controversial 14 People Who Pretended To Be Other Races  

Jacob Shelton
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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.

Rachel Dolezal


Rachel Dolezal is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 14 People Who Pretended To Be Other Races
Photo: via Twitter
On the morning of June 12, 2015 it seemed like the world stopped when it was revealed that an NAACP leader in Spokane, WA, Rachel Dolezal, had allegedly been pretending to be black for yeeeeears. Also, people were kind of shocked that Spokane had its own branch of the NAACP.

Vijay Chokal-Ingam


Vijay Chokal-Ingam is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 14 People Who Pretended To Be Other Races
Photo: via Wikimedia
In April of 2015, Mindy Kaling's older brother revealed that he supposedly got into medical school by changing his race from Indian to African American. On his website he said, “In my junior year of college, I realized that I didn’t have the grades or test scores to get into medical school, at least not as an Indian-American. Still, I was determined to become a doctor and I knew that admission standards for certain minorities under affirmative action were, let’s say… less stringent?” We're going to need a bigger YIKES.

Ja Du


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Video: YouTube

In November 2017, the media began reporting on a Tampa resident who goes by Ja Du. Born white under the name Adam Wheeler, Ja Du says he identifies as transracial and considers himself Filipino. He drives a tuk tuk around the citiy, and speaks about how he feels most at home when engaging with Filipino culture:

"Whenever I’m around the music, around the food, I feel like I’m in my own skin... I’d watch the History Channel, sometimes for hours... you know, nothing else intrigued me more but things about Filipino culture."

Ja Du doesn't consider how he's living appropriation; he says he doesn't want to take advantage of anyone.


Ward Churchill is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 14 People Who Pretended To Be Other Races
Photo: via Twitter

In 1990, out of work Vietnam Vet Ward Churchill was hired by the University of Colorado as a diversity hire, due to his claim of being a member of a tribe called the United Keetoowah Band. It turns out this a tribe that gives out membership to many non-native celebs, including Bill Clinton. In fact, the University fast-tracked Churchill to a Ph.D., and, in turn, fast-tracked themselves into looking like dummies. 

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