The more fundamental problem–the one at the root of this and every one of the many identity crises infecting our cultural moment–is that so many young people have absorbed a way of thinking about themselves and reality best identified as “expressive individualism.” For years, they’ve heard that the world is whatever they decide and make of it, that their bodies are plastic and do not govern who or what they are, and that what is most true about themselves and the world is how they feel on the inside. Why wouldn’t they assume that one day they could wake up with the eyelids they really, really want?
Last month, an article published on NBC described “[p]ractitioners of ‘race change to another,’ or RCTA,” which refers to people who “purport to be able to manifest physical changes in their appearance and even their genetics to truly become a different race.” Interviewed for the article were teenagers who are enamored with Japanese and Korean cultures and who have become convinced that, by listening to subliminal messages while they sleep, they will eventually wake up with Asian characteristics, such as eyes with an epicanthic fold.
Even more unbelievable than the idea that subliminal messaging can alter a person’s genetics was the attempt at ethical analysis by journalist Emi Tuyetnhi Tran. According to Tran, RCTA is wrong, but not because those with the delusion entertain desires that will never become reality. Instead, RCTA is wrong because of inequality:
Experts agree race is not genetic. But they contend that even though race is a cultural construct, it is impossible to change your race because of the systemic inequalities inherent to being born into a certain race.
In other words, young people with this particular identity crisis should not be told what they desire is impossible due to the constraints of physical reality, but that they are violating certain social theories. What Tran fails to explain is that if race is merely a social construct as gender is now understood to be, why is appropriating a different gender identity acceptable but not a different racial identity? On what grounds should we, for example, oppose the actions of someone like Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who became leader of a local NAACP chapter?
In fact, though there are physical distinctions between races, the physical differences between the sexes are far more profound. Nineteenth-century ideas of divinely ordained, distinct races that ought not be “mixed” was rooted in dangerous, racist nonsense that can neither be supported biblically or biologically.