WATCH ABOVE: Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane NAACP leader who resigned amid a storm of controversy around her claims that she is black, addressed allegations on NBC’s Today show on June 16.
Rachel Dolezal is back with a new interview, and she isn’t backing away from her assertion that she is black despite widespread condemnation that she lied about her race.
Dolezal, the “black” woman who was an NAACP chapter head until being “outed” as having white parents, told Vanity Fair she’s sorry that some people “feel misled or deceived” by how she identifies but reiterated, “I’m black.”
The controversy over the 37-year-old’s racial identity erupted in the public spotlight after a local TV news reporter confronted her in June and asked if her father “really was an African American man.”
Dolezal acted confused by the question and walked away when he asked if she was African-American.
Dolezal, who previously spoke about the controversy surrounding her race on NBC’s Today show, insisted she has self-identified as black since she was five years old (her parents refute that) and set off a debate as to whether somebody can be “transracial.”
Here are four things we learned from Dolezal’s Vanity Fair interview published Sunday.
“It’s not a costume.”
Dolezal still insists she has identified with “the black experience” since a very early age. She studied at an African-American university, Howard University, was married a to an African American man, with whom she had 13-year-old son Franklin, and taught in the Africana-studies program at Eastern Washington University — until the school chose not to renew her part-time contract.
Vanity Fair‘s Allison Samuels reported the controversy isn’t going to change the way she identifies or how she presents herself.
“It’s taken my entire life to negotiate how to identify, and I’ve done a lot of research and a lot of studying,” she told Samuels.
“I wouldn’t say I’m African American, but I would say I’m black, and there’s a difference in those terms.”
Here’s how Dolezal explained the difference between being “black” and being “African-American”:
“It’s hard to collapse it all into just a single statement about what is,” she said. “You can’t just say in one sentence what is blackness or what is black culture or what makes you who you are.”
She was somewhat apologetic to those in her life who felt duped by her family history and racial identity.
“I just feel like I didn’t mislead anybody; I didn’t deceive anybody. If people feel misled or deceived, then sorry that they feel that way, but I believe that’s more due to their definition and construct of race in their own minds than it is to my integrity or honesty…
“If I would have known this was going to happen, I could have said, ‘O.K., so this is the case. This is who I am, and I’m black and this is why.'”
“…my last paycheck was like $1,800 in June.”
Dolezal lost two jobs amid the sudden upheaval in her life: not only was her contract not renewed at Eastern Washington University but she had to resign as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.
Dolezal has a specialization in “black hair” — both the history of it and the styling of it. According to the Vanity Fair article, she picked up her skills while studying at Jackson Mississippi’s Belhaven University.
“That passion is now what brings in income in the home she shares with Franklin. She says she has appointments for braids and weaves about three times a week,” Vanity Fair‘s Samuels reported.
“I would like to write a book…”
Dolezal said writing a memoir of who she is and why would help others understand he racial identity and help her move on with she’s passionate about in life.
“After that comes out, then I’ll feel a little bit more free to reveal my life in the racial social-justice movement. I’m looking for the quickest way back to that, but I don’t feel like I am probably going to be able to re-enter that work with the type of leadership required to make change if I don’t have something like a published explanation.”