Rachel Dolezal: ‘I identify as black’

Dylan Stableford

Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP leader who resigned as president of the organization’s Spokane, Wash., chapter after being accused of lying about her race, says she identifies as African-American.

“I identify as black,” Dolezal said in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on the “Today” show Tuesday.

The 37-year-old civil rights activist said she has been doing so since the age of 5.

“I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon,” Dolezal said.

But Dolezal dismissed the notion that representing herself as an African-American amounts to blackface.

“I certainly don’t stay out of the sun,” she said, “but I don’t put on blackface as a performance.”

Dolezal — who has four adopted black step-siblings, was married to a black man and has two black children — attended the historically black Howard University, graduating in 2002.

In a separate interview with MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, Dolezal was asked, "Are you black?"

"Yes," Dolezal replied.

Dolezal said being the mother of two black sons has shown her "what it means to experience and live black... blackness."

"From a very young age," Dolezal explained, "I felt a very, I don't know, spiritual, visceral, just very instinctual connection with 'Black is beautiful' and, you know, just the black experience and wanting to celebrate that — and I didn't know how to articulate that as a young child."

But the Smoking Gun reports that in 2002, the year she graduated, Dolezal filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Howard University claiming that she was denied teaching posts and a scholarship — because she was white. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2004.

Last week, Dolezal’s biological parents, who are white, disclosed that their daughter is white but had been posing as African-American, sparking an ethics investigation at the NAACP and touching off a national debate over racial identity.

On “Today,” Dolezal said she doesn’t understand why her parents “are in a rush to whitewash some of the work that I have done and who I am and how I have identified."

[Related: Can Rachel Dolezal really be 'transracial' — or is white privilege to blame?]

Ezra Dolezal, one of Dolezal's adopted brothers, told "Fox and Friends" he doesn't understand why his sister is making things so complicated.

"I think she's making it into a different issue than it actually is," he said. "She could've easily said, 'I may be considered black now, but I wasn't born black.'"

"I definitely am not white," Dolezal told Savannah Guthrie in yet another NBC interview. "Nothing about being white describes who I am. So, you know, what's the word for it? You know what I mean? The closest thing that I can come to is, if youre black or white, Im black. Im more black than I am white. So on a level of values, lived experience — currently, I mean, in this moment, that's ... thats the answer. Thats the accurate answer from my truth."

At a rally in Spokane, Wash., on Monday, leaders of local civil rights organizations called for Dolezal’s resignation, holding signs that read “Integrity Matters.”

“I feel duped,” Charity Bagatsing, an organizer of the rally, told the Associated Press.

Dolezal resigned from her NAACP post Monday.

“In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP,” Dolezal wrote in a letter posted to the NAACP Spokane’s Facebook page. “Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It’s about justice.”

More from Dolezals letter:


Many issues face us now that drive at the theme of urgency. Police brutality, biased curriculum in schools, economic disenfranchisement, health inequities, and a lack of pro-justice political representation are among the concerns at the forefront of the current administration of the Spokane NAACP. And yet, the dialogue has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity.

[...]

This is not me quitting; this is a continuum. It’s about moving the cause of human rights and the Black Liberation Movement along the continuum from Resistance to Chattel Slavery to Abolition to Defiance of Jim Crow to the building of Black Wall Street to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement to the‪ #BlackLivesMatter movement and into a future of self-determination and empowerment.



 

The "Today" interview did not diffuse the controversy nor silence Dolezal's critics, many of whom took to Twitter to express their outrage.



Others criticized NBC's handling of the interview.




Few, though, came to Dolezal's defense.




When asked by Lauer if she would have done anything differently in light of the controversy, Dolezal said no.

"My life has been one of survival,” Dolezal said. “The decisions I made have ultimately been ones of survival."