Perhaps in the future, when historians look back at 2015 headlines about racist frat parties and blackface Halloween costumes, things will be different. Perhaps, then, we won't have to spend hours explaining why cultural appropriation is hurtful. Perhaps someday, we'll no longer have to dread workplace conversations about racism. But not this year.
This was, after all, the year of Rachel Dolezal, a locally prominent civil rights activist and Africana studies teacher who successfully convinced her entire community that she was a black woman—even though Dolezal was born to white parents. Then several months later, news surfaced that Yi-Fen Chou, a Chinese-American poet published in this year’s anthology of Best American Poetry, was actually a white man named Michael Derrick Hudson. As it turns out, he used the name “Chou” as a pseudonym and racial cover.
Both Dolezal and Hudson took cultural appropriation to a new level, slipping on non-white identities as if they were costumes. One privilege of whiteness is that it’s viewed as a blank canvas, whereas people of color can’t typically escape the stereotypes projected onto them.
Dolezal and Hudson aren't the first white people to try and pass as another race. In fact, there's a long history of white people trying to play a race card different from the one they were given at birth. Here are six: