UK
12/06/2015 08:01 BST | Updated 16/06/2015 11:59 BST

Rachel Dolezal: 'Black' Civil Rights Champion 'Outed As White' By Her Family

UPDATE:

A prominent civil rights activist has been "outed" as a white woman – by her own family.

Rachel Dolezal, the President of the Spokane branch of the NAACP, has been falsely portraying herself as black for many years, her parents allege.

Dolezal is also chair of the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and is a Professor in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University, where one of her classes is entitled The Black Woman's Struggle. [Here she is lecturing on the cultural significance of lack women’s hair.]

rachel dolezal

Rachel Dolezal is the president of the Spokane NAACP

rachel dolezal

Dolezal's mother Ruthanne says this is her daughter in earlier years before she began 'disguising' herself

The 37-year-old identified herself in her application to the Police Ombudsman commission as having several ethnic origins, including white, black and American Indian.

An inquiry has been opened into the matter at Spokane City Hall, to ascertain whether by doing so she violated the city’s code of ethics by misrepresenting her ethnic background, the Seattle Times writes.

rachel dolezal

Dolezal captioned this Facebook post 'Going with the natural look as I start my 36th year'

The story came to light during an interview with Dolezal’s mother Ruthanne, who says the family’s ancestry is Czech, Swedish, German, with a touch of Native American heritage.

rachel dolezal

This 2009 image by the Associated Press captioned Dolezal as 'a woman of colour'

Ruthanne told the Coeur d’Alene Press: “It is very disturbing that she has become so dishonest.”

The CDP adds:

“… Her parents Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, who are both white and live in the Troy/ Libby area of Montana, told The Press their daughter is not African-American. They backed up the claim with a copy of their daughter’s birth certificate and photos. The images show a younger, pale, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Dolezal, who looks much different than the woman with caramel-coloured skin now leading the Spokane NAACP and helping review claims of police misconduct in that city.”

Ruthanne told The Spokesman-Review her daughter began to “disguise” herself in 2006 or 2007 after the family adopted four African-American children.

rachel dolezal

Dolezal's parents say their daughter is being deceitful

Speaking to CBS affiliate KREM, she added: "Rachel has wanted to be somebody she's not.

"She's chosen not to just be herself but to represent herself as an African-American woman or a biracial person. And that's simply not true."

Dolezal's father Larry told BuzzFeed News he did not understand why his daughter might want to pose as a black woman, but pointed out: “She has over the past 20 years assimilated herself into the African-American community through her various advocacy and social justice work, and so that may be part of the answer.”

He added Dolezal had cut off communication with him and his wife as she "doesn't want us visible in the Spokane area in her circle because we're Caucasian."

Intriguingly, a Facebook post on the Spokane NAACP wall features an image of Dolezal with an African-American man, captioned as a "special guest" and subsequently described in the body of the post as her father.

President Dolezal's father announced today that he will be coming to town for the January 19th ribbon-cutting ceremony...

Posted by Spokane NAACP on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

KXLY pressed Dolezal on the image, asking: "Ma'am, I was wondering if your dad really is an African-American man?"

A smiling Dolezal replies in the affirmative. When she is asked: "Are you African-American?", she replies: "I don't understand the question," before walking away.

The dispute comes amid an investigation into Dolezal's numerous complaints to police of racial harrassment, as detailed by KREM.

Following the allegations, Dolezal has continued to avoid answering direct questions about her race and ethnicity, telling the Seattle Times: “I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation”, before alluding to a broader discussion on what she described as a ‘multi-layered’ issue.”

According to the Spokesman Review:

“Rachel Dolezal dismisses the controversy as little more than an ugly by-product of contentious litigation between other family members over allegations of past abuse that has divided the family. She’s particularly suspicious of the timing, noting that the allegations broke on her son’s birthday and come as the Colorado lawsuit filed by her sister against their brother nears a key juncture.”

25 of The Smartest Black Women On Twitter