Civil rights ac­tivist Rachel Dolezal mis­rep­re­sented her­self as black, claim par­ents

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

The bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents of a prom­i­nent civil rights ac­tivist in Wash­ing­ton state have claimed that she has been mis­rep­re­sent­ing her­self as a black woman when her her­itage is white.

Rachel Dolezal is an aca­demic, chair of the of­fice of the po­lice om­buds­man com­mis­sion in the city of Spokane and pres­i­dent of its chap­ter of the African Amer­i­can civil rights or­gan­i­sa­tion NAACP. Dolezal, a pro­fes­sor of Africana stud­ies at Eastern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, where she spe­cialises in black stud­ies and African Amer­i­can cul­ture, has spo­ken out reg­u­larly on lo­cal me­dia about racial jus­tice. This week, how­ever, in an in­ter­view with the lo­cal Spokane news chan­nel KREM 2 News, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal said their daugh­ter’s bi­o­log­i­cal her­itage was not African Amer­i­can but Ger­man and Czech, with traces of Na­tive Amer­i­can an­ces­try.

They said their daugh­ter had adopted black sib­lings and had at­tended school in Mis­sis­sippi, where her so­cial cir­cle had pri­mar­ily been African Amer­i­can. She later mar­ried and sub­se­quently di­vorced an African Amer­i­can man, they said. They claim that she be­gan to adapt her ap­pear­ance fol­low­ing her di­vorce in 2004. “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 bi-racial per­son and that’s sim­ply not true,” Ruthanne Dolezal said.

In the video, the Dolezals showed pic­tures of their daugh­ter as a blonde child, and at her wed­ding sev­eral years ago. The cou­ple later pro­vided a copy of their daugh­ter’s birth cer­tifi­cate to the Spokesman­Re­view news­pa­per.

Rachel Dolezal has since told lo­cal me­dia she is not in touch with the cou­ple be­cause of an on­go­ing law­suit, and that she does not view them as her real par­ents.

The 37-year-old told the Spokesman-Re­view on Thurs­day that she would pri­ori­tise speak­ing to her ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee be­fore com­ment­ing on spec­u­la­tion in the me­dia. “The ques­tion is not as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of com­plex­i­ties … and I don’t know that ev­ery­one would un­der­stand that. We’re all from the African con­ti­nent.”

A state­ment from Spokane city hall said she had listed her eth­nic­ity as a mix of white, black, Na­tive Amer­i­can and a num­ber of oth­ers in her ap­pli­ca­tion to the of­fice of the po­lice om­buds­man com­mis­sion. “We are gath­er­ing facts to de­ter­mine if any city poli­cies re­lated to vol­un­teer boards and com­mis­sions have been vi­o­lated,” Spokane’s mayor, David Con­don, and the coun­cil pres­i­dent, Ben Stuckart, said in a joint state­ment. “That in­for­ma­tion will be re­viewed by the city coun­cil, which has over­sight of city boards and com­mis­sions.”

James Wil­burn, a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Spokane NAACP chap­ter, told the Coeur d’Alene Press that Dolezal’s race was not what had qual­i­fied her for the po­si­tion in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“It is tra­di­tional to have a per­son of colour in that po­si­tion, but that hasn’t al­ways been the case in Spokane,” he said. A woman of Euro­pean de­scent was pres­i­dent in the 1990s, he added, and half of the chap­ter mem­bers were not black. “That is prob­a­bly a re­sult of the fact that only 1.9% of the pop­u­la­tion in Spokane is African Amer­i­can,” he said.

In a state­ment on Fri­day, the NAACP said its lo­cal coali­tion “stands be­hind” Dolezal’s record.

“One’s racial iden­tity is not a qual­i­fy­ing cri­te­ria or dis­qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard for NAACP lead­er­ship,” the na­tional group said.

Dolezal does not dis­cuss her own eth­nic­ity in de­tail in her nu­mer­ous writ­ings on civil rights is­sues, but in sev­eral pieces she uses id­ioms such as “our cul­tural mem­ory” when speak­ing about African Amer­i­can his­tory.

