In an interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish, Rachel Dolezal attempted to clarify her complicated racial self-identification, referring to herself as “trans-black” and stating that “race is a social construct.”
During her talk with Smerconish, Dolezal, who recently legally changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo, spoke about her recently published memoir In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World. In that book, Dolezal traces her self-identification as a black woman to her childhood growing up in Montana.
Dolezal claims that as a child she drew pictures of herself as black and her Aunt Becky made her a black Raggedy Ann doll due to her “affinity for black as beautiful and black as inspirational.”
When Smerconish asked Dolezal if she believed a parallel could be made between her identification as trans-black and transgender reality star Caitlyn Jenner, Dolezal replied that she saw a connection.
In terms of stigmatized identities, some people will forever see me as my birth category and nothing further. And the same with Caitlyn.
Throughout the discussion, Rachel Dolezal continued to make a distinction between identifying as black versus African American. She also revealed a litany of identities that she embraces.
If I would have had time to really, you know, discuss my identity, I probably would have described a more complex label, pan-African, pro-black, bisexual, mother, artist, activist, but I think the question, Are you African-American? — I haven’t identified as African-American. I’ve identified as black. And black is a culture, a philosophy, a political and social view.
At one point, Smerconish turned the discussion to the backlash that Dolezal continues to face from both black and white people for her unorthodox identity. She replied that she still faces hostility, but also has heard from many individuals who embrace what she calls a “plural identity.”
In her new book, Dolezal describes in great detail how she came to embrace a life marked by a plurality of identities. She discloses horrific abuse she claims she experienced at the hands of her estranged Pentecostal parents and her brother. She also speaks about the events leading up to her being revealed as a white woman in 2015 when she was the president of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the NAACP and an emerging civil rights leader.
Her admitted web of lies, from claiming at first that she was biracial to the falsehood that grew up in South Africa, all came to a head when a KXLY 4 reporter famously confronted her about hate crimes she said happened, but that were never proven.
The infamous interview led to Dolezal losing her position at the NAACP. The continued controversy damaged her reputation irreparably and resulted in her being the subject of endless memes and jokes. During her latest round of interviews to promote her book, Dolezal has claimed that she is destitute and the only work she can find is doing black women’s hair in her home.
It should be noted that Dolezal’s views of race as a social construct are not new and are currently accepted in sociological discourse and have been for decades. However, her view that someone with no verifiable African ancestry can claim an essential blackness based on an affinity for cultural markers remains controversial. Furthermore, Dolezal’s comparison of her trans-black identity to that of transgender people has been met with criticism in various media outlets.
Rachel Dolezal isnt trans anything. She is a white cis woman appropriating black women's experiences and transgender people's experiences.— Discourse Inferno (@MissMacSee) March 28, 2017
I'm sorry, Rachel Dolezal identifying as Black is not nearly the same as being transgender. That's just ridiculous.— Michelle Greenfield (@mgreenfield6) April 1, 2017
Rachel Dolezal believes that she has embraced a life of being stigmatized by identifying as a black woman. When speaking with Salon, she talked about her hope that fluidity in racial classification would become more widespread in the future.
[Featured Image by RW/AP Images]