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.]
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.
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.
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.
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 parents, who live in Troy, MT, say Rachel has been deceiving people. They want people to know the truth. pic.twitter.com/sS3aiUwD0H— Taylor Viydo (@KREMTaylor) June 11, 2015
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.
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.”