Who gives you permission to choose your ethnic identity? What a great opportunity Ms. Rachel Dolezal gives me to explore my thoughts about this question. If you are an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) or an adolescent TCK*you’ve acquired at least two ethnicities.
If you grew up in a group different than your own race and/or ethnic group, chances are you, too, can easily fall into the language, inflections and gestures of those you are close to within that community. Racially white Ms. Dolezal chooses and has successfully been living as a black woman. For years I moved seamlessly within a Jewish temple community as my children became bar and bat mitzvah even though I did not convert to Judaism. People in the community knew I was not Jewish. I was an accepted member of the community and was chairperson of the education committee. There were lines I chose not cross so as not to offend religious precepts of people I respect and love.
Similar experiences have offered me the opportunity to be Mexican, Mexican-American, someone from Northern Michigan and a native Californian. I’ve had the honor of being in positions where people who participate in only one of those ethnicities do not treat me as an outsider. I am very careful not to misuse this license in any way. When relationships begin and are to be more than very short lived, I am fully open about how I have the knowledge and abilities that belie my appearance of a Caucasian California USian.
Each of us has the right to choose to live as fully as we can within the groups where we feel at home. Skin color, childhood and parentage are not the only qualifiers.
*A child who spent a significant amount of time during developmental years in a country other than their passport country.