Activist Says she saw Herself as Black Even as a Young Child

Published: 17th June 2015 08:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th June 2015 08:39 AM   |  A+A-

The civil-rights activist who was "outed" as white after years of masquerading as a black woman was defiant yesterday (Tuesday), insisting: "I identify as black."

Rachel Dolezal, 37, who is of European ancestry, said her identity was shaped by "my self-identification with the black experience as a very young child".

"About five years old, I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon and, you know, the black curly hair," she said on NBC's Today Show. "That's how I was portraying myself."

Ms Dolezal has been widely criticised for building a prominent career around racial issues while deceiving people about her own ethnicity. She resigned as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the city of Spokane on Monday, saying she regretted that the dialogue on race "has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity".

In yesterday's interview she said that the conversation her story has sparked has been "at my expense" and conducted "in a very viciously inhumane way".

It came to the attention of the world after a local media outlet contacted Ms Dolezal's parents, who revealed her true ethnicity. Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal were also interviewed yesterday, and said they were "hurt" and "baffled" by their daughters "deception".

"Being rejected as parents is very painful. However, the dishonesty involved in this is even on a deeper level of pain and concern," Ruthanne told the BBC.

"It seems that Rachel thinks in order to identify with African-Americans she must reject her biological Caucasian family," she said.

The parents claimed that as Ms Dolezal had distanced herself from them she had effectively barred them from attending events like their grandson's birthday or graduation, and had now made it "extremely clear" that she did not want to hear from them.

Ms Dolezal was asked about her parents, and said they were "in a rush to whitewash some of the work I've done and who I am and how I've identified".

Much of the media coverage of Ms Dolezal has included photographs of her as a light-skinned and blonde young woman alongside later images of her with a darker complexion and curly dark hair.

When presented with one of the earlier photographs, Ms Dolezal conceded that the woman in the picture "would be visibly identified as white by people who see her."

She was more evasive when asked if she had altered her complexion in the intervening years.

"I certainly don't stay out of the sun," she said. "I also don't, as some of the critics have said, put on black face as a performance."

Such critics include her adopted brother Ezra Dolezal, who is black. He said his sister was "living in blackface" and had "only been African-American when it benefited her".

"It's kind of a slap in the face to African-Americans because she doesn't know what it's like to be black," he said.

 For her part, Ms Dolezal said her identity as a black woman was strengthened by raising her son Franklin, whose father is black, and another adopted brother, Izaiah, who is black.

The latest revelation in the Dolezal family saga is that Rachel's brother Joshua, an author, will soon go on trial for an alleged sexual assault on a black child, the Washington Post reported.

Ms Dolezal said that her identity as a black woman "really solidified" when she was granted custody of Izaiah.


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