News

Rachel Dolezal’s TEDx Talk

In April 2016, Rachel Dolezal spoke at an independently organized TEDx event held at a university. As you may know, Ms. Dolezal is a former president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter who sparked a national debate and resigned after the public discovered that she was a white woman identifying herself as a black woman.

Recently she announced on TV that she had recorded “a TED Talk.” Some of you were upset by this. Indeed, the news surprised us too, because we knew she hadn’t spoken at a TED event. But it turned out she had spoken at one of the thousands of TEDx events that are held around the world.

TEDx organizers host events independent of TED, and they have the freedom to invite speakers they feel are relevant to their communities. These volunteers find thousands of new voices all over the world — many of which would not otherwise be heard — including some of our most beloved, well-known speakers, people like Brene Brown and Simon Sinek.

What TEDx organizers have achieved collectively is remarkable. But, yes, some of them occasionally share ideas we don’t stand behind.

This particular talk has sparked much internal debate. For many on our staff, sharing the talk risks causing deep offense, and runs counter to TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading. But for others, now that the talk has been recorded, refusing to post it would unduly limit an important conversation about identity, and the social underpinning of race — and would be counter to TED’s guiding philosophy of radical openness. There’s no easy middle ground here.

So, in a doubtless flawed attempt to do the right thing by all of our constituencies, we have decided to make the talk available to you here, while highlighting the context in which the talk was created and the deeply felt concerns it has raised.

We are lucky to have a thoughtful audience, and we hope the conversation you engage in here will transcend the material that sparks it.

Sincerely,
The TED Editors