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Former NAACP Official Rachel Dolezal Speaks Out

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Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP chapter president, resigned yesterday amidst controversy surrounding her race. This morning, she appeared on TODAY in an exclusive interview where she said that she identifies as black and never intended to deceive people. The interview raises questions about racial authenticity and appropriation, as well as the implications and consequences of transracial identity. In her article titled "Why Comparing Rachel Dolezal To Caitlyn Jenner Is Detrimental To Both Trans And Racial Progress," Zeba Blay explains that "transracial identity is a concept that allows white people to indulge in blackness as a commodity, without having to actually engage with every facet of what being black entails - discrimination, marginilzation, oppression, and so on."

Dolezal's narrative - apparently that she is part black, white and Native American - began to unravel following local police and journalism investigations into several hate crimes she reported against her. Soon, Dolezal's parents - from who she is reportedly estranged and has accused of physical abuse - came forward and accused her of lying about her race and changing her appearance. They produced photos of her as child with a pale complexion and straight, blonde hair, as well as her birth certificate as proof. That conflicted with Dolezal's previous claims that her father was black, which she firmly confirmed when confronted by reporters. 

But in her interview, the closest Dolezal came to admitting any fault was to say "There are probably a coupe interviews that I would do a little differently if circumstances, in retrospect, I knew what I know now." When Matt Lauer of NBC's TODAY show asked, "When did you start deceiving people?" Dolezal would not admit that she had done so. She explained that her identification with black people went back as far as when she was five years old. "I was drawing self portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, and the black curly hair," she said. When Mr. Lauer repeatedly asked whether she had used her racial identification as a way to gain advantage, either against Howard University or in enhancing her credibility as a civil rights advocate, she declined to answer. She stated that her experience was too complex than identifying as black, or answering the question of 'Are you black or white?' While some defend her by pointing to her activisim and efficacy as a leader, the majority questioned her integrity and inabiliy to acknowledge the truth. Dolezal admits the controversy, especially the timing of it caught her off guard, but her hope is that some good comes out of it, if it changes how some people think about identity. "The discussion is really about what it means to be human," she said. "And I hope that really can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self-determination, personal agency, and ultimately, empowerment."

 


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