Recently it was revealed that a Spokane NAACP officer and Africana Studies professor named Rachel Dolezal has been pretending to be black for nearly a decade, according to her Caucasian birth parents. It’s an unusual and polarizing story, but not one without precedent. On a number of occasions in American history, dating back to before the Civil War, individuals of a number of races have claimed or implied that they were actually of another race. And there’s an even longer history of individuals of differing races altering their names, skin color, and hair to succeed in America. The individuals that preceded Dolezal in “passing” have done so for a variety of reasons. Some have done it to prove a point, some did it to get jobs, and at least one of them was just really into jazz. We’ve collected the most interesting stories of people pretending to be another race on this list to hopefully shine some more light on the subject.
The story about Dolezal pretending to be black for the last 10 years has created a massive outpouring of spite and confusion from people across the racial spectrum. Most people are just trying to understand why someone would be so deceptive. No one knows whether Dolezal’s alleged “passing,” which may have included false claims of having been racially harassed, was done in good faith or whether, like some of her predecessors in scandal, she decided to falsify an identity to advance her own interests.
Read on to learn more about these people who pretended to be other races. Included below are Dolezal, a white Texas politician who pretended to be black to gain votes, Mindy Kaling’s brother (yes, really!), and the American Indian Chief who probably first inspired you to recycle