The Spokane woman who quit as head of her local NAACP chapter days after her parents said she was lying about her race said Tuesday she still considers herself black and that her situation is “at the core of definitions of race.”
The bizarre case of Rachel Dolezal continued to play out as the 37-year-old appeared on NBC’s “Today” show and seemed to turn the traditional definition of race on its head.
“I identify as black,” she told Matt Lauer.
“I hope that that can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self-determination, personal agency and, ultimately, empowerment,” she said at another point in the interview.
Dolezal said she has always thought of herself as black, and that as a child, she would draw herself in pictures with a brown crayon with black curly hair.
Meanwhile, her parents and adopted brother appeared separately on Fox News Channel and said she has been falsely claiming to be African-American for several years.
Ezra Dolezal, her brother, told “Fox & Friends” Tuesday that he started to notice in 2011 that she was changing her appearance. He said she changed her hair style and used makeup to alter her skin tone. He said her claim that she identified as black since she was a child is not true.
Dolezal resigned Monday, just days after her parents told local media outlets that she had misrepresented herself as fully or partially black. In reality, they said, their daughter’s ancestry is German, Swedish, and Czech, with some Native American background as well.
Dolezal sued Howard University after she received her graduate degree there, claiming the historically black college had discriminated against her because she was white. WTTG reported that Dolezal filed her lawsuit against Howard in 2002, asking for damages due to “medical and emotional distress.” Her parents told Fox News Channel that Dolezal had submitted African-themed art as part of her application to the school, and that they believed the school was surprised when, after accepting her, they learned that she was white.
Dolezal, who then went by her married name, Rachel Moore, claimed the university blocked her appointment as a teaching assistant, failed to hire her as an art teacher upon graduation and removed some of her pieces from a student art exhibition in favor of works by African-American students.
In 2005, the D.C. appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling throwing out the lawsuit and Dolezal was ordered to pay the university $2,700 to cover the costs of the lawsuit.
WTTG also reported that Dolezal had received three speeding tickets in Virginia, where she lived while attending school, in 2000, 2001, and 2003. All three court documents listed her race as white.
David Smedley, an associate professor of sculpture at Howard, told the Washington Post that Dolezal’s race was never in question during her time at the school.
“She was a blue-eyed, blond woman,” Smedley told the paper.
In addition to her departure from the NAACP, Dolezal was fired Monday as a weekly columnist for The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Spokane’s alternative weekly, and her contract as an instructor at Eastern Washington University was not renewed.
City officials are investigating whether she lied about her ethnicity when she landed an appointment to Spokane’s police oversight board. On her application, she said her ethnic origins included white, black and American Indian.
On Friday, police said they were suspending investigations into racial harassment complaints filed by Dolezal before the uproar, including one from earlier this year in which she said she received hate mail at her NAACP office.
Police released files showing that one package did not bear a date stamp or barcode, meaning it was probably not handled through the post office.
Dolezal’s parents appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Monday and said they hope to reconcile with their daughter.
“We hope that Rachel will get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues. Of course, we love her,” her mother said.