The president of Spokane, Washington’s local NAACP may have been secretly passing as an African-American woman by curling her hair and maintaining a deep tan – and the story only gets weirder from there.
According to NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal’s parents, Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal of Montana, their daughter is definitely white. They would know, as they are her biological parents and they are both white as well. Despite this pretty glaring fact, Rachel Dolezal has been passing as African-American for years. Aside from her job as president of her NAACP chapter, she also reportedly listed her race as “African-American” on the citizen police ombudsman commission in which she serves as chair. It’s likely she also reported the same when she got a job as a faculty member at Eastern Washington University.
Her parents provided journalists with a photo they say is of Rachel when she was growing up.
Now under suspicion from all of her employers after being exposed by her own parents, Dolezal is facing possible ethics violations for her alleged lies.
“We are committed to independent citizen oversight and take very seriously the concerns raised regarding the chair of the independent citizen police ombudsman commission,” Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart said it a joint statement Thursday. “We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated. That information will be reviewed by the City Council, which has oversight of city boards and commissions.”
Ironically, Dolezal came under scrutiny after she came forward with racially-charged hate mail she claimed to have received to her NAACP post office box. Unfortunately, we live in a world where an NAACP president getting racist hate mail wouldn’t, in itself, be noteworthy, but when police investigated, they noticed that the mail “delivered” to her box had no postage and no USPS bar code stamped on it. Whoever put it there was very likely someone who had access to the box – and you can guess who one of the suspects is.
According to Inlander, a site Dolezal occasionally wrote for in the past, she still has support from many NAACP members in the community.
Cedric Bradley, chair of the Spokane NAACP’s Criminal Justice Committee, says that there is still support for Dolezal in the organization. Describing her as a close friend, Bradley says that he’s seen her visibly shaken after receiving hate mail. Bradley says he’s always understood Dolezal to be black. But, he says, it doesn’t matter if she is in fact white because she’s been a strong supporter for minority populations.
“In my opinion, it wouldn’t make a difference to me,” says Bradley. “It’s not about black and white, it’s about what we can do for the community.”
For Dolezal’s part, she has remained mostly silent about the nature of her racial background. However, there are signs that she is on the verge of coming clean. Speaking with the The Spokesman-Review she said:
“I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation” before engaging in a broader discussion with the community about what she described as a “multi-layered” issue.
“That question is not as easy as it seems,” she said after being contacted at Eastern Washington University, where she’s a part-time professor in the Africana Studies Program. “There’s a lot of complexities … and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.”
But most bizarrely, she later told the paper that race is hard to define because “We’re all from the African continent.”
Something tells me the well-worn “we’re all one race, the human race” argument isn’t going to carry her very far during her ethics violations investigations.