By Marissa Johnson
Rachel Dolezal recently made headlines for passing as #black. She was the head of the Spokeane, Washington NAACP chapter until she resigned after her true ethnicity was disclosed.
Dolezal’s parents broke the illusion that Dolezal was black. They showed pictures of her as a blue-eyed child. They said she was married to a black man and started to pass as a black woman after the divorce. She was not the first white person to pretend to be black, though.
John Howard Griffin, author of the book Black Like Me is known for his experiment of passing as black. He wanted to assess the conditions that black Americans faced and to experience the plight of being black. His book was to detail his experiences living as a black man.
Grace Halsell, a native of Texas, came from ancestors who were slave masters. She tanned and took medication to darken her pigment so that she could pass as a black woman for six months. She wrote the book Soul Sister in 1969 to detail her experiences. In the book, she claimed to have experienced attempted rape at the hands of her domestic employer.
Mark L. Stebbins was another white person who passed as black. He had blue eyes and light skin. He campaigned as a black man for a city council position in California and won. PEOPLE magazine claimed all of Stebbins’s close relatives were white.
The next set of people who passed for white was Philip and Paul Malone. The identical twins spent a decade working for the Boston Fire Department while living a lie. They were terminated when it was discovered that the pair lied on their job applications claiming they were black. This caused some people to reconsider affirmative action.
David Wilson, a white conservative, not only tried to pass as black, but used pictures of black people he found on the internet to support his campaign. He wanted a position on the Houston Community College board, which he obtained and still holds.
So is passing as black really that big of a deal?
A couple of celebrities actually applauded Dolezal and said her actions were harmless which caused some backlash.
Raven-Symone expressed support for the NAACP leader of the Washington chapter—and R&B singer Keri Hilson showed her support on social media.
“Let’s just all thank RachelDolezal. Identity, pathological, & parental issues aside, she’s doing more than most of us do for ourselves,” she tweeted.
She also tweeted “I’m not sayin she doesn’t have serious ISSUES, I’m just sayin’ don’t knock her intentions or discredit her efforts. @NAACP stands by her work.”