Changing racial identities

The Rachel Dolezal story (the 37-year old woman president of the Spokane, Washington NAACP with white parents who for some time since leaving college has presented herself as black) has certainly got people’s attention. Given that at bottom it seems to be a story of one person’s attempt to start a new life with a new identity in a new community, something that is not at all unusual given the mobile nature of modern society, the media buzz is extraordinary. The reason is of course because questions of race are always hot-button ones and also because of this story’s man-bites-dog nature. Stories of black people passing as white are not uncommon and, given the history of slavery and anti-black racism in the US, quite understandable. But white people adopting a black identity, while not unprecedented, is certainly unusual.
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