We are treading a fine line here between the "you can do anything you want" 'second life' many undertake on the web's various social media outlets and the entirely un-virtual world of reality in which we all live, breathe, (and even work for some). In a unicorn-esque moment, when asked "are you an African-American woman?" the former NAACP official Rachel Dolezal told The Today Show's Matt Lauer, "I identify as black." As NPR notes, the topic of Dolezal's race has prompted surprise, bewilderment and speculation since her parents said that contrary to their estranged daughter's claims of being of mixed race, Rachel Dolezal is white.
On Today, Dolezal, 37, said she knew that "at some point, I would need to address the complexity of my identity." But she acknowledged being taken by surprise by her parents' statements to the media.
"The timing of it was a shock," she said. "Wow. The timing was completely unexpected."
At one point, Lauer presented an image of Dolezal as a teenager, and asked her what she sees in the picture.
"Visibly, she would be identified as white by people who see her," Dolezal said.
Lauer then turned to the subject of Dolezal's parents, who have said their daughter is "a very talented woman doing work she believes in — why can't she do that as a Caucasian woman, which is what she is?"
In response, Dolezal said, "I really don't see why they're in such a rush to whitewash some of the work that I have done, and who I am, and how I've identified."
She went on to say that she began to identify "with the black experience" as early as age 5."
"I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon," she said. "That was how I was portraying myself."
As for charges that she has deceived people, Dolezal said, "I do take exception to that. It's a little more complex than me identifying as black, or answering a question of, 'Are you black or white?' "
Dolezal said that when she was working in northern Idaho, she was identified "as first transracial, and then ... the next newspaper article identified me as being a biracial woman. And then the next article ... was, 'This is happening to a black woman.' And I never corrected that."
Addressing the changes in her appearance since her youth, Dolezal said, "I certainly don't stay out of the sun. I also don't, as some of the critics have said, put on blackface as a performance."
She added, "This is not some freak, Birth of a Nation mockery blackface performance. This is on a very real, connected level — I have actually had to go there with the experience, not just with the visible representation, but with the experience."
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Forgive us briefly for our contempt and confusion... while we can come to terms with the potential biological issues of the Caitlyn Jenners of the world, "self identifying as black" when you are white seems like self-identifiying as a Unicorn when you are a human?