Dolezal Controversy Sharpens Focus on Racial Identity

Dolezal Controversy Sharpens Focus on Racial Identity

University of Massachusetts Press

The recent controversy concerning Rachel Dolezal’s racial identity steered many readers to a 2008 UMass Press book by Baz Dreisinger, Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture, which explores cases in which legally white individuals are imagined, by themselves or by others, as passing for black.

Many news venues—the New York Times, CNN, LA Times, The Atlantic, and others—found their way to Dreisinger to ask her thoughts. The controversy, Dreisinger told the New York Times, “taps into all of these issues around blackface and wearing blackness and that whole cultural legacy, which makes it that much more vile.”

In The Atlantic, Dreisinger said “I think it’s critical to recognize the ways in which American whites have a long legacy of fetishizing blackness, whether they’re literally passing or not, but the ways in which their notions of blackness are based upon caricatures, and not characters. They’re based on idealized or cartoonish notions of what blackness is.”…

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