Today Rachel Dolezal gave her first live interview since being outed as white by her estranged parents 4 days ago.
And she's not sorry.
Dolezal appeared on the Today Show, just one day after her resigning her post as president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP.
When Matt Lauer asked if presenting herself to people as a black woman was the same as wearing blackface, she insisted that it was something different.
"I have a huge issue with blackface," she said. "This is not some freak "Birth of a Nation" mockery blackface performance. This is on a very real, connected level. I've had to go there with the experience, not just a visible representation."
Dolezal claims that she first started to see herself as black when she was 5. And says, 'I was drawing self portraits with the brown crayon rather than the peach crayon, and black curly hair,' she said. 'That was how I was portraying myself.'
But when presented with a photo of herself as a teenager, she admitted that she did not identify as black at that time. Her parents claim she didn't begin to 'disguise' herself as black until 2007.
When asked about changing her appearance, she said 'I certainly don't stay out of the sun' and admitted in an NBC interview that her hair is a weave.
Dolezal claims that she solidified her black identity when she took in and started to raise her adopted African American brother, Izaiah. He calls her is 'real mom' and she said she couldn't be that if she weren't also black. Aside from Izaiah, she has an African American son named Franklin with her ex husband. Her children support her identity with one child saying to her, "mom, racially you're human and culturally you're black."
When asked if she would do anything differently, she remained steadfast. She said she would have approached some interviews in a different fashion and admits that she failed to correct articles that referenced her as black but that otherwise, her life has been about survival, including this decision. She said, "overall my life has been one of survival and the decisions that I have made along the way have been to survive." I'm not even sure what at means.
She claims to understand the outrage she has caused but also insists that those people don't know her. "They really don't know what I've actually walked through and how hard it is. This has not been something that just is a casual, you know, come-and-go sort of identity, you know, or an identity crisis," she said and goes on to say that she hopes to start important conversations. "I hope that that can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self determination, personal agency and, ultimately, empowerment."
All well and good except her parents and her brother call BS on the entire Today Show interview.
Her father, Larry and her brother Ezra, both claim that her story about the brown crayons is just not true. Ezra says that it was in high school when she started to take an interest in African studies but she did not, at that time, identify as black.
In response to her claim that she had to think of herself as black since taking in Izaiah, her father said, "What would you think if I said to you since I adopted 4 African-American children I'm going to identify as black?" Point taken.
Dolezal's mother, Ruthanne, found the whole interview disturbing because the lies continued. She said, "As much as we're concerned with her identity issues we're also concerned with her integrity issues."
Aside from resigning her NAACP position, Dolezal no longer works at Eastern Washington University where she had taught Africana studies. She is also facing a city ethics probe for claiming in an application for a police position that she was black.
What a complicated mess. I don't even pretend to know what to think (other than being totally confused by the family dynamic here!). What do you think about it? Does falsely claiming to be black negate the positive work she has done for the community? Is it even possible to profoundly understand a race and culture you are not a member of? It has been suggested that Dolezal could have had an even more profound impact if she had presented as white, do you think this is the case? Could she have done more to advance the position of women of colour if she had been perceived as white?
h/t: Daily Mail