As much as critics try to characterize Dolezal’s behavior as a fraudulent choice, sociologists and psychologists know that decisions about racial and ethnic identity are typically not merely expressive, strategic, or apolitical, but are driven by social conditions.
Growing up in a family with black siblings exposed Dolezal to the reality of discrimination and made her more sensitive to its effects. It probably helped her understand the contrast between the reality of black lives and white privilege. Other similar experiences, such as marrying an African-American and having black children, also make white people more sensitive to racism.
Dolezal likely became politically and socially conscious about these issues because of her experiences in an interracial family. In this sense, her parents must be proud of the child they raised.
Should we indict Dolezal for her racial deceit?
That depends on a number of factors. What accounts for her decision to “become” black instead of remaining white to advocate for racial justice?
Did Dolezal feel that her white skin made her suspect as she engaged in political activism? Did she fear it would be a distraction as she attempted to gain credibility in racial justice efforts?
Of course, she could have attained a leadership role in the NAACP as a white woman, but did the perception that she was black make people feel more objective about her performance rather than skeptical about her understanding and commitment to anti-racism?
Was she aesthetically driven? Dolezal claims that she has been in love with black aesthetics since childhood. The decision to adopt a black female aesthetic for herself is a political act given that Americans in general assume black women are not aesthetically as desirable as white women. Yet, others reduce her aesthetic choices to mere cultural appropriation.