Guest Post: Rachel Dolezal's Argument That She's Black Is Perfectly Logical

From Intellectual Takeout, by Martin Cothran

The gist of the article is that if gender is a social construct, so is race.
The article is pretty short, so it won't take much of your time.

April 24, Addendum. In case anyone reads this

The author posited an interesting theory about racial and sexual identity, but turned out to be wrong about both.

In the case of racial identity, the evidence we have indicates that Rachel Dolezal is not a White woman who thinks she was born into the wrong race but someone who appears to have simply changed her appearance and identity for career reasons. That, as Ron Powell points out in the thread, makes the comparison intrinsically invalid.

In the case of sexual identity, gender turns out not to be a social construct but a physical characteristic that shows up in brain scans. Thanks to Safe Bet's Amy and Anna Harrington for providing that information, to Amy in particular for providing a link to multiple studies on the subject.

I am leaving the post up not because it has any validity but because the thread contains good counter arguments in case you ever have use of them.

Views: 349

Comment by Ron Powell on April 9, 2017 at 7:48am

"A deductive argument is sound if and only if it is both valid, and all of its premises are actually true. Otherwise, a deductive argument is unsound.

It is important to stress that the premises of an argument do not have actually to be true in order for the argument to be valid. An argument is valid if the premises and conclusion are related to each other in the right way so that if the premises were true, then the conclusion would have to be true as well."

The problem with the 'logic' here is that it is based on the false assumption that race and gender are genetically, psychologically, socially , culturally, politically, and historically equivalent. Which they clearly are not and never have been.

The fact that the 'logic' is predicated on a false equivalency can yield nothing more than a false conclusion.

It is a well settled understanding that while the structure of an argument may be valid, if any of the premises are false, then the conclusion must also be false. (See link sbove.)

Rachel Dolezal lied about both who and what she is. She knew that the assertions she made about herself were false, and made them with the intention to deceive.

What she did and the way she did it was unethical and fraudulent.

Her removal from her position with the NAACP could have, and probably should have, resulted in criminal prosecution for larceny by deception.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 9, 2017 at 7:58am

That's true if she didn't actually identify as Black. But what if she did? 

How is it a false equivalency? I think Cothran is right that gender is more fundamental to identity than race is because the concept of race from a biological standpoint is somewhat arbitrary and fluid but the concept of sex is way less ambiguous. 

The question is whether we're looking at straight fraud or if we're actually looking at an identity issue. If you have evidence that it's straight fraud, Cothran's case becomes invalid. The case depends on identification. 

There are cases where identification isn't enough or shouldn't be. For example, there was a recent case where a transgender female won a national sports championship by virtue of the physical advantage of having been male. (Such advantages exist.) I would say her participation should not have been permitted any more than steroid use should be. 

Or take the American Presidency. There is a birth requirement - it is not based on identification. Should the chairmanship (?) of the NAACP be evaluated on the same basis? 

Can identification be established by adoption? If Dolezal had been adopted as an infant by Black parents, would she be Black?

I have an easier time with this case than you do because I come from a weird ethnicity that can be joined by conversion, but most ethnicities have no such mechanism, which I get. 

So, does it matter whether Dolezal genuinely identified as Black and, if so, how is that less valid than transgenderism? 

Put another way, is there or should there be a concept of transracialism?

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on April 9, 2017 at 8:10am

KS, you are completely neglecting that there are distinct physical differences between male and female brains and that many (most???) transgender individuals exhibit the differences that align with their identified gender.  

Ms. Dolezal can SAY "gender is a social construct", but that doesn't make it true.

Comment by Birdinhand on April 9, 2017 at 8:14am

I think it's funny when people take so much time and effort to tell us we are all the same in our notable differences.

Slow day at the water cooler.

Comment by Anna Herrington on April 9, 2017 at 8:21am

This is being bantered around all over the place, but the arguments against this kind of leap are valid, imho.

