Decoded: Transracial

Black or White? Who Is Rachel Dolezal?


By now, you probably have heard about Rachel Dolezal, the president of the Spokane, Washington NAACP, who has been posing as an African-American for the past decade. Dolezal's story has been the talk of the internet, with people taking to social media to voice their opinions on the matter.



Rachel Dolezal's decision has sparked a term that many have used to define her situation: transracial. The term, a variation on the concept of transgender, has become mocked on social media to some extent but is a legitimate scholarly term used to "to denote a particular 'state of being' for people adopted across race" according to student, writer, and educator Lisa Marie Rollins.

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NAACP leader outed as white, Rachel Dolezal
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Decoded: Transracial
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Washington state civil rights advocate Rachel Dolezal is seen in the NBC's "Today" show studios in Manhattan, New York June 16, 2015. Dolezal, who has been accused of falsely claiming she is African-American, said on Tuesday she identifies as black and has been doing so since she was 5 years of age. Dolezal, in an interview on NBC's "Today" television show, said a major shift in her identity came when she was doing human rights work in Idaho and newspaper stories described her as transracial, biracial and black. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Washington state civil rights advocate Rachel Dolezal (R) hugs family member Izaiah Dolezal after her interview on the NBC's "Today" show studios in Manhattan, New York June 16, 2015. Dolezal, who has been accused of falsely claiming she is African-American, said on Tuesday she identifies as black and has been doing so since she was 5 years of age. Dolezal, in an interview on NBC's "Today" television show, said a major shift in her identity came when she was doing human rights work in Idaho and newspaper stories described her as transracial, biracial and black. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Washington state civil rights advocate Rachel Dolezal (C) smiles toward family member Izaiah Dolezal (L) while her son Franklin (R) stands nearby after her interview on the NBC's "Today" show studios in Manhattan, New York June 16, 2015. Dolezal, who has been accused of falsely claiming she is African-American, said on Tuesday she identifies as black and has been doing so since she was 5 years of age. Dolezal, in an interview on NBC's "Today" television show, said a major shift in her identity came when she was doing human rights work in Idaho and newspaper stories described her as transracial, biracial and black. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
People cheer during a protest in front of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) headquarters in Spokane, Washington June 15, 2015. Rachel Dolezal, a civil rights advocate who has been accused of falsely claiming she is black, announced her resignation on Monday as leader of a local branch of the NAACP in Washington state. REUTERS/David Ryder
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Dolezal has been interviewed by a few news outlets, most notably with KXLY, Spokane's ABC news affiliate, where a reporter showed her a photo of her white father and asked her if that was him, she nodded. Then, the reporter followed up with "Are you African-American?" Dolezal replied, "I don't understand the question of -- I did tell you that, yes, that's my dad."

"Are your parents -- are they white?" came the next question. Dolezal had enough and walked away from the microphone, leaving her purse and keys.

Rachel Dolezal has been somewhat silent since then, but her story has captivated America for days to come.

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