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Rachel Dolezal addresses ethnicity in Vanity Fair: 'I didn't deceive anybody'

Former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal tells Vanity Fair that she "didn't mislead anybody" after facing accusations of pretending to be black.
/ Source: TODAY

A month after facing intense scrutiny when she was accused of pretending to be black, former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal says she had no intention of hiding her identity.

"I just feel like I didn’t mislead anybody; I didn’t deceive anybody,'' she told Vanity Fair in an interview posted on Sunday. "If people feel misled or deceived, then sorry that they feel that way, but I believe that’s more due to their definition and construct of race in their own minds than it is to my integrity or honesty, because I wouldn’t say I’m African American, but I would say I’m black, and there’s a difference in those terms.

"It’s hard to collapse it all into just a single statement about what is. You can’t just say in one sentence what is blackness or what is black culture or what makes you who you are.”

In mid-June, Dolezal's white parents confirmed that she was their estranged daughter, whom they had not seen in years. Her parents told TODAY that their daughter pretended to be black, claimed to be born in a teepee and made other false claims possibly as a way to "damage her biological family."

The couple also insisted they never planned to publicly shame their daughter but when a newspaper contacted them to confirm Rachel was their daughter, "we weren't going to lie, we told the truth," Lawrence Dolezal said. "Rachel is our birth daughter."

Dolezal, 37, addressed the claims in an appearance on TODAY on June 16, telling Matt Lauer she identifies as black.

"I do take exception to that because it's a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question of, are you black or white?" she told Lauer.

The mother of two sons resigned from her position as president of the NAACP's Spokane, Washington, chapter in June amid the controversy surrounding her and claims she made about her race and upbringing. A part-time teaching position at Eastern Washington University in the Africana-studies program was also not renewed.

“I’ve got to figure it out before August 1, because my last paycheck was like $1,800 in June,” she told Vanity Fair. “[I lost] friends and the jobs and the work and—oh, my God—so much at the same time.”

Dolezal said she also has had some informal contact with her former NAACP chapter.

"It’s been really interesting because a lot of people have been supportive within the NAACP, but then there’s also some awkwardness because I went from being president to not-president,” she said. “I’m kind of just keeping a little bit of distance so that (new president) Naima (Quarles-Burnley) can get in her flow of leadership. It’s actually hard because I think there’s a little coldness from her, which is hard to deal with for me, to feel like she doesn’t trust me as much now or something. I don’t know.”

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