I am still thinking about the story of Ms. Rachel Dolezal, the now former NAACP president in Spokane, Washington as the details continue to unfold as well as our understanding of her choice to self- identify as an African American. Her choice is confusing for some and angering for others due to the history of passing in America, wherein persons who were of both African and European descent chose to pass as “white” in order to receive its social benefits and avoid the social punishments of being “black.” Ms. Dolezal’s story is different because she is not bi- cultural but pretended to be “black,” attending Howard University on a full scholarship, teaching Africana studies, changing her hair and appearance.
Dolezal also created a different family of origin as evidenced in an interview that begins with reported hate crimes committed against her and her sons. We all know that her parents have since “outed” her as a European American. Most have seen the side- by- side comparison pictures of her as European American and now African American.
It has been considered an “exercise in white privilege” and a “race ruse.” She is now a trending topic, a hash tag and a part of a continuing conversation on being a “black” woman in America or perhaps, on not being a “black” woman. Ms. Dolezal’s ability to fake a race (for whatever her reasons) has got a lot of people thinking about the meaning of race and the construction of one’s social identity. Below is a video clip of one such discussion.