Hypatia, Rachel Dolezal, and Transracialism

On April 30th, 2017, a Facebook post, authored by Cressida Hayes, was submitted as a public apology for an essay posted on Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy. The article was written by Rebecca Tuvel, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis. The apology addressed uproar from the left involving yet another buzzword: “transracialism”. In her essay, Tuvel likens the philosophy and explanation of transgenderism to transracialism, which is the belief that one can transition races so long as one can identifies as the other. Tuvel mentions a case in Spokane, WA where Rachel Dolezal, a local NAACP leader, had her true ethnicity exposed as a Caucasian woman; however, Dolezal claims to identify as an African American woman. The result of Tuvel’s essay: a crisis in identity for the left.

As you may have figured by now, this case required the left to make a tough decision. They could either continue to recognize any and everyone’s “identity” and accept transracialism or denounce the idea and set a dangerous precedent on which groups would be eligible to be accepted as real. Uproar ensued. A petition was created to lobby Hypatia for the removal of the essay which gained more than five hundred signatures from readers and professors. Essay after essay was written condemning her work and Tuvel’s essay was written off as enacting hatred and violence (yes, you read that correctly).

In reality, Tuvel’s piece was not rooted in hatred or prejudice against the transgender community or black people. Just read it. In fact, her thesis is summarized by the statement: “Considerations that support transgenderism seem to apply equally to transracialism,”. Tuvel is open to the idea of transracialism because she accepts the idea of transgenderism. She is member of the left, she is an advocate for individuals being able to select their identity, rather than be burdened with default facts like gender and ethnicity. Tuvel creates an argument that is supported and easily understandable and, most importantly, one that warrants consideration. However, in order to comprehend this, one must read the essay. This is where the self-destruct begins and understanding ends.

The letter comprised of more than five hundred signatures and revolved around four main complaints with the composition of her essay. One of the main issues is the unaccepted vocabulary and conventions used in the essay. An example was given mentioning the “deadnaming” of Bruce Jenner and misusing the language of transgenderism. In a world full of buzzwords and political correctness, “proper” diction is hard to come by. Even so, Tuvel utilizes multiple phrases like white privilege, male privilege, and others to relay her points. It is a bit of a stretch for a journal that requires two anonymous editors (professors and other experts) educated in transgender and race theory to pass an article full of hate speech and racist comments along to be published. It was later confirmed that the article did indeed clear the editing procedure described above. To take it a step further, an author is not obligated to use language that is trigger-free and so politically correct that the point and purpose of the article is obscured. Imagine if some of the greatest works of all time (Things Fall Apart, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Heart of Darkness, etc.) were continued to be rejected based on diction and phrasing. The same can be said for not precisely following transgender vocabulary as Tuvel was accused for despite several peer reviews from professionals in their field. The point is her essay was comprehendible. Any complaint about diction being incorrect was a reflection of her writing, which was sufficient to have passed the required two editors, not her argumentation.

Tuvel’s case is one of many happening across the nation that explicitly shows the methods used in order to achieve an end employed by the left. Armed with an arsenal of buzzwords, basic logic and reason has been displaced with equality of outcome and feelings. It seems this is now true even when a person is from the same side of the aisle. It signals that now that the rational discussion of principles and ideals isn’t acceptable if you threaten the agenda of the left. If Tuvel’s referring to biological sex in good faith while writing a scholarly essay means enacting violence and hatred to you, you’re not concerned about the truth or the discussion, but enforcing the party line. It is inevitable that more cases similar to Tuvel’s will be occur, the question is whether a line will be drawn or the allowance of threats to rights and values will continue. Now more than ever, the importance of staying true to your values and protecting your freedoms is paramount.


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