Jon Stewart tackled the confounding saga of Rachel Dolezal — the former president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP who had been portraying herself as black for 10 years — on Monday night’s Daily Show, with a appropriately titled new segment: “Whaaaaaaat!??”
Stewart kept a bemused tone as he ran through the basics of the complicated story, including Dolezal’s real background — Czech, Swiss and German — and the damning, cringe-worthy clip in which she responds to a reporter’s question about whether she’s African-American by saying, “I don’t understand the question.”
Dolezal ultimately resigned from her post at the NAACP’s Spokane chapter, but before Stewart could bring the segment to a close, Fox News stepped in. The channel’s pundits attempted to turn an isolated incident into an indictment of progressive politics and “proof” that real issues involving race in America aren’t as dire as they may seem.
“How do you make all these sweeping generalizations about it anyway?” Stewart responded. “One lady in Washington State’s second-largest city pretending to be black: ‘Well, clearly liberal culture has reached its nadir.’ ‘Rome has fallen — yet racism is over.’ ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times all because a German lady got a weave.'”
For more on the story, Stewart turned to The Daily Show‘s “senior black correspondent” — only to be joined by white correspondent Jordan Klepper. Klepper’s own attempts to pass were quickly interrupted by Jessica Williams, who broke down the story’s true problem, starting with a cultural reference Stewart definitely didn’t understand.
“She didn’t have to Iggy [Azalea] it,” Williams said, adding: “Actually, [Dolezal] is worse. Iggy acts black to make money but Iggy’s not fooling anybody. Rachel Dolezal actually just Single White Female-d all black women. We don’t need oppression cosplay; we need allies, not replacements!”
After days of constant coverage, Dolezal herself finally spoke out Tuesday morning on The Today Show, telling Matt Lauer, “I identify as black.”
Dolezal never admitted to deceiving others about her race, but acknowledged that she had not corrected past news reports in which she was labeled as black. Dolezal discussed what she called “the complexity of my identity,” saying she had identified as black as early as five, drawing self-portraits with brown crayons. She said her identification was never performative, but the result of compounded experience, including human rights work in Northern Idaho and gaining full custody of her adopted brother, Isaiah, who is black.