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‘I identify as black,’ Former NAACP leader talks about misrepresenting her race

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NEW YORK – Rachel Dolezal, the a former NAACP chapter president accused of pretending to be black, spoke with TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive live interview Tuesday morning.

She told Lauer that she has identified as black since she was five years old.

“I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, and black curly hair,” she told Lauer.

Although many have suggested that Dolezal was deceiving about her race, she says that is not the case.

“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.

She says a newspaper was the first to identify her as biracial, and later, described her as a “black woman,” but she says he never corrected any of the descriptions.

When Lauer asked Dolezal about the changes in her physical appearance and whether she darkened her appearance, she said, “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun.”

She was also asked about the black man she told people was her father, she said that he is “my dad.”

“Any man can be a father. Not (any) man can be a dad,” she told Lauer.

She says she connected with the man on a family level when they met in north Idaho.

She says he truly began identifying as a black woman when she received custody of one of her brothers, who she now considers her son.

“He said, ‘You’re my real mom.’ And he’s in high school, and for that to be something that is plausible, I certainly can’t be seen as white and be Isiah’s mom,” she said.

Lauer also asked Dolezal what her sons would say about her race.

She said one of her sons told her, “mom, racially you’re human, and culturally you’re black.”

Dolezal came under fire last week when her parents produced a birth certificate that showed she is white.

Her parents told TODAY that their daughter pretended to be black, claimed to be born in a teepee and made other false claims.

Dolezal’s parents insisted they never planned to publicly shamed their daughter, but when a newspaper contacted them last week to confirm Rachel was their daughter, “we weren’t going to lie, we told the truth,” Lawrence Dolezal said.  “Rachel is our birth daughter.”

The couple told TODAY that they have not seen their estranged daughter in years.

Dolezal says that if she had the chance, she would make the same choices.

“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.”

Dolezal was asked whether she could have had as big an impact working on civil rights issues had she identified herself as a Caucasian woman.

“I don’t know.  I guess I haven’t had the opportunity to experience that in those shoes.  So, I’m not sure,” she said.

On Monday, Dolezal resigned from her position with the NAACP.

 

 

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