by Zach Johnson | Mon., Mar. 27, 2017 6:30 AM
In 2017, Rachel Dolezal still believes she is a black woman.
The former civil rights activist appeared on NBC's Today Monday to promote her book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World, and spoke to Savannah Guthrie about her racial identity. "I don't identify as African American; I identify as black," Dolezal, 39, said. "I am Pan-African diaspora. I definitely feel like in America—even though race is a social construct, and we've established this in academia and in science—there's still a line drawn in the sand."
During a Today interview with Matt Lauer in November 2015, Dolezal acknowledged that she was born to Caucasian parents, but also said she identifies as black. Amid public outcry, she later resigned as president of the Spokane, Wash., branch of the NAACP.
“I’m 100% committed to… finding my way back to the activism work that I’m so passionate about.”-Rachel Dolezal https://t.co/iLmQJknT4D— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 27, 2017
In 2015, Dolezal's Caucasian parents publicly denied the black identity she had claimed. But, according to Dolezal, race isn't so black and white. "There still are sides. Politically, there's a black side and a white side, and I stand unapologetically on the black side. I stand with my own internal sense of self and my own values. I stand with my sons. I stand with my sister," she said. "I also stand there, really, with the greater cause of challenging the myth of white supremacy."
Guthrie then pointed out the obvious: "It's interesting, because you could stand there and take all of those positions without saying, 'But I'm a member of this community.' Right?" In response, Dolezal said, "I really prefer to just be exactly who I am. Black is really the closest race and culture category—or descriptive term—that represents the essential essence of who I am."
Dolezal said she understands why many people still have trouble accepting her black identity. "It's still definitely a big challenge," she admitted, "but I'm 100 percent committed to providing for my [two] kids and finding my way back to the activism work that I'm so passionate about."
In October 2016, Dolezal legally changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo, a West African way of saying "gift from the gods."
"I really felt like I needed to change my legal name in order to be seen for my qualifications and experience, rather than just seen for the tabloid publicity that I got in 2015," she explained. "When applying for a job, I felt like people were just seeing 'Rachel Dolezal' and not paying attention to the wide-ranging experience and qualifications that I do have."
Last month, Dolezal said she has lost many of her friends and relies on food stamps as she looks for work.
In her book, Dolezal claims she was "too black" for her first husband, who is African American. In a press release, she also said that she wrote the book to "advance the conversation about race," as well as to answer any lingering questions about her life. "I wish Americans understood that race is a social construct, even if we don't want it to be," Dolezal argued. "The system of racial classification is fiction, and we need to thoughtfully evaluate whether perpetuating it rigidly or allowing fluidity across the spectrum best supports human rights and social justice."
Dolezal's In Full Color is available March 28.
"The book was difficult one to write, for sure, but I felt like it was kind of a little bit forced upon me, as far as the need to tell the whole truth about my life and the full story," Dolezal said on Today. In addition to "setting the record straight, "I really want to advance the conversation about race and identity. I really hope that readers are encouraged to be exactly who they are."
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