Ex-NAACP leader an­swers crit­ics

Rachel Dolezal says, ‘I iden­tify as black,’ and she claims she’s un­sure who her par­ents are.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Tina Sus­man and Matt Pearce tina.sus­man@latimes.com Twit­ter: @ti­nasus­man matt.pearce@latimes.com Twit­ter: @Mat­tDPearce Sus­man re­ported from New York and Pearce from Los An­ge­les.

NEW YORK — Rachel Dolezal’s day­long media blitz in which she de­nied that she is a white woman pos­ing as black cul­mi­nated Tues­day night with a claim that she’s not sure her white par­ents are her real par­ents.

“I haven’t had a DNA test. There’s been no bi­o­log­i­cal proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents,” Dolezal said on “NBC Nightly News.”

“There’s a birth cer­tifi­cate that has your name on it and their names on it,” in­ter­viewer Sa­van­nah Guthrie re­sponded.

“I’m not nec­es­sar­ily say­ing that I can prove they’re not,” Dolezal said. “But I don’t know that I can ac­tu­ally prove they are. I mean, the birth cer­tifi­cate is is­sued a month and a half af­ter I’m born. And cer­tainly there were no med­i­cal wit­nesses to my birth.”

Ear­lier Tues­day, Dolezal, a for­mer Spokane, Wash., NAACP leader, said she had viewed her­self as black since child­hood and knows what it’s like to “live black,” de­spite crit­ics’ al­le­ga­tions she is a poseur.

In back-to-back morn­ing in­ter­views with NBC’s “To­day” show and MSNBC, Dolezal did not of­fer any apolo­gies and said she was be­ing at­tacked in a “vi­ciously in­hu­mane way,” even as she re­mained com­mit­ted to fight­ing for hu­man rights.

Dolezal also de­nied switch­ing racial iden­ti­ties for op­por­tunis­tic rea­sons, even though she sued How- ard Univer­sity for al­legedly dis­crim­i­nat­ing against her when she was a white grad­u­ate stu­dent there, and years later de­scribed her­self as black on job ap­pli­ca­tions.

“I iden­tify as black,” Dolezal said on “To­day,” less than 24 hours af­ter she re­signed as pres­i­dent of the NAACP’s chap­ter in Spokane.

She also said she hoped the pas­sions aroused by the episode would be chan­neled into a deeper con­ver­sa­tion on eth­nic­ity and race.

“The dis­cus­sion re­ally is what it is to be hu­man,” she said.

Asked whether she would again make the same choices that led to the up­roar, Dolezal replied, “I would.”

Later, on MSNBC, she was asked what it meant to iden­tify her­self as black.

“I have re­ally gone there with the ex­pe­ri­ence, in terms of be­ing a mother of two black sons and re­ally own­ing what it means to ex­pe­ri­ence and live black, black­ness,” she said.

Dolezal, 37, said that from a young age she had felt iso­lated and grew to feel a con­nec­tion with black peo­ple. “Just the black ex­pe­ri­ence, and want­ing to celebrate that,” she said.

“But cer­tainly that was shut down,” Dolezal said. “I was so­cially con­di­tioned to not own that and to be lim­ited to what­ever bi­o­log­i­cal iden­tity was thrust upon me and nar­rated to me.”

She said that when her par­ents adopted four younger black chil­dren, she saw her­self as a help­ful link be­tween the chil­dren and their new, mainly white en­vi­ron­ment.

The con­tro­versy erupted last week af­ter Dolezal’s par­ents said their daugh­ter was white and pro­duced pho­to­graphs of her from years ago. The pic­tures show Dolezal with fair skin and straight, blond hair, with col­or­ing sim­i­lar to that of her mother and fa­ther.

On “To­day,” Dolezal looked at one of the pic­tures, which she said was taken when she was about 16. She said that peo­ple look­ing at it would iden­tify her as white and that she was not pub­licly iden­ti­fy­ing her­self as African Amer­i­can at the time the pic­ture was taken.

But Dolezal also said she had thought of her­self as black since about age 5.

“I was draw­ing self-por­traits with the brown crayon in­stead of the peach crayon,” she said.

Her par­ents de­nied that claim on Fox News.

“That is a fab­ri­ca­tion. That’s false. That did not hap­pen. She has never done any­thing like that as a child, although she was al­ways at­tracted to the black peo­ple,” Ruthanne Dolezal said, not­ing that the fam­ily had close African Amer­i­can friends. “She was used to re­lat­ing to peo­ple of di­ver­sity. But she did not ever por­tray her­self ” as black.

Larry Dolezal said “we don’t know” why their daugh­ter was por­tray­ing her­self as black. He said she had told them over the years not to con­tact her.

By the time Dolezal emerged as a civil rights ac­tivist in north­ern Idaho, she said news sto­ries be­gan de- scrib­ing her as bira­cial or mixed race, and she did not cor­rect them. By then, her skin was no­tice­ably darker.

“I cer­tainly don’t stay out of the sun,” she replied when asked whether she had done some­thing to change her skin color.

Dolezal did not say why for years she chose not to cor­rect the news sto­ries that de­scribed her as bira­cial.

She was asked why she had pub­licly iden­ti­fied a black man as her fa­ther while work­ing in Spokane for the NAACP, and whether it was done to bol­ster her rep­u­ta­tion as a black ac­tivist.

Dolezal said she and the man had con­nected “on a very in­ti­mate level, as a fam­ily,” and she again de­scribed him as her “dad.”

“Ev­ery man can be a fa­ther. Not ev­ery man can be a dad,” said Dolezal, whose birth par­ents say she has shunned them for years.

In re­sponse, Larry Dolezal said on Fox News, “That hurts deeply be­cause for over 20 years, Rachel fondly re­ferred to me as ‘papa.’ ”

Dolezal cast her­self as the vic­tim of a dif­fi­cult life — some­thing her par­ents have de­nied.

“My life has been one of sur­vival, and the de­ci­sions I have made along the way, in­clud­ing my iden­tity, have been to sur­vive and to carry for­ward in my jour­ney,” Dolezal said.

She had an­tic­i­pated go­ing public with her back­ground at some point, she said. “Clearly, I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it to be thrust upon me right now,” Dolezal said.

An­thony Quin­tano NBC News

RACHEL DOLEZAL, whose par­ents said she’s pos­ing as black, told “To­day” show host Matt Lauer that at a young age, “I was draw­ing self-por­traits with the brown crayon in­stead of the peach crayon.”

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