(MEDIA GENERAL) – Rachel Dolezal, a Caucasian woman who recently stepped down from her post as an NAACP chapter president after being accused of “pretending to be black,” said she has identified as black since she was 5 years old.
In an exclusive interview with NBC’s “Today,” on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Dolezal opened up to Matt Lauer about her racial identity.
“I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon,” she said. “It was a little more complex than me identifying as black.”
The controversy surrounding Dolezal stems from an incident last week where her parents, Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, confirmed Rachel, 37, is white.
Rachel Dolezal’s race identity has sparked a national conversation. Amid uproar over her apparent misleadings, Dolezal stepped down Monday from her position as president of the NAACP’s Spokane, Washington, chapter.
Dolezal has put her racial identity on display in several notable incidents. Among them, she has identified herself as multiracial on government forms, including an application to join a police oversight commission in Spokane. She also reportedly sued Howard University, a historically black college, for denying her a teaching job because she is a white woman.
According to NBC News, Dolezal also has made misleading claims about her estranged family. Her parents told “Today” they haven’t seen Rachel in years. Dolezal has shown photographs of a black man who she says is her father. She also has told people she was born in a teepee, which her parents deny.
Despite the criticisms levied against her, Dolezal said she hopes her experience continues to drive discussion on racial identity.
“As much as this discussion has somewhat been at my expense recently and in a very sort of viciously inhumane way come out of the woodwork, the discussion is really about what it is to be human,” Dolezal told Lauer. “I hope that that can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self-determination, personal agency and, ultimately, empowerment.”