Rachel Dolezal Said She Experiences Being Black When Her Hair Gets Searched By The TSA
The former Spokane NAACP president addressed questions about her racial identity in a series of interviews Tuesday with NBC News.
Rachel Dolezal said that she has been through the black experience by having her hair searched by airport security.
In a portion of an interview with NBC BLK released Wednesday, Dolezal responded to questions of what made her black.
"What it means to go there experientially...It's, you know, having your hair searched at TSA. It's actually living in a space where I'm seen as black, or mixed, or whatever, light-skinned," Dolezal said.
Talking about what the black experience entails for her, she said, "Both of my sons being my sons, that entails wherever we go, we are seen as a black family." She said that when she gets pulled over by the police they fill out her race on forms as black or unidentifiable.
When asked about the struggles of the mixed race community, Dolezal responded, "I get treated the same way," adding that she gets asked, "Are you black enough, are you white enough?"
Interviewer Amber Payne asked Dolezal how she would feel if her black sons decided to identify as white. Dolezal laughed and said, "Well that's never going to happen."
Rachel Dolezal said she cried when she read Caitlyn Jenner's story in Vanity Fair.
On a portion of the Today show that aired Wednesday, an emotional Dolezal said, "I cried. I cried. Because I resonated with some of the themes of isolation, of being misunderstood — to not know if you have a conversation with somebody, will that relationship then end because they have seen you as one way."
Dolezal also said that the issue of her racial identity comes up in her dating relationships.
"I'm bisexual — I've dated men and women. And I will intentionally ask, like, 'So do you just date light-skinned women? What's your spectrum?'"
The former president of Spokane's NAACP chapter addressed the controversy over her racial identity in a series of interviews with NBC News that aired Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Dolezal told Today show host Matt Lauer that she identifies as black.
She said her "self-identification with the black experience" went back to her childhood. She said at the age of 5, "I would draw self-portraits with a brown crayon instead of the peach crayon. That was how I was portraying myself."
Speaking to Savannah Guthrie of NBC Nightly News in a later interview, Dolezal said, "Nothing about being white describes who I am."
Guthrie said, "It's one thing to embrace the questions as an academic matter. It's another thing to just actually be honest and transparent about who you are."
"I think that's where people are having trouble with you, Rachel," Guthrie continued. "I think they feel that you have been, for whatever reason, and perhaps wonderful reasons, acting like you're something that you are not."
Dolezal agreed, and responded, "I definitely am not white. Nothing about being white describes who I am. What's the word for it?"
She said again that she is black, and that "on a level of values, lived experience currently, that's the answer. That's the accurate answer from my truth."
When Matt Lauer showed Dolezal a photo of herself at 16 with a fair complexion, straight blonde hair, and blue eyes, she said that the girl in the picture "would be identified as white visually by people who see her" and that she did not identify herself as African-American "in that picture, during that time."
When asked about her darkened skin tone, Dolezal said, "I certainly don't stay out of the sun."
She said her identification as a black woman "solidified" when she got full custody of her adopted black brother, Izaiah Dolezal, when he was in high school.
"He said, 'You're my real mom,' and for that to be something that is plausible, I certainly can't be seen as white and be Izaiah's mom," Dolezal said.
She said that one of her sons told her, "Mom, racially you're human and culturally you're black." She said that her sons Izaiah and Franklin Moore — her son with her ex-husband — supported the way she identified. "We are the Three Musketeers," she said.
Addressing statements her birth parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, made in interviews, where they said she would have been more effective at her job as a civil rights activist had she been truthful about her race, Dolezal said, "I really don't see why they're in a rush to whitewash the work that I've done and who I am and how I've identified."
Dolezal later questioned who her birth parents really are, telling Savannah Guthrie, "I haven't had a DNA test."
"There's been no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my biological parents," Dolezal said. She later added, "I'm not necessarily saying that I can prove they're not, but don't know that I can actually prove they are."
Dolezal also said that there were "no medical witnesses to my birth" and said she was born "in the woods."
Dolezal also addressed questions about Albert Wilkerson Jr., the black man whom she calls her father. She told Matt Lauer that she met Wilkerson in north Idaho and they "connected on an intimate level as family."
When asked about why she refused to acknowledge Larry Dolezal as her father, she said, "Albert Wilkerson is my dad. Any man can be a father, but not every man can be a dad."
Dolezal said she sued Howard University for discriminating against her as a white woman because "the reasons for my full tuition scholarships being removed as well as my teaching position were that other people needed opportunities and 'you probably have white relatives who can afford to help you with your tuition.' I thought that was an injustice."
Responding to criticism about putting on blackface, Dolezal said, "I have a huge issue with blackface. This is not some freak Birth of a Nation mockery blackface performance. This is on a very real, connected level, how I've actually had to go there with the experience and not just a visible representation."
Dolezal denied that she deceived people about her identity. "It's a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question of 'Are you black or white?'" she said.
She later admitted, "There have been moments of creative non-fiction where I have had to explain and justify some of the timelines and logistics of my life that makes sense to others."
She also said that she didn't correct several media reports that identified her as "transracial, biracial, light-skinned, and black," because it was "more complex than being true or false in that particular instance."
She acknowledged that, in retrospect, she would have done a couple of interviews differently. "But overall my life has been of survival, and the decisions I made along the way, including my identification, have been to survive and carry forward my journey," she said.
While calling the timing of the controversy "shocking and unexpected," Dolezal said, "I did feel that at some point I would have to address the complexity of my identity."
However, she said, "I would make the same choices I made."
And in an interview with Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, Rachel Dolezal said that for her entire life, her identity made her feel "very isolated."
Dolezal added that she lacked the "personal agency" when she was younger to articulate her identity, and added that "nobody got it."
She said she had planned to process and publicly own the complexities of who she is after her children reached adulthood.
"But certainly, I wasn't expecting it to be thrust upon me right now," she said.
In another segment of the interview, which will air Tuesday evening on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes, Dolezal went on to say, "It means that I have really gone there with the experience in terms of being a mother with two black sons."
She maintained that she felt "a spiritual, visceral, instinctual connection with black is beautiful. Just the black experience and wanting to celebrate that."
Dolezal believes she was "socially conditioned to not own that and to be limited to whatever biological identity was being thrust upon me and being narrated to me."
Dolezal also revealed that her hair was a weave in an interview with NBC BLK.
When asked about how she does her hair, Dolezal laughed, saying, "You're just going to out me like that?" She then told interviewer Amber Payne, "Because you're you and I'm here, I'll tell you. If I was at the grocery store or anywhere else I'd be like, 'None of your business.'"
She finally responded, "This is a weave and I do it myself."