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NAACP leader falsely portraying herself as African- American, family says

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The racial identity of one of the most prominent faces in Spokane, Washington’s black community is under question after her parents produced a birth certificate that showed she is white.

Rachel Dolezal, 37, is the head of the local chapter of the NAACP and has identified herself as African-American. But her Montana birth certificate says she was born to two Caucasian parents, according to CNN affiliate KXLY, which also showed an old family photo in its report.

CNN tried to reach Dolezal for comment by emailing and calling her late Thursday night, but was unsuccessful. Likewise, CNN was also unable to reach Dolezal’s parents.

Identifies as African-American

Dolezal has represented herself as at least part African-American in an application for the police ombudsman commission.

And she has presented the public with a different family photograph posted to the local NAACP chapter’s Facebook page. When she announced her father was coming to town for a visit, she showed herself standing next to an older African-American man.

Rachel Dolezal, 37, is the head of the local chapter of the NAACP and has identified herself as African-American. But her Montana birth certificate says she was born to two Caucasian parents, according to CNN affiliate KXLY, which also showed an old family photo in its report.

Rachel Dolezal, 37, is the head of the local chapter of the NAACP and has identified herself as African-American. But her Montana birth certificate says she was born to two Caucasian parents, according to CNN affiliate KXLY, which also showed an old family photo in its report.

Dolezal’s public racial identity came under scrutiny on Thursday, when a reporter from KXLY held up that photo asked her a simple question.

This is how the conversation went:

“Is that your dad?”

“Yeah, that’s…that’s my dad.”

“This man right here’s your father? Right there?”

“You have a question about that?”

“Yes ma’am, I was wondering if your dad really is an African-American man.”

“That’s a very — I mean, I don’t know what you’re implying.”

“Are you African-American?”

“I don’t understand the question of — I did tell you that, yes, that’s my dad. And he was unable to come in January.”

“Are your parents…are they white?”

Dolezal walked away from the microphone, leaving her purse and keys, and took refuge in a nearby clothing boutique.

Career as a black woman

Dolezal has built a wide-ranging career on her racial identity.

Rachel Dolezal is the president of the Spokane NAACP. She also is a quarterly professor at Eastern Washington University. Questions have been raised about her race.

Rachel Dolezal is the president of the Spokane NAACP. She also is a quarterly professor at Eastern Washington University. Questions have been raised about her race.

She is not just president of her local NAACP chapter; she is also an academic expert on African-American culture and teaches many related classes at Eastern Washington University.

She represents the black community publicly and vocally, including as a spokeswoman on race-influenced police violence. On Tuesday she spoke to Al Jazeera on the topic.

She has appeared alongside Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who has filed charges against police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man.

The mayor of Spokane appointed Dolezal chairwoman of a police oversight committee to keep an eye on fairness in police work.

After the allegations of faked racial identity surfaced, Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart issued a statement. “We… take very seriously the concerns raised regarding the chair of the independent citizen police ombudsman commission.” The city is checking to see if she has violated any policies.

Dolezal also has spoken about multiple alleged racist threats made against her, including nooses found near her home. But police never have been able to substantiate them, KXLY reported.

Black family members

Dolezal’s mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that after she and her husband adopted four African-American children, Rachel Dolezal began to “disguise herself.”

“It’s very sad that Rachel has not just been herself,” Ruthanne Dolezal said. “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective, if she had just been honest with everybody,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.

Rachel Dolezal brushed off the controversy surrounding her racial identity as part of a family fight over alleged abuse, the Spokesman-Review reported.

She wouldn’t answer the newspaper’s questions about her racial heritage directly and said she wanted to talk to local NAACP leadership first. “I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation,” she said.

“That question is not as easy as it seems,” Dolezal told the Spokesman-Review. “There’s a lot of complexities … and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.”

Social media ‘transracial’

Social media reactions varied, and some seemed to concur with Dolezal’s assessment.

Her name and the term “transracial” were top trending hashtags on Twitter.

Some users floated the notion that people could cross over lines of racial identity as they do with sexual identity.

“Hmm interesting article about #racheldolezal. If she identifies as black, can she be transracial?” one user asked. Other users compared Dolezal with Caitlyn Jenner, former known as Bruce Jenner, often in a derogatory manner.

But many users, particularly African-Americans, bemoaned that switching race doesn’t work like switching gender, noting that black people can’t pretend to be white to avoid discrimination.

“My prob w/ #Transracial: Black folk cant decide to be white when the cops raid their pool party. But a white woman can be NAACP president,” wrote hip-hop artist Lizzo.

“If #RachelDolezal can do it, so can I. I am now a white American. Give me: good credit, the ability to swim, and police NOT beating me,” PrestonMitchum tweeted.

“It’s not just her appropriation. It’s that she claimed an oppression that wasn’t hers,” wrote user Charles Clymer.

14 comments

  • bwcarey

    it might sound odd, but has this woman helped many in her life?, and when were human issues color based anyway ,who worries about the color of the gravy, if her work has helped raise issues, it’s the message that matters, not so much the messenger…

    • Mark Robles

      It matters because she LIED! She misrepresented herself to be someone she is not. If, as you say, color shouldn’t matter if it helps people and raises issues, she could have done it as a white woman! She is a liar and self hating white. NO ONE should be ashamed of or deny who they are just to “fit in”!!

      • bwcarey

        the government lies, who doesn’t, the society that pretends to protect children and then fills the internet with porn lies, and the people who say they say they care, and don’t do anything about it, all lie, it’s better to promote forgiveness, it encourages the young to adopt better habits dont you think..?

  • Fred

    Too funny! Sounds like a person with history and career that has achieved much success. If she’s helping people, that’s great. If it’s a crime to portray yourself as another race she’ll have to face the penalty. This will be a strange one to figure out what to protest if she’s charged with a crime.

    • Bd

      so true, we need to stop judging, do we know her bloodline. we just never know. Maybe her family is ashamed to say they have African American bloodline. Just saying!

  • Eyes Wide Open

    She will now be able to get approved for a low interest home loan. Get hired at her dream job. She won’t get pulled over by the cops for DWB (driving while black). Lose a little rhythm while clapping or dancing at the night club. Lost her spot at her local black hair shop. Change her church from Baptist to “Southern” Baptist. Get her chicken from Boston Market instead of Popeyes. Go from watching old episodes of Love & Hip Hop to old episode of Friends. This is absolutely the funniest story I’ve seen all week. I wonder if she stood in front of a mirror to practice her “black side”.The look on her Parents faces are priceless. They thought the raised the average Becky but instead raised a white Hillary from the show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air! lol

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