'Transracial' is the latest word in our vocabulary, but what does it mean?

DENVER - Transracial is the latest addition to the rapidly changing American lexicon, but there are questions about its legitimacy.

Transracial is being used to describe Rachel Dolezal; a civil rights activist working in Washington and Idaho. Dolezal recently stepped down as president of Spokane's chapter of the NAACP after criticism that she portrayed herself as black, even though she was born white.

Dr. Larry Curry is a psychologist practicing in Denver. He says Rachel Dolezal is giving a new meaning to an old term.

"Transracial was used a lot for children that came from biracial parents and relationships, and all of a sudden we are connecting it with other identities," said Dr. Curry.

The contemporary definition of transracial is similar to the term transgender; a person who identifies with a race different from their own.

Director of University of California's Humanities Research Institute, Dr. David Theo Goldberg, says Dolezal is making us all examine whether we're tied to our biological race, or whether we can identify with another.

"What the Rachel Dolezal conversation is producing-- interestingly and importantly-- is exactly a critical conversation about undoing the naturalized commitments to racial identification," said Dr. Goldberg.

Even if transracial is a real identifier, critics question if Dolezal fits the bill. Dr. Curry argues her dishonesty about her race actually hurts others, who legitimately feel they are stuck in someone else's body.

"The problem with this is people who really fit in this category, now have their label shared by somebody who does not have the ground roots definition for what transracial is," said Dr. Curry.

In an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer, Dolezal says she's identified as black since she was 5-years-old, however she did sue Howard University in 2002 for discriminating against her for being white.

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