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Letters: Rachel Dolezal Raises Questions About Racial Identity

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Many of you shared your thoughts after yesterday's conversation about race, so let's get to your letters. We were talking about the identity questions raised by Rachel Dolezal, the former Washington state NAACP leader. She's white but has for years presented herself as black. One of our guests, Rutgers professor Khadijah White, dismissed an idea that's been raised in the last several days, that Dolezal's experience mirrors that of transgender people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

KHADIJAH WHITE: Transgender people are not trying to lie to the world and deceive them about who they are, and that's exactly what Rachel Dolezal has done in order to construct this idea that she's black.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Well, a few of you disagreed. Lee Mason of Helotes, Texas writes this.

(Reading) Interesting to compare the difference between race and gender in today's society. You're allowed to choose your gender but admonished for choosing your race. What accounts for this discrepancy?

CORNISH: Alaine Depner of Bangor, Mich. writes that our segment left her with more questions than answers. She begins.

(Reading) in the various stories about race, I waited for someone to ask, who gets to identify as black or white? As we become a more mixed-race society, are we really going to decide based on color and or culture?

BLOCK: Ms. Depner goes on.

(Reading) There are clearly individuals more Caucasian than African-American whom we call black or who feel black to themselves. Do we need more categories as there are in Brazil with new designations? And who decides? And finally, where does it matter?

CORNISH: And on Twitter, we were reminded that the word transracial is not a new term. It's been used for a long time to describe adoptions where a child is a different race than his or her adoptive parents.

BLOCK: As always, we enjoy reading your take on what you hear on the program. Send us your letters by going to npr.org and clicking on contact at the very bottom of the page.

CORNISH: Or hit us up on twitter @npratc. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.