Rachel Dolezal is an American woman, but her race is causing a lot of arguments in the press. She claims to be black, but her parents say she is white.

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Ms Dolezal works as a university lecturer in African American Studies and is a civil rights activist. She identifies herself as part black, or mixed race.

Her parents say that this is a lie. Rachel grew up in Montana, USA and a photo of her as a teenager shows her with straight blonde hair and green eyes. She grew up with four adopted siblings, all of whom were black, and later married a black man.

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Her parents say that she was always interested in black culture and that she began to adapt her appearance after her divorce in 2004. They have told a local news channel that Rachel’s heritage is not black; but rather German and Czech with some Native American ancestors.

Rachel wrote on a recent application form that her ethnicity was mixed and included white, black, Native American and several others. It is the black part that her parents dispute.

Rachel has not spoken to her parents in over two years. She told local media that this is because of an ongoing lawsuit and that she does not view them as her ‘real parents’.

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American media and the internet has taken a lot of interest in this story. Some people believe that she is lying about her ethnicity to advance in her career, others believe that she self-identifies as black because of her childhood.

Others have compared the story to transgender people such as Caitlyn Jenner. They argue that if Caitlyn can identify as a woman (when she was born a man) why can’t Rachel Dolezal identify as mixed-race?

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But the important question remains: why has this story got so much media attention in the USA? Why does it matter what race Rachel Dolezal identifies as?

What do you think? 

Photos and story from The Guardian / NY Times