Naturally the core of the debate has been about the question of what gets to determine identity? Some have insisted it should be on the basis of biology; even some of the people that admit that genetics has very little relationship to what we (in our culture) actually define as "race" (or "gender", or "sexual orientation") still feel that this is somehow the only 'logical' determinant.
Others feel that in the case of race, it should be skin colour that determines identity.
Still others try to argue that it should be culture.
But there are some very good reasons why none of these actually make the best determinant, and what we're left with is individual self-determination.
Let's use race as our case study, because that's at the heart of the Dolezal story:
There have been cases of fraternal twins of biracial couples (or just plain siblings) where one comes out looking every bit as blonde as Rachel Dolezal used to, and the other black-skinned.
If you judge by skin colour then only one of those two would be black.
If you judge by genetics, then they're both black but an adopted sibling that didn't have black parents wouldn't be.
If you judge by upbringing then the black child raised from infancy by a Dutch couple would not be black.
If a white kid was adopted by black parents as a baby, raised by them, and felt he identified as black, would he not be black?
And, conversely: let's say a child was BORN of black parents, but with skin so white as to 'pass' as completely caucasian. He identifies as black.
If the first kid is "not black", wouldn't the second also be "not black"?
As to what any of this might have to do with me: I'm half-latino, but you'd never know it to look at me. I have blue eyes and my skin is whiter than some vampires. Does that make me "not latino"?
If I am latino anyways in spite of the colour of my skin, is it just by virtue of my birth? Or is it because I was raised by a latino mother with hispanic cultural elements, language, and values?
If the former, does that mean that someone who was adopted right after birth, is latino but doesn't 'look it', and was raised by white German-descended Americans who raised him to 'hate mexicans' would also still be latino? Even if he in no way identified with the culture, didn't know the language, doesn't have the slightest clue of his real ancestry, and despised the people?
Or, if some other pale-skinned boy with no latino history lived in a latino neighbourhood, spoke fluent Spanish with the particular dialect of the people around him, knew all the customs, and spent 15 years of his adult life working for social causes on their behalf, would that make him Still Not A Latino, even though he's culturally WAY more latino than Minuteman-Border-Patrol Lad and probably "more latino" than I am in spite of my genetics and the fact I live in a South American country?
The problem with all this reasoning is that by any standard other than self-defining identity, you're going to end up saying to some people that they're Not This Race who would be absolutely indistinguishable in every other respect from people you arbitrarily decide do count.
Self-identification is the only way that makes sense here. And the fear that this will lead to a bunch of 'fakers' that will be just 'pretending' to be a race they aren't for some sort of nefarious purpose seems to me about as unfounded and hateful as the 'fears' some fundamentalists expressed about how transgender rights would lead to "perverts cross-dressing to get to go into women's changing rooms".
The real reason a lot of the identity-politics Left and the religious Right are so determined to find some criteria other than self-determination is because they are Collectivists. They want to get to control Identity as a way to control people: to say "you don't belong to this group" or "you get to be a special protected group" (which they must then prevent the 'wrong' people from 'appropriating') or "this group gets to be X while the other gets to be Y" as a measure of social control. It's the same from left OR right; whether it's about controlling gender to control sex in order to control people, or whether its about keeping women 'in their place' or whether it's about having a 'narrative' that attacks certain collective-defined groups by painting other collective-defined groups as Perpetual Victims. In ALL cases, letting people get to define their own identity fucks up the agenda.
Which is, of course, pretty much the best argument for why we should do exactly that.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake