Rachel Dolezal: I've "Really Gone There" With the "Black Experience"

Embattled NAACP activist Rachel Dolezal talked with MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry about what it means to her to be black, saying she's "really gone there" Credit: MSNBC

Rachel Dolezal followed her headline-making appearance on the Today show on Tuesday, June 16, with an equally buzzy interview on MSNBC just a few hours later. Sitting down to chat with host Melissa Harris-Perry, the activist addressed still-lingering questions about her identity, which came under scrutiny earlier this month when she was accused of lying about her race.

At one point during the interview, Harris-Perry asked point-blank if Dolezal is black, to which the embattled former NAACP president didn't hesitate to say yes. Pressed to explain what that means, given that she's biologically the daughter of two Caucasian parents, Dolezal gave a long answer about her "connection" to the "black experience."

"It means several things. First of all, it means that I have really gone there with the experience in terms of being a mother with two black sons and really owning what it means to experience and live blackness," she said. "So that's one aspect." 

She continued: "Another aspect would be that I, from a very young age, felt a spiritual, visceral, just very instinctual connection with 'black is beautiful,' you know, just the black experience, and wanting to celebrate that."

As a child, Dolezal said, she "didn't know how to articulate that," and it was "shut down" anyway. "I mean, I was socially conditioned to not own that and to be limited to whatever biological identity was thrust upon me and narrated to me," she told Harris-Perry. "I kind of felt pretty awkward a lot of times with that."

Indeed, Dolezal said she "felt very isolated" with her identity, like "nobody really got it." She herself struggles to explain it and understands why some people might be angry — she even admitted she'd likely feel the same way if the shoe were on the other foot.

"I would say, stepping outside of myself, I would probably be enraged. I'd be like, 'How dare she claim this?'" Dolezal confessed to Harris-Perry. "But they don't know me. They really don't know what I've actually walked through, and how hard it is. This has not been something that's just a casual, come-and-go sort of identity crisis or something that's gonna fade away."

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