Rachel Dolezal, the now-former president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, apparently faced a lot of struggles and prejudice for being a “black woman” in the white majority community. In fact, she felt like she was representing an entire race and had a lot to say about how white culture has “co-opted” black culture.
She revealed all these experiences while talking to Eastern Washington graduate Lauren Campbell, who was documenting local black women and the struggles they face for her thesis exhibition in 2014.
“The more white supremacy groups did to me and my family, the darker my complexion became in the public’s eyes, without even seeing me. Its like, 'Oh, she got blacker and blacker and blacker…' Now, the audience is deciding, reframing my identity,” she said during the interview.
However, even back then, something about Dolezal felt off to Campbell, who is black herself.
“It felt like something’s wrong here, like something is weird about the information she is telling me,” Campbell told the Inlander. “I specifically remember... we had this banquet, and they had invited her, and she was wearing this straight weave. That was the moment when I said, 'She does not have a single black feature.’”
Now that the truth about the activist’s racial identity has been revealed, all thanks to her white parents who called her out on misrepresenting herself as black, Campbell decided to post the hour-long footage of her 2014 interview on YouTube.
When asked what it felt like to be a black woman, Dolezal recalled a kindergarten anecdote where she drew herself with a brown crayon when the teacher told her to use the peach crayon instead. She claimed that the incident became a symbol for her other struggles with identity.
She also talked about her “light-skin privilege.”
“Because I am very light-skinned, I think there’s a certain light-skinned privilege that I’ve noticed, with just again, in terms of bringing sides together. So that I feel that some white people approach me as a safe person to talk to, about how maybe they can glean some ideas, like, oh would this be OK?”
Dolezal claimed to become a hate crime victim after accepting the position of Human Rights Education Institute Director.
Perhaps the most ironic – and a little painful – part came when she criticized white people for claiming to understand the black community just because they have a black friend, or a black partner, or a black child – which is what she was doing herself at the time.
“You’re using that to justify something — kind of a free pass,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you understand or identify with the struggle and liberation of that community.”
She also talked about how white culture is trying to co-opt with black culture.
“I had a student in Eastern one time tell me, ‘It’s so awesome that black people are good at sports and are good at music and stuff, and white people aren’t good at anything. What are we known for? We're not known for anything.' My response is, 'Huh? You’re known for everything, because you’re allowed to do everything,'” Dolezal said.