A prominent civil rights leader who most people believed to be black is actually white, according to her parents — and Twitter’s freaking out about it.
On Thursday, the parents of Rachel Dolezal — the head of a local NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washginton — told multiple news outlets that despite “disguis[ing] herself” as black, their daughter’s heritage was Czech, Swedish, and German with “faint traces” of Native American heritage.
Her mother also told The Spokesman-Review that they didn’t know why their daughter would “disguise herself” as black since 2006 or 2007 with a perm and noticeably tanner skin. Now, she’s been elected head of a local chapter of the NAACP.
Some people on Twitter are now saying Dolezal is “transracial” — both seriously as well as jokingly — equating the term with being transgendered. The false logic goes that the same way a transgendered person is born with the wrong anatomy, a person can be born with the wrong race.
But the term “transracial” has never been used this way. Historically, transracial is used in regards to interracial adoption — also known as transracial adoption — and has nothing to do with people from one race “identifying” as another race.
But the term quickly went viral on Twitter anyway, first spotted by MIC’s Darnell L. Moore:
Soon, people began fighting back against the concept of switching races — without either realising or citing that “transracial” has a totally different definition that has nothing to do with changing one’s race.
There were also a few jokes.
This is also not the first instance of someone on Twitter using the term transracial in this way.
Back in April, a Twitter user used screen shots of what was quite possibly a joke statement by someone claiming to be a white woman wanting to be “trans-black.” She used stereotypes to bolster her claim.
Not all Twitter users misinterpret the term “transracial.”
If you keep going back in Twitter’s history, you’ll see that before the Dolezal news broke, the most common use for the #transracial hashtag was in tandem with the hashtag #adoption, referring to interracial adoption where a child from a different race is adopted by parents from a different race, for example white parents adopting a black child.
So unless they’re referring to interracial adoption, you can show this tweet to anyone in favour of the #transracial hashtag on Twitter: