Faking Standpoint: Rachel Dolezal, Andrea Smith, and Ward Churchill

Why do some whites feel the need to claim marginal status in order to advocate for the marginalized?  Can it actually be called advocacy if one elides the reality of difference?

As someone who was born and raised white in a predominantly white community (except high school), I would never be able to say that I have experienced the receiving-end of institutional racism.  I have never had any experience where the police felt threatened by my presence.  I have never been labelled as “dumb” or “stupid” for my language usage because I was raised into the Midwestern dialect of white, educated English.  So I might be able to say I sympathize with African Americans and Native Americans, or that I “understand” racism, but I will never “get it” in the sense that I have never lived it.  I might understand and theorize the phenomenon of racism, and I’ve certainly been touched by the effects of it, but I have never had my life determined by it.  Thus, I can’t truly experience that standpoint, I don’t think.

So, if I did try claiming such experiences that I’ve never had…wouldn’t that cheapen the lives of those who have been there?  Can advocacy be authentic if it involves deception?

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