She still sees herself as black — and yearns to play a role in the push for racial equality.
But Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who claimed to be African-American in 2015, sparking a national scandal, shrugs off the years of shaming that followed, insisting she can help inspire fairer treatment of minorities.
“Racially I identify as human, but culturally I identify as black,” Dolezal said in a phone interview from her home in Spokane, Washington, where she makes a living braiding hair and selling her artwork.
“I do hope that we can rework the vocabulary. That’s part of challenging the race world view.”
Dolezal, a single mom who changed her legal name to Nkechi Amare Diallo in 2017 but goes by Rachel socially, says she’s been energized by the drive for justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
But she concedes that the Black Lives Matter movement in her area has declined her offer to get involved, though she says she has good relationships with individual protesters and members of the black community.
“Overwhelmingly, most people I hear from are black or mixed or non-white in some way and a lot of people have said this is your moment, you’re vindicated,” Dolezal said. “I have received hundreds of messages. Most of it’s been overwhelmingly positive.”
She credited a sympathetic 2018 documentary, “The Rachel Divide,” for helping change people’s minds about her.
“The Netflix documentary did help some of the people understand some of the context and backstory. I have received a lot of apologies from people who jumped on the bandwagon on social media,” she said.
In June 2015, Dolezal was claiming to be biracial while serving as president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane when a local news reporter revealed that her parents, Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal of Montana, were both white.
The news broke the same month Caitlyn Jenner was celebrated for her transition, but Dolezal lost her NAACP position and teaching job at Eastern Washington University. She struggled financially, she says, relying on friends for money.
Sales from her 2018 memoir, “In Full Color,” helped, but she was later accused of welfare fraud for not reporting $84,000 in earnings to the state’s Department of Social and Health Services.
These days, Dolezal mixes political advocacy — she’s for defunding the police, reparations and defacing “racist” monuments — with promoting her works of art, including a piece she calls “Truth be Told,” which features white busts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt, splattered with red paint.
Slaver, Rapist, Murderer, Racist, are their respective captions.
“It’s in a four-inch deep shadow box frame,” said Dolezal, who’s hawking the effort for $1,000.
“All my art is for sale. It’s a hell of deal compared to the banana that was duct-taped to a wall and sold for [$120,000]” she said with a laugh.
Her family includes her son Franklin, 17, and Izaiah, 26, an adoptive brother over whom she obtained legal guardianship. She also has a four-year-old with autism. She says she’s planning to move soon to Tucson to be with Franklin, a student at the University of Arizona.
There, she hopes for a fresh start.
“I have been waiting to move for 15 years,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
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