Rachel Dolezal (now Nkechi Amare Diallo) is back in the news.
To refresh your memory, she is the young woman who identified as Black, and ended up resigning as president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP after being outed by her parents as Caucasian. She has now authored a book, "In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World", to be released March 28. In the book, she tells her side of the story. Certainly she has been the center of her share of controversy. The pre-release reviews on Amazon aren't promising, most of them awarding only one or two stars. Some questions have been raised about how reliable a narrator she is. However, one can sympathize with her struggles to provide for her children and make a living. She says that now no one will hire her and she is not far from being homeless. Her family's decision to out her in a very public way seems unnecessarily cruel.
To me, she raised a legitimate question when she stated:
"I wish Americans understood that race is a social construct, even if we
don't want it to be," Dolezal argued. "The system of racial
classification is fiction, and we need to thoughtfully evaluate whether
perpetuating it rigidly or allowing fluidity across the spectrum best
supports human rights and social justice."
Certainly she is not the first or only person to ever identify with a race or ethnicity they were not born into. The earliest instance of this that I know of is Ruth in the Old Testament, who told her mother-in-law Naomi, "Your people shall be my people." The protagonist of the movie, Dances With Wolves, ended up by identifying as Native American. I am acquainted with a young woman in our town who was born to Caucasian parents of European ancestry. There were problems in her family of origin. She married a man who was a Mexican immigrant. The marriage ended in divorce, but she retained her Spanish surname. She speaks fluent Spanish and is dark haired and dark eyed. Her children have Spanish names, are bilingual, and she socializes mainly in the immigrant community. If they didn't know her prior to her first marriage, most people wouldn't guess that she grew up Anglo.
The problem seems to be when people attempt to deceive, or to turn the identity that they adopted to their personal gain or advantage, which is an objection that is voiced to Ms. Diallo's identifying herself as Black.