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Overthinking the case of Rachel Dolezal

To the editor: Fredrik deBoer overtheorizes the Rachel Dolezal case to blame academia and activism. ("Why Rachel Dolezal would want to pass as a black woman," op-ed, June 13)

Dolezal passed as black because many of us know people of substantial black, Latino or Asian ancestry who look white, not because of the debate on race as a social construct.

In positions that serve racial or ethnic populations, there are valid advantages to being of that background, whether it is marketing, community relations or ethnic studies. Taking pride in the positive traditions of a group's ethnic heritage is not providing an incentive for others to change their racial identification. 

Racial identity politics can sometimes be taken too far, as with other kinds of identity. But deBoer is wrong to use this troubled woman's choices to make his case that she is the result of corrupted values endemic to ethnic studies and activism.

Mark Masaoka, Los Angeles

The writer is policy director of the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.

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To the editor: I don't understand the uproar over Dolezal posing as a black woman while heading the Spokane, Wash., chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. I haven't read anything that suggested she was not doing a good job, only that she wasn't what she said she was. Maybe in her heart she considered herself black.

If Bruce Jenner can convert to Caitlyn Jenner, and if Gentiles can convert to Judaism (and many converts become better Jews than some of us who were born as Jews), why can't Dolezal become a black woman?

To me, this is just another example of racism, where someone is harmed merely because of the color of her skin.

Michael Gesas, Beverly Hills

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