OPINION: Stop Comparing Rachel Dolezal to Caitlyn Jenner

If I see one more post on Facebook comparing Rachel Dolezal to Caitlyn Jenner, I’m going to scream.

It is the most absurd, socially unaware juxtaposition that can possibly be made for a variety of reasons and shows that American culture has still got a long way to go so far as fully understanding how the media, sexuality, race, and pure opportunistic behavior all interplay. In short, there is no comparison.

To suggest that Dolezal “came out” as black, or “came out” as white (depending on how you see it), is a straight-up slap in the face to those people of color who have had to struggle one way or another with racial prejudice. Keep in mind that Dolezal is the same woman who sued Howard University back in 2002 as a white woman. The New York Times summarizes it best:

“In 2002, Ms. Dolezal received a master of fine arts degree from Howard University, the historically black school in Washington, D.C. That same year, a woman named Rachel Moore, Ms. Dolezal’s married name at the time, filed a lawsuit against Howard, first reported Monday by The Smoking Gun, saying that as a graduate student there she had faced discrimination based on her gender, her pregnancy and her race — white.”

As a very good friend of mine, who has been in higher education administration for over 25 years, said in a candid conversation with me, “She says she’s transracial. I say she is an opportunist who uses race as a means to advance her cause. She certainly was white when she filed a discrimination suit against Howard University!”

Furthermore, you can say whatever you want about Caitlyn Jenner and her notorious Vanity Fair spread: Yes, Jenner has (a lot) of privilege, but coming out as a trans woman is absolutely not the same as coming out as “transracial.”

The national conversation about Jenner is, to be frank, a double-edged sword: There’s a level of awareness about trans health, about trans visibility, but there’s also a lot of misconceptions floating around about the whole notion of being trans-anything. It appears that Dolezal has seized the opportunity that the media has created to justify her behavior, creating something of a reverse minstrel show of sorts.

And it’s a damn shame, too: There are a lot more pressing matters surrounding race and gender in this country than determining whether or not Dolezal has been parading around as a person of color for years or how Jenner is going to present herself on her new reality show. It’s all a facade from dealing with the real issues.

But so long as Vanity Fair exists and The Today Show wants to eat this stuff up, we’ll be stuck dealing with the aftermath.