In June, 2015 Rachel Dolezal, president of her local NAACP chapter and professor of Africana studies, was exposed as a white woman passing as black during a televised interview. This interview went viral, and subsequently initiated a national debate about racial performance and construction in the United States. In this article, Tanisha Spratt emphasizes the relevance of this event in relation to contemporary notions of passing, and argues that racial passing today often continues to exhibit the same traits and conventions as it did in the early twentieth century.
Tanisha Spratt is a first year PhD student in the Department of Sociology, studying at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. In using two chronic diseases as case studies (vitiligo and alkaptonuria), Tanisha is exploring the relationship between patient experiences of chronic illness and race in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which race and illness are performed and constructed as separate but related identities.