Rachel Dolezal Breaks Silence on NBC's 'Today': "I Identify as Black"
The former NAACP chapter president responded to claims people have made about her race.
Former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal, who resigned Monday after she was accused of being a white woman pretending to be black, broke her silence on NBC's Today show on Tuesday.
When asked if she's African-American, Dolezal said, "I identify as black." She claims this identification started as early as five years old.
"I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon," she said. "That was how I was portraying myself."
Dolezal resigned from her position as president of the NAACP's Spokane, Washington, chapter on Monday amid outrage after her parents said she is a white woman pretending to be black. In a statement posted on the NAACP Spokane chapter's Facebook page, Dolezal said the attention around her had become a distraction.
However, she did not address whether she'd lied about her ethnicity, nor did she apologize for doing so. Speaking out for the first time since the controversy, Dolezal took exception to the idea that she was deceiving people, claiming that she was characterized by others first as transracial, then biracial and then black, and she never corrected them.
"It's more complex than being true or false in that particular instance," she said, again failing to say that she had lied about her race or apologize for misleading people.
When asked about her appearance, including a complexion that appears much darker than it did in earlier photos, Dolezal merely said, "I certainly don't stay out of the sun."
However, she added that she isn't putting on "blackface as a performance."
"I have a huge issue with blackface. This is not some freak Birth of a Nation mockery blackface performance," she said. "This is on a very real connected level how I've actually had to go there with the experience, not just with the visual representation, but with the experience."
She said that her racial identification "solidified" when she got full custody of her adopted brother, Izaiah, when he was in high school.
"He said, you're my real mom," Dolezal explained. "For that to be something that is plausible, I certainly can't be seen as white and be Isaiah's mom."
She also argued that the black man she has identified as her father, Albert Wilkerson, is her dad.
"Any man can be a father," she said. "Not every man can be a dad."
Dolezal said she would still make the choices she's made, knowing everything that's happened as a result.
"The discussion's really about what it is to be human. And I hope that that can really drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self-determination, personal agency and ultimately empowerment," she said. "My life has been one of survival, and the decisions I have made along the way, including my identification, have been to survive and to carry forward on my journey."
In addition to appearing live on Tuesday's Today, Dolezal will speak to Savannah Guthrie for an interview that will air on NBC Nightly News and take part in interviews with MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and NBCBLK, the network's African-American online vertical.
Watch Dolezal's full interview below.