Editorials

Rachel Dolezal, in her own words

Because Web searches for “Rachel Dolezal” are now outstripping searches for information about the presidential race, looming Supreme Court decisions, and questions of war and peace, we felt it important to join the national conversation about the Spokane woman’s decision to represent herself as black.

Really, this is not click bait.

Although the Q&A below may appear to include answers she provided to NBC News, Today and other media organizations, we embrace the identity of the interviewers and consider the interviews to be our own and not subject to socially constructed demands for an inauthentic literal truth. To be clear, the “questions” are ours; the answers are hers.

Q. As a black woman, Rachel, you gained prominence in the Spokane NAACP and other civil rights groups, and secured a faculty position at Eastern Washington University. You recently claimed to be the daughter of a black Oakland police officer. Yet some have challenged your racial identity.

A. The discussion is really what it is to be human.

Q. But you are an African American?

A. I am definitely not white.

Q. So, you are of African ancestry?

A. We’re all from the African continent.

Q. These photos appear to show you as a young white woman with blonde hair. Your parents maintain they are of European descent. Where was your black identity as a child?

A. I was socially conditioned to not own that and to be limited to whatever biological identity was thrust upon me and narrated to me.

Q. Why did you identify a black man as your dad?

A. Every man can be a father. Not every man can be a dad.

Q. Are your parents your parents?

A. I haven’t had a DNA test. There’s been no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my biological parents.

Q. There’s a birth certificate that has your name on it and their names on it.

A. I’m not necessarily saying that I can prove they’re not. But I don’t know that I can actually prove they are. I mean, the birth certificate is issued a month and a half after I’m born. And certainly there were no medical witnesses to my birth.

Q. Thank you for clearing that up. Have you ever told a fib?

A. I really feel like there have been moments of some creative nonfiction where I, in order to again survive or protect people that I love, I have kind of had to explain or justify some of the timeline or logistics of my life in a way that made sense to others.

Q. You appear to have claimed that you were born in a teepee and that your family hunted for game with bows and arrows, then moved to South Africa where your parents punished you with a baboon whip.

A. That is definitely a misrepresentation I will own. I have never been to South Africa. I wasn’t born in a teepee that I know of.

Q. Has any good resulted from this challenge to your credibility?

A. I am consistently committed to empowering marginalized voices and believe that many individuals have been heard in the last hours and days that would not otherwise have had a platform to weigh in on this important discussion.

Q. Thanks for joining us, Rachel.

A. Thanks for having me.

  Comments