Many years ago, I mentioned in conversation that American blacks tended to gravitate towards the left end of the political spectrum.
“They are left-wing because they are black,” explained my interlocutor, an eccentrically dressed and perfectly spoken English gentleman.
“I’m afraid you’ve got it the wrong way around,” I said, sensing an irresistible opening for a good line. “They are black because they are left-wing.”
That joke effectively stopped the conversation, but I was actually half-serious. Race in the USA had long since moved from the domain of biology into that of ideology. North of the Mason-Dixon line at least, American blacks at that time could already choose how black they wished to be, if at all.
Those who chose to be just like their white neighbours could do so without meeting any resistance, least of all from me. I was aware that my black friend Clarence looked different from me, but then so did my friend Greg who was white. It made no difference one way or the other.
If, on the other hand, they chose to build their whole behaviour, thinking and indeed personalities around their race, then they usually had to go the whole hog (unless they joined the Black Muslims who had strong ideas about hogs). Such a commitment almost invariably included left-wing political convictions, however they were manifested.
A black man who accentuated the plastic and phonetic mannerisms normally associated with his race could have been confidently expected to be pro feminism, homosexual marriage, gun control, welfare, free medical care, free everything as a matter of fact, pacifism – the lot.
Those who refused to be stereotyped, choosing instead to accentuate their humanity rather than their race, had unpredictable politics, just like everybody else. They could be left, right or centre, and one didn’t know which it was until one talked to them.
The former group, it has to be said, was bigger than the latter, and it grew much faster. There were all sorts of inducements to encourage that process, from the ready availability of various social benefits to what the Americans call affirmative action (reverse discrimination).
When I arrived in Britain almost 30 years ago, I found a different situation: most black people I met were what ideological blacks in America called ‘Uncle Tom’, and their less numerous British counterparts contemptuously described as ‘Bounty’ (black on the outside, white on the inside). In other words they saw themselves and were seen by others as no different from anybody else.
That situation began to change when the Britons began to import the American subculture of political correctness, as they tend to import most shoddy American goods. Race was beginning to be debiologised and ideologised – just like in America.
This was brilliantly sent-up by the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen who created the character of Ali G, a black rapper wearing the appropriate clobber and speaking the rude-boy slang. In that capacity, he conducted nonsensical interviews with all sorts of worthies who – amazingly – were perfectly willing to accept him as a black.
Apart from his beard and clothes, the comedian made no changes to his appearance, and to anyone with functioning eyesight he looked unmistakably white. Or he would have done had race remained purely biological. Since it had already become an ideological statement, anyone was black if he identified himself as such – just like anyone is a socialist if he says he is.
Still, Ali G was just a comedy act. Mankind still eagerly awaited a serious precedent of a white person claiming negritude for ideological reasons. I know I did, simply because I like my observations to be proved empirically.
That’s why I’m deeply grateful to Rachel Dolezal, the white NAACP leader who for years misrepresented herself as black not only in casual socialising but even in official documents. To keep the white cat in the bag, Rachel even broke up with her offensively white parents, whom she hasn’t seen in years.
When a scandal broke out, my new friend Rachel was defiant in the face of adversity. “I don’t give two s***s what you guys think,” she said. “I still consider myself black.”
Thank you, Rachel, for proving that my bon mot of 30 years ago was a factual statement, rather than just a weak attempt at humour. And down with the local US authorities who are threatening prosecution. Instead they should give Rachel a medal or, better still, the Nobel Prize.
She has disproved the biological nature of race, a fallacy to which both scientists and the public at large have been clinging for millennia. Rachel has also vindicated Darwin, for race undeniably used to be defined strictly in biological terms. That it no longer is vindicates the theory of evolution more decisively than anything else has managed to do it so far.
I’m only sorry she made the experiment slightly impure by dying her fair hair black, frizzing it, and speaking with a phoney black accent, as widely heard in the NAACP good offices. People should be taking her at her word, with no camouflage necessary.
For my part, I can only cheer this trailblazer on. Rachel, you’re my main woman. Right on, sister – the blacker the berry, the sweeter the fruit. Black’s beautiful, baby.