Rachel Dolezal: My Identity Isn't a 'Costume'

Ex-NAACP head tells 'Vanity Fair' world may be confused about her, but she's not
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2015 11:50 AM CDT
In this image released by NBC News, former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal appears on the "Today" show set on June 16, 2015, in New York.   (Anthony Quintano/NBC News via AP)

(Newser) – It's been more than a month since Rachel Dolezal caused a media circus when her parents revealed she was a white woman passing as black. Now the ex-NAACP head is speaking out, telling Vanity Fair that she still identifies and connects with the "black experience," and that her physical appearance is simply a manifestation of that connection. "It's not a costume," she tells writer Allison Samuels, who corresponded with Dolezal for a month with "friendly" phone calls, emails, and a visit to Spokane, Wash. "It's not something that I can put on and take off anymore. … I've had my years of confusion and wondering who I really [was] … but I'm not confused about that any longer. I think the world might be—but I'm not." Part of that confusion still swirls around what she considers herself in terms of race—and as Samuels puts it, "Dolezal's claim on black womanhood still seems to be non-negotiable."

To wit: "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 tells Samuels. "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 … I wouldn't say I'm African American, but I would say I'm black, and there's a difference in those terms." Samuels calls this a "peculiar defense" and also calls out Dolezal for her "I never misled" statements by pointing out how Dolezal IDed a black man as her dad on Facebook—"a move that could only be characterized as misleading." Dolezal, meanwhile, blames the whole brouhaha on timing, saying if she had simply had conversations with people and explained herself before she was exposed, none of this would have happened. (Read what else she had to say in Vanity Fair.)

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