Rachel Dolezal In Vanity Fair: ‘I Wouldn’t Say I’m African American, But I Would Say I’m Black’

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 20, 2015

Following the June 2015 revelation that then-NAACP Spokane, Washington, chapter president Rachel Dolezal—whose biological parents are both white—was presenting herself as a black woman, she sat down with Vanity Fair to talk about the experience. In it, she stands by her view of herself as black and says that she is not confused about who she is:

It’s not a costume. 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 also said that she doesn’t feel she lied about who she is:

It’s taken my entire life to negotiate how to identify, and I’ve done a lot of research and a lot of studying. 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.

She goes on to talk about the things she lost when the controversy hit, including her position at the NAACP, her spot on the police oversight commission and her part-time job teaching in the Africana Studies program at Eastern Washington University. “I’ve got to figure it out before August 1, because my last paycheck was like $1,800 in June. [I lost] friends and the jobs and the work and—oh, my God—so much at the same time,” she told writer Allison Samuels. She says she is making money by doing hair, and she averages three appointments a week for braids and weaves. 

Dolezal also shared that she wants to write a book so she can stop answering questions and get back to her social justice work. 

I would like to write a book just so that I can send [it to] everybody there as opposed to having to continue explaining. After that comes out, then I’ll feel a little bit more free to reveal my life in the racial social-justice movement. I’m looking for the quickest way back to that, but I don’t feel like I am probably going to be able to re-enter that work with the type of leadership required to make change if I don’t have something like a published explanation.

Read the full interview here