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.