“Once you transform these collective historical experiences into individual identities, then they become things that individuals can own or sell or market, and you have lots of situations where it shouldn’t be a surprise that we would have a brand and a counterfeit brand,” Rosa said.
Maryann Erigha, an assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of Georgia, said while some people might find it confusing that a white person would choose to identify as part of a marginalized group, there is a “cultural benefit.”
“People often say it’s fashionable to be Black, it’s fashionable to be Native,” she said. “And it’s not appropriation, I guess, if you are being an impostor, if people don’t know that you’re not from that group.”
But colorism, the ability to code switch and navigate white spaces, and the absence of dealing with the actual trauma of racism is, in part, what allows some of these impostors to succeed in their pursuits, she said. “They can see a place where they can be at the top of the group.”