Rachel Dolezal misled with a carefully chosen look

Former Spokane chapter NAACP president Rachel Dolezal.

No one can say Rachel Dolezal didn't understand the power of optics.

The white ex-president of the NAACP Spokane chapter who's been pretending to be black for years pulled off her elaborate race ruse because she nailed the look - which, until now, belonged solely to mixed women who identified predominantly as African American.

Let's start with Dolezal's hair, a curly explosion of what we now know to be over-processed ringlets to give the effect of the naturally spiraled bob worn by Tracy Ellis Ross, Diana Ross' biracial daughter. Not only could Dolezal be a spokeswoman for Miss Jessie's Curly Pudding, she had the wherewithal to know it was OK to be blond with waist-length braid extensions and still be considered black - a la Beyoncé.

Dolezal's hair was key to her race-based hoodwink, but she adapted other style nuances to fool black friends and colleagues into embracing her as one of them.

She gravitated toward statement jewelry and rocked body-skimming dresses over the hourglass curves we associate with confident women of color.

And Dolezal, in all of her selfie glory, mastered the "smize." The seductive smile-with-your-eyes trick promoted by Tyra Banks.

Her fashion tricks on their own mean nothing, but taken together, they give off a sense of ethnicity.

But it's also not a stretch that Dolezal, who has a white mother and a white father, could be related to me. A bronze-free Dolezal is the same complexion as my mother.

And that is what's making people - especially black people - both fascinated and disgusted by Dolezal's duplicitousness.

Black people adopted a white standard of beauty decades ago, whether it's getting relaxers every six weeks or nose jobs, well before weaves came into vogue.

Some of us could never pass for white, but we just wanted good corporate jobs and to show that we were willing to participate in the politics of respectability, so we conformed the only way we knew how and in the process created the modern-day "black" look.

Back then, our light-skinned brothers and sisters who could pass for white paid the price to have a chance at a living. They were forever separated from their black families and lived in fear because when and if their race was revealed, they were thrown away like trash.

To this day, many black families don't talk about this pain.

So, yes, Dolezal, like rapper Iggy Azalea, is the latest and one of the most disturbing examples of a white person stealing black sensibilities for economic advantage. Dolezal even became an adjunct professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University.

But is it too far a stretch to think her passing has something to do with pain, too? Maybe she thought that to achieve the life she wanted required a look that would allow her to straddle the fence.

The little we know about her points to that truth.

Dolezal, 37, attended Howard University as a white student named Rachel Moore. In 2002, she sued the historically black university for, she said, denying her teaching posts and scholarships because she was a white woman.

And her white parents - the same ones who let her white cat out of the black bag - adopted four black children.

Maybe she never felt loved.

Maybe she wanted to fit in.

Social media and talk radio even blew up with debates about whether she is transracial. Until she speaks, we have no way of knowing whether she felt black on the outside even though she was white on the inside.

Somehow, she believed immersing herself in blackness would lead to more opportunities in her life.

And that is what doesn't make sense to black people - even me - especially in this age of Black Lives Matter.

Everything about black people, especially our looks, is examined under the magnifying glass of wrong.

Black men in hoodies get shot. Black men out of hoodies get shot.

Black girls in bathing suits are straddled, swinging braids yanked, and threatened by Texas police.

Big butts on black women are perverse, but on white women they break the Internet.

And I wonder if Dolezal checked "black" on bank loans.

On Monday night, Dolezal stepped down after five months at the helm of the Spokane NAACP chapter - with fervor of black injustice in her statement - passing the baton to her vice president, Naima Quarles-Burnley.

"While challenging the construct of race is at the core of evolving human consciousness, we can NOT afford to lose sight of the five Game Changers (Criminal Justice & Public Safety, Health & Healthcare, Education, Economic Sustainability, and Voting Rights & Political Representation) that affect millions, often with a life or death outcome."

It seemed appropriate she did it on Facebook.

Where images are created every day.