Rachel Dolezal broke her silence on the controversy over her racial identity that led her to resign as Spokane NAACP President. Watch the video of her live interview with Matt Lauer the Today Show in which she says, “I identify as black” and reveals she has so identified since age five. It was one of many comments which have quickly gone viral.
The 37-year-old activist and college professor has provoked controversy as well as an international debate on racial identity when it was revealed, initially by her parents, that she is biologically Caucasian and has been passing for black for many years. After days of being the hottest and most trending topic in social media, especially Twitter where #AskRachel, ##RachelDolezalPlaylist and other hashtags reveal intense discussion — and more than a bit of ridicule and scorn — she finally broke her silence.
When NBC Today Show co-anchor Matt Lauer asked her if she consider herself an African-American woman, as she has claimed for years, she said, “I identify as black.”
She went on to that she has had such a self-identification since she was five years old. She said, “I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon.” She added, “It was a little more complex than me identifying as black.
Lauer also asked her about skin color which is visibly much darker than in pictures which her family released to the media, showing her as a blond, blue-eyed child. She said, “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun.”
But she balked at allegations that her physical appearance was akin to blackface, as some commentators have said. Dolezal said, “I have a huge issue with blackface. This is not some freak ‘Birth of a Nation’ mockery blackface performance.”
She continued, and addded, “This is on a very real, connected level. How I’ve had to go there with the experience, not just a visible representation, but with the experience.”
Asked if she would have approached things differently, knowing this outcome, she said, “”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 continued, adding, “I hope that that can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self determination, personal agency and, ultimately, empowerment.”
Dolezal also spoke about her two adopted black sons who were also present in the studio (the camera panned them as she made mention of them). She said that they would say to her, “Mom, racially you’re human, and culturally you’re black.”
The live interview is just the first of three scheduled thus far, as she will face cameras again for NBC Nightly News as well as MSNBC. The reaction on social media, predictably, has been swift as the video and the comments she has made have gone viral.
Watch the full video of Rachel Dolezal’s live interview below.