National

Rachel Dolezal’s True Lies

In this image released by NBC News, former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal appears on the "Today" show set on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in New York. Dolezal was born to two parents who say they are white, but she chooses instead to self-identify as black. Her ability to think she has a choice shows a new fluidity in race in a diversifying America, a place where the rigid racial structures that defined most of this country’s history seems, for some, to be falling to the wayside. (Anthony Quintano/NBC News via AP)
In this image released by NBC News, former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal appears on the “Today” show set on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in New York. (Anthony Quintano/NBC News via AP)

(Vanity Fair) – It’s safe to say that Rachel Dolezal never thought much about the endgame. You can see it on her face in the local-TV news video—the one so potently viral it transformed her from regional curiosity to global punch line in the span of 48 hours in mid-June. It is precisely the look of a white woman who tanned for a darker hue, who showcased a constant rotation of elaborately designed African American hairstyles, and who otherwise lived her life as a black woman, being asked if she is indeed African American.

It is the look of a cover blown.

At first, as I watched Dolezal’s story rise from meme to morning show, I wasn’t completely sure what to think, or particularly sure how much I cared; there are, obviously, a host of more crucial issues facing black America. But despite my initial reluctance to even acknowledge Dolezal’s presence in the national conversation, she slowly began to win my attention. There have been women over the years who’ve spent thousands upon thousands of dollars for butt injections, lip fillers, and self-tanners for a more “exotic” look. But attempting to pass for black? This was a new type of white woman: bold and brazen enough to claim ownership over a painful and complicated history she wasn’t born into.

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