Nearly one week after her saddened missionary parents outed her as being white, Rachel Dolezal, the Washington civil rights leader at the center of an ethics probe for pretending to be black, has broken her silence.
Despite garnering backlash for misrepresenting her race, Dolezal has unapologetically maintained that she still considers herself to be black and she also explained her controversial decision to previously sue Howard University for racial discrimination.
"I identify as black," Dolezal, 37, said in a candid interview with "Today" show host Matt Lauer on Tuesday.
Just one day prior, the part-time Africana studies professor at Eastern Washington University announced her decision to step down as president of the NAACP's Spokane chapter amid public controversy surrounding her race. She admitted that she began disguising her race as a child and that she has no regrets about pretending to be black for so many years.
"I would say about 5-years-old," Dolezal said. "I was drawing self portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon and the black curly hair — that was how I was portraying myself."
In a CNN interview shortly after Dolezal's "Today" interview aired, her biological parents, Ruthanne and Larry, said they have no recollection of this ever happening.
"It was disturbing because the false statements continue," Ruthanne said.
Dolezal is accused of misrepresenting herself in an application for the position of chairwoman of the city's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, a volunteer job she secured and the city of Spokane recently confirmed to The Christian Post that an ethics probe is underway to investigate the possible violation.
Last week, Ruthanne and Larry shocked the world when they revealed that their estranged daughter, who often sports a stylish afro and deep tan, was born with blonde hair and fair skin and is actually of Czech, Swedish and German ancestry. She addressed recent criticisms made by her adopted brother, Ezra, that she is guilty of blackface.
"I certainly don't stay out of the sun and I don't (as some of the critics have said) put on 'blackface' as a performance," she said. "I have a huge issue with black face, this isn't some freak mockery black face performance, this is on a very real connected level."
According to Ruthanne, Dolezal, who was reportedly raised in a strict protestant home in Montana, began disguising her true identity back in 2006 or 2007, though it remains unclear why she felt compelled to do it. Her parents, who adopted four black children in the 1990s, said that their racially diverse family likely sparked her interest in black culture.
"Yes, I believe that's part of it," Ruthanne said. "Although Rachel has always been interested in ethnicity and diversity and we had many friends of different ethnicities when she was growing up. So it didnt start with the four adopted children of color but it probably added to her passion."
Also on Monday, it was revealed that in addition to misrepresenting her race by portraying herself as black for nearly a decade, the Howard University graduate sued the historically black college for racial discrimination as a white woman. She accused them of unjust treatment as a pregnant white woman.
"The reasons for my full tuition scholarship being removed and my teaching position as well were that other people needed opportunities and 'you probably have white relatives that can afford to help you with your tuition,' and I thought that was an injustice," Dolezal said of the reason behind her decision to sue Howard.
Unconfirmed reports suggest Ruthanne and Larry may have outed their daughter in retaliation for her supporting a victim who accused her biological older brother, Joshua, of sex abuse in Colorado.
"First of all, I don't see why [Ruthanne and Larry] are in such a rush to whitewash all of the work that I've done and who I am and how I identify," Dolzal said.
"As much as this discussion has been at my expense and in a very viciously inhumane way come out of the woodwork, the discussion is really about what it means to be human. I really hope that can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self-determination, personal agency and ultimately empowerment."