Rachel Dolezal still swears she is a Black woman.
Before the Charleston church shooting pushed her abruptly out of the news cycle, the former NAACP chapter president – who considers herself Black despite being outed by her parents as white – had the country as close as it would come to that elusive national conversation on race.
Now that the intense media coverage has died down, Dolezal reflects on the uproar in the new issue of Vanity Fair. Her position has not changed; she says she has deceived no one.
“It’s not a costume,” she says. “I don’t know spiritually and metaphysically how this goes, but I do know that from my earliest memories I have awareness and connection with the black experience, and that’s never left me. It’s not something that I can put on and take off anymore. Like I said, I’ve had my years of confusion and wondering who I really [was] and why and how do I live my life and make sense of it all, but I’m not confused about that any longer. I think the world might be—but I’m not.”
Dolezal spent years researching and then perfectly molding her black identity. She commands an impressive knowledge of African-American literature, its writers, and the history of the Civil Rights movement. She attended graduate school at the historically black Howard University (where, The Smoking Gun reported, she unsuccessfully sued for being discriminated against because she was white). She is an expert in Black hair, both as a practical matter and as a subject of academic inquiry. She makes it clear she doesn’t plan on altering the way she presents herself anytime soon.
“It’s taken my entire life to negotiate how to identify, and I’ve done a lot of research and a lot of studying,” she says. “I could have a long conversation, an academic conversation about that. I don’t know. I just feel like I didn’t mislead anybody; I didn’t deceive anybody. If people feel misled or deceived, then sorry that they feel that way, but I believe that’s more due to their definition and construct of race in their own minds than it is to my integrity or honesty, because I wouldn’t say I’m African American, but I would say I’m Black, and there’s a difference in those terms.”
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