Rachel Dolezal on the 'Today' Show: "I Identify as Black"

The former NAACP chapter president says she "was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon" starting around age five.

After her parents accused her of faking her ethnicity for years, Rachel Dolezal stepped down from her post as president of the NAACP's chapter in Spokane, Washington. This morning she sat down for an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show.

"I identify as black," Dolezal said, explaining that she started self-identifying with the black experience around age 5. "I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon." She said local press identified her first as transracial, then as biracial, then as black, and she never corrected the record.

Lauer asked if she has done something to darken her complexion and change her appearance. "I certainly don't stay out of the sun, and I also don't, as some critics have said, put on blackface as a performance," she said. Dolezal explained that she first started changing her appearance when she got full custody of her brother, Izaiah, who is black. "He said, 'You're my real mom,' and he's in high school, and for that to be something that is plausible, I certainly can't be seen as white and be Isaiah's mom."

For a time, she said an African-American man was her father, and she says that's because he is a father figure to her, not because he would boost her identity. "Albert Wilkerson is my father," she said. "Everyone can be a father, not everyone can be a dad." And she discussed her lawsuit against her alma mater, Howard University, for discriminating against her because she was white. "The reasons for my full tuition scholarship being removed and my TA position as well were that, 'other people needed opportunities, and you probably have white relatives who can help you with your tuition.' And that's an injustice."

But despite all the backlash, she said she'd do it all over again. "As much as this discussion has somewhat been at my expense recently and in a very sort of viciously inhumane way come out of the woodwork, the discussion is really about what it is to be human," she said.

Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.