This is pretty insane: It came out last week that Rachel Dolezal, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Spokane, Washington, isn’t black at all. Not one drop.
She’s actually white.
Her story came out after a reporter asked her point-blank if she was black. Dolezal dodged the question. Since then, other aspects of Dolezal’s life have come to light: attending Howard University, telling people her adopted black brother (who lived with her) was really her son, and teaching classes on African-American culture at Eastern Washington University. Dolezal also claimed to have received hate mail.
Dolezal began identifying as black in 2007, after years of identifying with the culture.
I wanted to see if there were any stats on white people passing as black in the larger culture. I don’t mean in terms of appropriating dress or mannerisms, but actually altering one’s physical appearance and living an elaborate lie.
And I couldn’t find anything. Shocker (but not really). This is such a strange situation that I’m not surprised there haven’t been enough subjects to be studied.
The only white person who’s done anything remotely similar was John Howard Griffin, author of “Black Like Me.” Griffin underwent physical changes, including darkening his skin under heat lamps, to pass for a black man and report on racial injustices in the South firsthand. But obviously, his motives were very different than Dolezal’s.
It’ll be interesting to see how Dolezal’s case plays out, and if she’ll drop her black identity now that she’s been exposed.