As Rachel Dolezal's story unravels on- and offline, the Internet has followed suit with questions of its own. In a recent interview, Dolezal's parents said they're "both of Caucasian and European descent," and their now 37-year-old daughter -- the president of Spokane's NAACP chapter -- has been pretending to be black for the last decade.
On Twitter today, several hashtags about Rachel were trending, including #transracial - a term that some users seemed to define as the idea that a person could be born as one race but assume another racial identity. The term -- and the online conversation around it -- was discussed in tandem with Caitlyn Jenner's gender.
Here's the thing: The conversation around being "transracial," which has manifested in comparisons and memes like these, is transphobia and racism operating under the guise of a philosophical conversation.
This Comparison Harms Black People
If what her parents say is true, Rachel Dolezal assumed a race that wasn't her own, as well as, in the words of one Twitter user, "an oppression that wasn't hers":
Others elaborated on what this oppression looks like:
This Comparison Harms Transgender People
According to her parents, Rachel Dolezal was born a white woman. If this is true, she'll always be a white woman, and therefore will never live the experience of a black American. Caitlyn Jenner, on the other hand, has always been a woman. Simply put: Rachel has (allegedly) been pretending to be a black woman for years -- Caitlyn isn't pretending to be a woman because she's always been one.
This is yet another example of a growing and troubling trend -- using memes as way of spreading transphobia. We saw this recently in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover and the announcement that she would be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYs. Unsurprisingly, these memes were founded in lies and bias against transgender people.
Thankfully, it seems some people are speaking out against these untrue, unfair and unnecessary comparisons:
In short, don't be mislead: equating Rachel to Caitlyn is harm operating as healthy debate.