Posted on April 19, 2017

‘I Still Identify as Black’ says Rachel Dolezal on South Africa Visit

Azizzar Mosupi, Times Live, April 18, 2017

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

Controversial American author and former head of the (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) NAACP in Spokane‚ Washington‚ Rachel Dolezal‚ says she still identifies as black‚ despite the backlash she has received from the public.

“I still identify as black… maybe trans-black is a good compromise because it identifies that I was born to white parents‚ but have an authentic black identity.”

Dolezal‚ was speaking on 702’s breakfast show with Stephen Grootes on Tuesday morning.

The 39-year-old is in the country to speak at Quest for Non Racial South African Society Dialogue (QfNRSASD)‚ however it is unclear whether the event will go ahead.

“Historically‚ there has been more of the numbers crossing the colour line in the opposite direction. People born and categorised as black in the United States‚ lived a white life and that sense of racial fluidity had a bit of a spectrum‚ and yet‚ even people like Michael Jackson and others have reversed their pigmentation or their skin colour‚” she said. 

“There is possibility for fluidity in many different directions but it’s not necessarily a mainstream trend or process that people undergo so I think to some extent‚ there was some shock and sense of ‘what do we do’ with somebody who has always felt connected to blackness for their entire life and yet was born categorised as white.”

Dolezal‚ who changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo‚ has been criticised and confronted about being a race faker.

Dolezal‚ however‚ says that race is not a biological concept.

“This really brings up that race is a social construct. President Barack Obama even said that race is more social than it is biological and if you are perceived as African American‚ you are African American‚” she said.

Grootes then asked her about the privilege that she has afforded herself through making the decision to be black‚ while African Americans historically have not – they were just so.

“The spectrum that I just mentioned is a privilege spectrum‚ whether it is someone who is light-skinned and classified as black at birth or whether someone is born white and has certain features that would be racialised as black. I think that there is an ethnically indeterminate kind of zone that has a privilege for sure because then you have the personal agency to decide without certain surgeries – racial reconstruction surgeries‚ where people can go to extreme measures to alter an appearance towards one race or the other – and it’s not just black and white.

“In my case‚ there was a crossing of the colour line but it’s still not as cavalier‚ it’s not a choice in a way that people think it was. This is how I have always felt… when I say authentic identity‚ it’s because this is who I have always been.”

Dolezal also told Grootes that when she identified as white‚ she was often questioned. “People were arguing with me and telling me I was more black than white and now people are telling me that I’m more white than black.”

Dolezal’s true identity was revealed in 2016 and she received a considerable backlash over faking her race for several years.

“The majority of African American people in the United States have turned their backs on you‚ they’re furious and they feel that you have stolen from them. If you are so authentic‚ why do so many people feel that way?” Grootes asked.