Con­tro­ver­sial US ac­tivist: ‘I def­i­nitely am not white’

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY FA­BI­ENNE FAUR

A U.S. civil rights ac­tivist at the cen­ter of a na­tional firestorm over al­le­ga­tions that she pre­tended to be black for years said Tues­day she is “def­i­nitely not white” and iden­ti­fies as an African-Amer­i­can.

Rachel Dolezal — who was pres­i­dent of the Spokane, Washington chap­ter of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple (NAACP) — re­signed from her post af­ter her par­ents, who are white, said she is too.

But the 37 year old was un­apolo­getic in a se­ries of in­ter­views with NBC News — her first since her sto- ry made head­lines — and said the is­sue is one that tran­scends sim­ple bi­ol­ogy.

“I iden­tify as black,” Dolezal — who has tawny skin and dark curly hair — told NBC’s “To­day” show.

She said that by age five, she was al­ready “draw­ing self-por­traits with the brown crayon in­stead of peach. Black curly hair.”

“It’s a lit­tle more com­plex than me iden­ti­fy­ing as black or an­swer­ing a ques­tion of ‘are you black or white?’” she said.

In com­ments to NBC Nightly News, she was even more de­fi­ant. “I def­i­nitely am not white.” “Noth­ing about be­ing

white de­scribes who I am,” she said. “If you’re black or white, I’m black. I’m more black than I am white.”

Dolezal built a ca­reer as an ac­tivist in the black com­mu­nity of Spokane.

She rose to be­come the pres­i­dent of the city’s branch of the NAACP and served as an in­de­pen­dent me­di­a­tor for the city’s po­lice force.

Nei­ther po­si­tion re­quired that she be black, but media re­ports said Dolezal iden­ti­fied her­self in ap­pli­ca­tion forms and in var­i­ous public ap­pear­ances and writ­ings as at least par­tially black.

She re­signed Mon­day from her NAACP post.

Dolezal’s par­ents, from whom she is es­tranged, have pro­vided lo­cal media with a birth cer­tifi­cate and pho­to­graphs of her as a blonde, fairskinned child.

When asked if she had in­ten­tion­ally dark­ened her com­plex­ion, Dolezal said, “I cer­tainly don’t stay out of the sun.”

But she bris­tled at the no­tion that she was putting on black­face, as some have sug­gested.

“This is not some freak ‘Birth of a Na­tion’ mock­ery black­face per­for­mance. This is on a very real con­nected level — how I have ac­tu­ally had to go there with the ex­pe­ri­ence,” Dolezal said.

She called the storm of crit­i­cism around her “vi­ciously in­hu­mane” and said she would make the same choices if she had to do it all over again.

“The dis­cus­sion is re­ally about what it is to be hu­man,” Dolezal said, adding that she hoped the in­ci­dent “re­ally can drive at the core of def­i­ni­tions of race, eth­nic­ity, cul­ture, self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, per­sonal agency and, ul­ti­mately, em­pow­er­ment.”

Re­lat­ing to Di­ver­sity

In an in­ter­view with Fox News, Dolezal’s par­ents said their daugh­ter had not shown signs of iden­ti­fy­ing as black from an early age.

“No, that is a fab­ri­ca­tion, that’s false,” her mother Ruthanne said.

“Rachel is re­ject­ing her bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily and she is also re­ject­ing re­al­ity.”

The Dolezals, who adopted four black chil­dren and said they had mul­ti­ple black friends, con­ceded that their daugh­ter “was used to re­lat­ing to peo­ple of di­ver­sity” and had al­ways been at­tracted to the black com­mu­nity.

Dolezal had been “as­sim­i­lated into the black cul­ture and the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity now for 20 years,” her fa­ther Larry said.

When the con­tro­versy erupted around Dolezal, she ini­tially dodged ques­tions seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion about her race and eth­nic­ity, and she did not ad­dress her race in her NAACP res­ig­na­tion let­ter.

Lead­ers from the city of Spokane said in a state­ment they were “dis­ap­pointed” over the episode and “the al­leged mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

Ex­perts con­sulted by AFP were not swayed by Dolezal’s ex­pla­na­tions and said she may in fact have dam­aged the cause she was work­ing to ad­vance.

For G. Regi­nald Daniel of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Santa Bar­bara, “her be­hav­ior smacks of mimicry and ap­pro­pri­a­tion, and ends up be­ing dis­re­spect­ful.”

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