Rachel Dolezal: 'I identify as black'

Activist breaks silence after parents 'outed' her as being white

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The Independent US

The activist Rachel Dolezal today defended her actions in claiming to be an African American woman and declared: “I identify as black.”

The activist from Spokane has sparked shock and surprise, and triggered a national debate after parents last week said she was white, even though she had spent more than a decade presenting herself as an black woman and an expert on African American culture.

Speaking on NBC’s Today Programme, Ms Dolezal said she had been surprised at being ‘outed’ by her parents, but said she realised that at some point she would have to address the “complexity of my race.” She said she took exception to the suggestion she had deceived people.

Ms Dolezal, 37, broke her silence a day she revealed she was standing down as head of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

It also came as it was revealed she had filed a lawsuit against a traditionally black university she had attended, claiming she had been discriminated against in part because she was white.

Her appearance immediately reopened a passionate debate on social media about the merits or otherwise of the activist's behaviour.

On Tuesday, Ms Dolezal was shown a photograph of her as a white teenager and asked if that was an imge of someone who was black. “Visibly, that person would be identified as white,” she said.

Asked about about the efforts she made to change her appearance, she said: “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun.”

But she added: “I don’t put on a black face as a performance. I have a huge issue with black face. This is not mockery.”

Ms Dolezal said her experience went beyond the issue of appearance, claiming she had experienced what it was like to live and work as a black person. She referred to Izaiah, a member of her family she claimed she had now adopted as her son.

"When I got full custody, for that to be something plausible, I certainly could not appear as white."

Ms Dolezal said she had starting identifying as a black person when she was as young as five.

"I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, and black curly hair," she told network host Matt Lauer.

And she insisted she never deceived anyone, as numerous critics have suggested.

"I do take exception to that because it's a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question of, are you black or white?" she said.

Asked if she regretted her actions, she said she would behave in the same way again.

"As much as this discussion has somewhat been at my expense recently, and in a very sort of viciously inhumane way come out of the woodwork, the discussion is really about what it is to be human," she said.

"I hope that that can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self determination, personal agency and, ultimately, empowerment."