Rachel Dolezal

I’m still trying to make sense of Rachel Dolezal, a woman who identifies as black,* but whose parents claim/revealed that she’s white. Beyond the basic case of what appears to be a white woman passing for black, to say that there is a complicated and probably deeply unhappy family story in the background of all of this would be an understatement.

Yet, no one is interested in that story. It’s the story of a white woman choosing to pass for black. I kind of wish I was teaching cultural studies this summer so we could discuss the case in the context of race theory. Daniel J. Sharfstein at the NYTimes Magazine wades into the history of passing, both blacks for white and whites for black. It’s well worth the read.

*I have trouble with this phrase, although it is one Dolezal uses. Race and gender are social constructions, but I find using the language transgender people use for identification as one gender or another problematic here, although I don’t think Dolezal would call her sense of identification passing.


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