Identity has always been a fascinating subject for me because, I now realize, I had such a hard time constructing one in my youth and maintaining a sense of identity through the course of my life. But I’ve always been blessed with some core sense of who I am, some basic center, which has allowed me to function well though often with self-doubt and insecurity.
A Spokane, Washington woman has just made the news with her parents exposing her duplicity of passing herself off as a black woman for years even though she is white. With her dark complexion and hair style, she has adopted “black-ness” for decades and achieved some prominence in the Afro-American community. (http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/rachel-dolezal-tried-really-hard-be-black-why?sc=fb)
This is just a fascinating story and I’m so curious about what motivated her to perpetuate this ruse when there was so much she could have done for the Afro-American cause as the intelligent Caucasian woman that she is. But she had some deep-seated need to be “black” and that this ruse has been exposed, I’m concerned for her. All of our identities are a pose in some sense and to have them suddenly torn from us, to be exposed, is to open us up to the nakedness that underlies our persona.
W. H. Auden had the following to say regarding the illusionary dimension of identity. In this poem a father is speaking to his young son:
I wish you first a sense of theater.
Only those who know illusion
And love it will go far.
Otherwise, we spend our lives in confusion
Of what to say and do with who we really are.
AFTER THOUGHT—A new development in this story answers all questions about this matter. The family now reports that Rachel had four adopted Afro-American siblings while growing up.