Since the cur­rent furore be­gan, Dolezal has closed down her Face­book page, hav­ing been an ac­tive user of the site to post com­men­tary on African Amer­i­can is­sues and cul­ture. In a post about the Os­car-win­ning film “12 Years a Slave”, she said it was “not the best film to take a white part­ner to on a first date”. She ad­vo­cates sit­ting in the back row of the cinema so that “if white peo­ple are in­clined to stare, they have to turn all the way round to do it … so that dur­ing the movie peo­ple aren’t con­stantly look­ing at you to mon­i­tor the ‘black re­sponse’ to the film”.

Dolezal’s par­ents also al­lege she has por­trayed her adopted black sib­ling Iza­iah as her son in pic­tures on so­cial me­dia. Dolezal con­firmed later to the CDA Press that Iza­iah is an adopted brother. “But I have full cus­tody of him now,” she added. Spokane NAACP’s Face­book page has an im­age of Dolezal with an older black man, whom it de­scribes as her fa­ther. The CDA Press, how­ever, names the man as Al­bert Wilk­er­son, a vol­un­teer at the Hu­man Rights Ed­u­ca­tion In­sti­tute in north Idaho, where Dolezal pre­vi­ously worked.

In an in­ter­view about her por­trait art with the Easterner mag­a­zine, Dolezal de­scribed a trau­matic up­bring­ing dur­ing which her par­ents would “pun­ish us by skin com­plex­ion”. She also de­scribed be­ing raised in a teepee and hunt­ing for food with a bow and ar­row. Her par­ents have con­firmed that they lived in a teepee, but be­fore their daugh­ter was born. Dolezal has been a regular face at lo­cal demon­stra­tions and on TV chan­nels, and has made the news on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions for the graphic hate mail she has re­ceived, in­clud­ing nooses left at her home.

In one of the most re­cent in­ci­dents, she found an en­ve­lope con­tain­ing pic­tures of lynch­ings in Spokane NAACP’s post­box at the lo­cal sorting of­fice. Postal work­ers later told po­lice the en­ve­lope had never been posted, and had been placed in the box by some­one who had an ac­cess key.


Joyce Mitchell, the pri­son worker who has fallen un­der sus­pi­cion in the es­cape of two killers in New York, did not pro­vide the two men power tools, but she did take con­tra­band into the pri­son, the lo­cal pros­e­cu­tor said Fri­day.

An­drew Wylie, the Clin­ton County dis­trict at­tor­ney, de­clined to say what the con­tra­band was. Speak­ing gen­er­ally, he said that con­tra­band could be any­thing from tooth­paste to blades and drugs.

Asked whether bring­ing in con­tra­band would be con­sid­ered crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, he said: “Of course it is.”

Wylie also said that Mitchell was pre­vi­ously in­ves­ti­gated be­cause of a com­plaint that she was too close to one of the es­caped in­mates, David Sweat, but he said there was no ev­i­dence to dis­ci­pline her.

Sweat and Richard Matt es­caped al­most a week ago from max­i­mum-se­cu­rity Clin­ton Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity in the town of Dannemora, saw­ing out of their cells with power tools be­fore clam­ber­ing through the works of the build­ing and out through a man­hole.

On Fri­day, the hunt ex­panded to in­clude more than 800 law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, work­ing with search dogs and he­li­copters. More than 700 leads have been called in, the New York State Po­lice said. Sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion told NBC News on Thurs­day that Mitchell was charmed by Matt, to the point that “she thought it was love,” and planned to be the men’s get­away driver be­fore she got cold feet.

Wylie said that in­ves­ti­ga­tors are still ques­tion­ing Mitchell, who is a su­per­vi­sor in the pri­son’s tai­lor shop. He said that she is un­der sur­veil­lance but not in protective cus­tody. He said that she does not have a lawyer.

Joyce Mitchell al­legedly as­sisted con­victs with

es­cape plan.

Rachel Dolezal.

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