “implicit” ethnicity, argues evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald. This contrasts with “explicit” ethnicity in which a person deliberately pursues goals based on a conscious ethnic identity, generating group boundaries that are sharper, often due to formal processes.
So someone who passes for white, consciously or not, can gain greater entrance to white society, with benefits accruing from implicit discrimination. Dolezal’s wages were much greater because she profited from explicit ethnicity. By passing for black she bypassed multiple racial barriers set up by the Black Ethnic Infrastructure to benefit black people. This difference is a normal part of multiculturalism. Minorities are licensed by the multicultural state and by supportive elites in the media and universities to organise for ethnic interests, which is to say explicitly discriminate. But whites are not permitted to do the same. Attempts to do so are punished by attacks on their reputation and often their jobs by the media and by powerful leftist and minority-activist bodies that proliferate in the U.S. and other Western societies – the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, the ADL, and many others, in addition to taxpayer-funded activist academics. That is the sharp edge of multiculturalism, where the subordination of white people becomes all too obvious.
Implicit whiteness pays casual wages, but the big pay offs come from explicit ethnicity, monopolised by the left on behalf of minorities.
(The following paragraphs are quoted from Salter, F. K. (2014). The war against human nature in Australia’s political culture: Collected essays. Sydney, Kindle, originally published in Quadrant magazine.[iii])
“An extreme example of the politicisation of the field of ethnic studies is the school of “whiteness studies”. This began with a Marxist thesis developed in the well-known book The Wages of Whiteness (1999) by American historian David Roediger. The thesis is that belonging to the white race brings unearned social and economic advantages. This is perhaps the theoretical basis for the claim that Anglo Australians are privileged. Australia has its own academic whiteness studies association, The Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association (ACRAWSA),[iv] whose goal is to “[c]ritically investigate and challenge racial privilege and the construction and maintenance of race and whiteness . . .”. A political agenda is evident in the failure to generalise the thesis. Do not members of other ethnicities and races benefit from group membership? Are there not wages of blackness or of Chineseness? Why are there only benefits for whites and disadvantages for non-whites? The school does not attempt to assess the costs of whiteness, such as affirmative action, at a time when the white man’s burden weighs heavily upon him. White societies around the world are in steep demographic and economic decline, a fact not easy to reconcile with the unchanging white hegemony alleged in whiteness studies. The sole emphasis on white privilege, in a diverse world in which that race is in headlong retreat, is difficult to distinguish from racial animus.
“Another analytical flaw is the school’s dogma that race is a social construct, that it has no objective existence. The notion is found throughout the social sciences and humanities. Also absent from whiteness studies is the concept of ethnic interests, a recurring deficiency of contemporary ethnic studies.”
[i] Janet Albrechtsen, “Victimhood has become the new black”, The Australian, 17 June 2015, p. 12. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/victimhood-has-become-the-new-black/story-e6frg7bo-1227401116133
[ii] “‘I definitely am not white,’ says Dolezal”, AFP. The Australian, 18 June 2015, p. 11.
“Activist who faked being black quits top US civil rights group”, AP. The Australian, 17 June 2015, p. 10.
[iii] Salter, F. K. (2012). “The war against human nature III-2: Australia and the national question, part II: Race and the nation in the universities.” Quadrant 56(11 (491)): 36-44.