There has been quite a bit of controvsery over Rachel Dolezal: the NAACP president, claiming to be “black”. Why did she feel the need to go so far?
I can’t speak for Dolezal’s actions on the matter, but I can at least formulate an hypothesis as to why she might have gone as far as she did. And in doing so, I want to bring to light an issue with the racial discussion.
There are two issues here. First, we have the issue of what constitutes “blackness”? Is it the actual color of your skin, biological heritage, cultural heritage? Is a person with pale white skin but who is a biological child of a “black” parent, “white” or “black?” Anthropologists and biologists no longer consider race a biological trait. Race is cultural. So we could argue that a person raised in a household based on “black culture” is indeed “black”.
But this doesn’t explain Dolezal’s bizarre attempts to push her “blackness.” For one thing, while she lived with adopted siblings who were “black” her parents weren’t “black” so it’s unlikely that she was raised “black.” It seems that somewhere along the way she started lieing to herself as well as to others, and that lie grew. But why lie in the first place? It’s reasonable to want to fight for the “black” cause and end any kind of perceived bias against “black culture”. And it’s just as easy to do this if you’re “white”, isn’t it? No. It’s not.
It happens to be a rather common notion that if your skin isn’t dark enough, then you cannot or simply won’t understand being oppressed or discriminated against in some way. Basically, you don’t qualify to be part of the cause if you’re too “white”. This is, of course, a racial view, as you’re lumping all “white” people into a single race and thinking that discrimination has never been substantial within “white” populations. But it is indeed a view held by many.
Perhaps this notion is partly to blame for Dolezal’s behavior. Perhaps she felt that she could not do as much as a “white” person as she could do as a “black” person and so she constructed this “black” persona. Unfortunately such a lie quickly grows out of control, and she was lost in that lie.