Rachel Dolezal, former NAACP official in Spokane, Wash., went on “Today” — uh, today — and reiterated that she identifies as black.
Dolezal’s parents recently went on record to say that the family is (mostly) Caucasian, though their daughter has identified as African American for some time.
The Interwebs has gone wild with this in the past few days. Check out how The Root covers this. Check out her NPR interview. People are attempting to draw a connection between this and discussions around Caitlyn Jenner. I don’t think that analogy holds, and neither does Ryan Cooper at The Week. He writes:
Gender and race are social constructs to a great degree, but not equally so. In particular, gender is more deeply rooted in one’s own mind, while race is more forcibly imposed by the surrounding society. Of course, that’s not a hard and fast distinction, since gender norms are also imposed from outside, and racial identity surely becomes part of one’s internal self-presentation. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say there is a difference in weighting.
And what Dolezal is doing? It’s not passing. From Blair L.M. Kelley, for The Washington Post:
Race is a social construct. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real as a lived experience in America, and it wasn’t constructed out of thin air. On this broken foundation, African Americans led, created communities and built a movement that transformed, and strives to further transform, America for the better.