Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter who was revealed to have falsely presented herself as black — she is in fact white, as her parents publicly revealed last week — has now embarked on a media tour to control the damage.
The problem is that her damage-control marathon seems to be causing her even more damage. Indeed, a picture seems to be emerging of a person who channeled her isolation and social alienation into the manufacturing of a whole new identity for herself, through a discovered affinity with the African-American community.
Dolezal’s press junket has criss-crossed the NBC News empire, with stops at many of their hosts’ studios. It started with an interview by Matt Lauer on the Today show, in which Dolezal said, “I identify as black” — shortly before Lauer showed Dolezal a picture of herself in her teens.
She also criticized her parents, who emerged to reveal her background: “I really don’t see why they’re in such a rush to whitewash some of the work that I have done and who I am and how I have identified.”
(In a situation like this, she might want to avoid the word “whitewash.”)
Dolezal said that beginning at age five, she “was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon,” and giving herself “black curly hair.”
She denied Lauer’s description that she had been “deceiving” people, claiming instead that during her early civil rights work she had been described by local newspapers as “transracial,” “biracial,” and eventually “black” — which she never corrected.
And in another interview that aired Tuesday night, Dolezal told NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie: “I definitely am not white.”
— Savannah Guthrie (@SavannahGuthrie) June 16, 2015
Sitting down with Amber Payne of NBCBLK, Dolezal had to admit that yes, she has still enjoyed white privilege throughout her life, in a way that black people have not been able to do.
Payne also got Dolezal to admit that her hair is indeed a weave.
MSNBC also showed a sneak preview of an interview by host Melissa Harris-Perry, which also aired Tuesday night — in which Dolezal insisted she is not a “con artist,” but is sincerely dedicated to “the movement, my work, my life, my identity.”
Dolezal also spoke to Harris-Perry of her connection with the black experience, notably as the mother of two black sons, and of her “spiritual, visceral, just very instinctual connection with ‘black is beautiful,’ just the black experience and wanting to celebrate that.”
Harris-Perry, who is herself of mixed racial parentage and identifies primarily as black, seemed skeptical. She told Dolezal: “My mother is a white woman — who interestingly, grew up in Spokane, Washington — who’s raised black children. But she doesn’t herself feel black. She’s a white woman doing the work of parenting black children,” and asked Dolezal to explain the distinction.
Dolezal also conceded to Harris-Perry that yes, she could see why some people out there — including black women — might be angry at her. But she also said she would “never want to be a liability to the cause” of civil rights.
As part of the network’s rolling coverage, MSNBC featured two other African-American commentators to talk about the clips — and they weren’t buying it.