Rachel Dolezal

Photo from New York Post

“Are you African-American?” the reporter asked.

“I don’t understand the question,” she replied. When the reporter then asked if her parents were white, she walked away.

Rachel A. Dolezal, president of Spokane, Washington’s NAACP chapter, has come under fire with questions about her true ethnicity and racial identity. Is she black or white?

Dolezal’s parents, who are white, say that she falsely portrayed herself as black, but that’s not the only debate.

Blacks and liberals accused Ms. Dolezal of an offensive impersonation, part of a long history in which whites appropriated black heritage when it suited them … Others noted that for her, unlike black people, casting off the advantages of whiteness was a choice … But many conservative commentators accused liberals of hypocrisy for accepting Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but not Ms. Dolezal as black. ‘So, to recap, if Rachel Dolezal says she is a man, we must all agree, on pain of being publicly censured,’ Rod Dreher wrote in The American Conservative. ‘But if Rachel Dolezal says she is black, it is fair game to challenge her claim.’”

“Faking a racial history, in either direction, raises difficult questions about what race is and why it matters, and about the assumptions people make.”

If black culture is the culture Dolezal identifies most with, then should she be considered black? Does skin color matter? Like Rod Dreher said above, if the outside doesn’t match the inside, can all be forgiven?

This opinion piece that has been receiving a lot of attention in the New Yorker says no.

Dolezal’s claim on black identity is of a different order than the hollow declaration of a Hollywood scion or anyone else who opted to be Negro for a season. They can plead ignorance. But Dolezal spent four years at an institution steeped in the delicacies of race. If nothing else, she understands the exact nature of the trust she violated.”

Dolezal stepped down from her presidency of the NAACP chapter because of the controversy.

“In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP,” Rachel Dolezal wrote in a post on the organization’s Facebook page. “It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the Presidency and pass the baton to my Vice President, Naima Quarles-Burnley,” she wrote. “This is not me quitting; this is a continuum,” she added.

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