Rachel Dolezal Identifies As Black, She Says On 'Today' Show
Former NAACP Spokane president Rachel Dolezal made a surprising confession to Matt Lauer while appearing on the Today show Tuesday morning. "I identify as black," Dolezal said, adding that while the "complexity" of her identity may be hard for some to understand, she knew she would have to publicly address it sooner or later. The interview comes just a day after Dolezal resigned from her position at NAACP Spokane in the wake of a national controversy sparked by her own family members.
Dolezal sat down with Lauer Tuesday morning in what appears to be an attempt to reclaim her narrative by telling her own side of the bizarre story of a white woman masquerading as a biracial woman working toward racial justice. Lauer's first question was obvious: Did Dolezal ever expect "the lid would be blown off" her self-perceived narrative as growing up as a black or biracial woman?
"The timing of it was a shock," Dolezal said. "I did feel that at some point, I would need to address the complexity of my identity."
That identity? Black, Dolezal admitted when Lauer asked her to clarify just who she is.
Lauer than displayed this photograph of Dolezal from when she was a teenager. It's a picture we've seen quite a few times since last week, when Dolezal's story first made national headlines.
The Today show host asked Dolezal if the teenage girl in the picture is a Caucasian or African-American woman. "I would say that, visibly, she would be identified as white by people who see her," Dolezal said.
The former NAACP Spokane president and college professor added that her "self-identification with the black experience" began at an early age. Just how early? "I would say about five years old," Dolezal said.
That's when she apparently began drawing self-portraits with a brown crayon instead of a peach crayon. "That was how I was portraying myself," she added.
But Dolezal refused to say she was purposely deceiving people and actively trying to hide her Caucasian ethnicity. But it seems like a lot of the public self-identification as a biracial or black woman began early in Dolezal's activist career. She told Lauer:
I was actually identified, when I was doing human rights work in north Idaho, as first transracial, and then when some of the opposition to the human rights work I was doing came forward, the next newspaper article identified me as being a biracial woman. And then the next article, when there were actually burglaries, nooses, et cetera, was, "This was happening to a black woman."
Interesting enough, Dolezal said she never bothered to correct these newspaper editors or those members of the opposition who assumed she was biracial or African-American. But why the activist decided to continue being identified as anything other than white is still a bit unclear — even for Matt Lauer.
Dolezal denied that identifying as biracial or black helped her career and work — she teaches Africana studies at the college level — in any way. However, Lauer challenged her when he pointed out that she has changed her appearance an awful lot over the years. "Your complexion appears darker than it did in the photos of you as a young lady," Lauer said.
"I don't ... put on black face as a performance," Dolezal said. She claimed she has a "huge issue with black face," and that her identity and appearance could not be compared to The Birth of the Nation or anything as egregiously offensive.
However, her parents seem to disagree. In a recent interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly, Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal said they feel their daughter has been dishonest about her background for about a decade. Ruthanne Dolezal even acknowledged the racial misidentification of her daughter popping up in newspaper articles — and saw it as a major, and perhaps telling, error.
"It was around 2007 when we first saw a newspaper article from the Spokane, Wash. area where Rachel had represented herself to the press as being African-American or biracial," Ruthann Dolezal stated. "She's not telling the truth."
In a Facebook post on Monday announcing her resignation from NAACP Spokane, Dolezal emphasized that she hopes her headline-grabbing narrative doesn't detract from her work and mission:
I am consistently committed to empowering marginalized voices and believe that many individuals have been heard in the last hours and days that would not otherwise have had a platform to weigh in on this important discussion. Additionally, I have always deferred to the state and national NAACP leadership and offer my sincere gratitude for their unwavering support of my leadership through this unexpected firestorm. 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. The movement is larger than a moment in time or a single person's story, and I hope that everyone offers their robust support of the Journey for Justice campaign that the NAACP launches today!
Images: screenshots/"Today" show