The racial background of Rachel Dolezal has sparked a national furor after her parents revealed that the longtime civil rights activist is white, not African American, as she had maintained for years. Despite the controversy, she remained defiant about her identity on the Today Show this morning when interviewed by Matt Lauer.
“Are you an African American woman?” asked Lauer.
“I identify as black,” answered Dolezal. ”This is not some freak ‘Birth of a Nation’ mockery blackface performance.”
Dolezal stepped down as the leader of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Monday, June 15.
On the Today Show, she said she started identifying as black at a very young age, drawing self-portraits with a brown crayon instead of a peach-colored one. But when Lauer asked about her lawsuit against the historically black Howard University—in which she claimed to be a victim of discrimination because she was white—she evaded the question.
She admitted that she never corrected media reports that called her “biracial” or “black,” because it was “more complex than true or false.”
Dolezal also told Lauer she hoped the controversy would “drive at the core of definitions of race [and] ethnicity culture.” Indeed, the revelation about Dolezal’s race triggered a conversation about the nature of race and racial identity, with some commentators defending her right to define her own ethnicity.