Dolezal, who was an NAACP branch president when it was discovered she was born to white parents, appeared on the Today show Monday to promote her new memoir, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.
“You know, the book was a difficult one to write, for sure,” she told Savannah Guthrie. “But I felt like it was kind of a little bit forced upon me as far as just the need to tell the whole truth about my life and the full story.”
Dolezal, who welcomed a son last year, said the impact of the media attention she has received is “definitely still a big challenge.”
“But I am 100 percent committed to providing for my kids,” she added. “And finding my way back to the activism work that I am so passionate about.”
The 39-year-old has also changed her legal name, something she felt she needed to do for her professional career.
“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 said. “When applying for a job, people were just seeing ‘Rachel Dolezal’ and not paying attention to the wide ranging experience and qualifications that I do have.”
When pressed by Guthrie about why she insists on labeling herself as a member of the African American community instead of simply identifying with the group, Dolezal corrected her.
“I don’t identify as African American, I identify as black,” she said. “I am part of the Pan-African diaspora and I definitely feel like in America, even though race is a social construct and we’ve acknowledged this in academia and in science there still is a line drawn in the sides.
“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, and I also stand really with the greater cause of challenging the myth of white supremacy.”
“I really prefer to just be exactly who I am,” she continued. “And black is really the closest race and culture category descriptive term that represents the essential essence of who I am.”
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The message of her new book, Dolezal said, is to “advance the conversation about race and identity.”
“I really hope that readers are encouraged to be exactly who they are,” she said. “Like I said, I want to tell the whole story of my life, and [I hope that] in some way [I’m] able to kind of set the record straight because my life story was really warped beyond recognition by a lot of the negative press in 2015.”
Dolezal also said she’s still fully committed to racial and social justice work and education.
“I am just looking for opportunities to reenter that field and participate again,” she said. “I’m hopeful.”
In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World hits stands Tuesday.