The points I've understood/researched include that Ms. Dolezal made an active choice to align herself with the race she identifies with after living life and actively identifying with the black race, she wasn't 'born that way,' while trans-people do not make any active choice, they are born wired differently. They are born with the dysmorphia that is listed in medical journals and has undergone multitudes of medical/scientific research.

There is more and more evidence among neurological-specific studies, too, showing that the brain is wired differently in all systems in trans-gendered people than cis-people, gender identity is a biological phenomenon, not a social construct at all.

Rachel Dolezal is making a choice.

Future medical research may come up differently if Ms. Dolezal - the *one* person (I know of) coming forward with 'race dysmorphia' wants to be studied - but that is the scientific differences verifiable in neurological/biological and other medical studies, one/trans-gender identity is biological/born that way, one is active choice in aligning themselves in cultural/social construct.

The scientific/biological differences are crucial for the trans-community as there are plenty of conservatives/religious who would like nothing more than for trans-gendered people to be labeled as just mentally ill -- and articles like this one are, frankly, dangerous to those trans-gendered humans who have verifiable biological differences that make them trans-.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 9, 2017 at 8:26am


I was unaware that there was an objectively observable difference in those who identified male and female in any cases, but that leaves some questions and leads to others. Does that mean we should differ in how we treat transgender individuals with obviously predisposed brains and those without? For those without, are we dealing with a social construct?

Should there be a test for insurance companies for predisposed brains in terms of any assistance with corrective surgery? Would the military owe Pvt. Manning assistance if she did not have such a brain?

And where do non-gendered individuals fall in your classification?

Comment by Ron Powell on April 9, 2017 at 8:31am

@Anna; Extremely well stated...

I agree with your analysis and assessment without reservation.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on April 9, 2017 at 8:46am

Here.  Knock yourself out with dozens of studies (Hint:  they all identify differences between trangender brain functions/physiology.

That is why I TOTALLY agree with Anna.  As soon as Ms. Dolezal has some proof backing her up, I'll consider it.  Till then ...  not so much.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 9, 2017 at 8:50am


Let's assume that neural differences do not constitute mental illness. If we have to go deeper into the differentiation between mental illness and neural differences, we can do so in terms of specific disfunctionality or perhaps even curability. For example: kleptomania is disfunctional. ADHD, which I have, is disfunctional. Bipolar disorder is disfunctional. Transgenderism can be essentially corrected by aligning gender and sex. 

Do we know at this point if gender identity is universally a biological phenomenon? It would make sense for it to be, but Amy implied that it wasn't to her knowledge. I'm unfamiliar with this whole line of research results so I'm taking it as it comes in this thread. I would assume a biological predisposition in the same way that I assume a biological predisposition for homosexuality, because nothing else makes sense.

Maybe I should pose the question differently: Do we know at this point if gender identity is universally an Observable biological phenomenon? Which also means I should correct my assessment of Amy's implication: Amy implied that gender identity wasn't universally an observable biological phenomenon, through means of such tools as a brain scan. I think we would both assume it's a biological phenomenon. 

But where does this means Donezal fits? I very much doubt she would argue that her identification is a choice per se. If it is a choice, case closed - it's fraud. I think the case depends on some sort of psychological evaluation of Donezal. She's such an unusual case that I doubt there's a whole lot of research in this area but, them again, my knowledge of research is obviously not very good in this area. 

Which also leaves me with the last question from my previous comment, which no one has had time to address before I write this. 


Comment by koshersalaami on April 9, 2017 at 8:58am


I'm not denying the existence of studies. If anything, I'm asking about them. You and Anna may have answered my question. And Cothran's. 

See above:

"if gender is a social construct, so is race"

Your answer is:

Gender is not a social construct, it's a biological construct. 

If there is nothing biological going on with Donezal, case closed. Thank you. 

I'm not making a case here, I'm exploring one. If the result is that this thread conclusively refutes Cothran, that's great. Research leads where it leads. 

Does anyone know if evidence was presented that there is anything biological going on with Donezal?


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