Activist in race firestorm: I'm definitely not white

Ms Rachel Dolezal, whose parents are white, has served for years in a black community.
Ms Rachel Dolezal, whose parents are white, has served for years in a black community.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - A US civil rights activist at the centre of a national firestorm over allegations that she pretended to be black for years has said she is "definitely not white" and identifies as an African American.

Ms Rachel Dolezal - who rose to become president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) - resigned from her post after her parents, who are white, said she is too.

But the 37-year-old was unapologetic in a series of interviews with NBC News on Tuesday - her first since her story made headlines - and said the issue is one that transcends simple biology.

"I identify as black," Ms Dolezal - who has tawny skin and dark curly hair - told NBC's Today show.

She said that by age five, she was already "drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of peach. Black curly hair".

"It's a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question of 'are you black or white?'" she said.

In comments to NBC Nightly News, she was even more defiant.

"I definitely am not white. Nothing about being white describes who I am," she said. "If you're black or white, I'm black. I'm more black than I am white."

Ms Dolezal built a career as an activist in the black community of Spokane.

She served as an independent mediator for the city's police force. Neither position required that she be black, but media reports said Ms Dolezal identified herself in application forms, public appearances and writings as at least partially black.

Ms Dolezal's parents, from whom she is estranged, have provided local media with a birth certificate and photographs of her as a blonde, fair-skinned child.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Activist in race firestorm: I'm definitely not white'. Print Edition | Subscribe