Both race and gender are social constructs that have devastating consequences for the oppressed. That is where the similarity ends.
The mistake of gender is that everyone assumes the presence of a single chromosome or definitive genitals determines if you wear pink or blue, if you are a giver or a receiver, if you bring home the bacon or if you cook it, to put it very simply. Gender is a performance. All it takes to be a gender is to identify as such. Gender is made up as we go along.
Race in America is determined by where you came from. Your race is determined where your ancestors came from, how they came to America, and what happened to them once they got here. It is impossible to adopt another race for that reason. Race was determined the first time anyone of different skin tones and different cultures ever met one another. Race is not a performance. Race is something you are born into and it will never leave you. Your race was determined way before you were born.
We can, and we should, unlearn the mistake of gender. We can never erase race, or the problems created from racism.
You can be black and not be a part of black culture, but you are still black. You will always have to deal with the implications of that. You can be white and dress and talk like you’re a person of color, but you’re still white. And you still carry within you the history of colonisation, institutional racism, and privilege–whether or not you want to. When a POC pretends to be white, it is because they accept white supremacy into their hearts and want to be free from oppression. When a white person wants so bad to be a POC, it is because they want to be cool and exotic, right up to wanting to feel oppressed in a world where so many other groups get to use that word, but white people “can’t”.
It’s not mental illness. It’s not the same as being transgender. It’s not revolutionary, nor is Dolezal’s case particularly new. It’s another form of cultural appropriation.