She’s white, say par­ents of ‘black’ civil rights leader

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A U.S. civil rights ac­tivist who has por­trayed her­self as at least part black is fac­ing tough ques­tions af­ter her es­tranged par­ents said she is white and ac­cused her of ly­ing about her iden­tity.

With coils of dark hair and tawny skin, Rachel Dolezal, 37, built a ca­reer as an ac­tivist in the black com­mu­nity of Spokane, Wash­ing­ton.

She rose to be­come the pres­i­dent of the city’s branch of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Colored Peo­ple (NAACP) and also served as an in­de­pen­dent me­di­a­tor for the city’s po­lice force.

Nei­ther po­si­tion re­quired that she be black, but the Coeur d’Alene Press said Dolezal iden­ti­fied her­self in ap­pli­ca­tion forms as part black, part white and part In­dian.

Her par­ents, who are both white, said their daugh­ter is as well, pro­vid­ing lo­cal me­dia with a birth cer­tifi­cate and child­hood pho­to­graphs of a blonde, fairskinned Dolezal.

In­ter­viewed Fri­day on CNN, Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal said they were sad­dened and hurt by their daugh­ter’s be­hav­ior.

She “has not ex­plained to us why she is do­ing what she’s do­ing and be­ing dis­hon­est and de­cep­tive with her iden­tity,” Ruthanne Dolezal said.

The city of Spokane has said it takes the con­cerns raised about Dolezal “very se­ri­ously” and is gath­er­ing facts to de­ter­mine if any city poli­cies have been vi­o­lated.

“That in­for­ma­tion will be re­viewed by the city coun­cil, which has over­sight of city boards and com­mis­sions,” it said.

The NAACP nev­er­the­less threw its weight be­hind Dolezal, say­ing it would re­spect her pri­vacy as she sorts through “a legal is­sue with her fam­ily.”

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

“The NAACP Alaska- Ore­gonWash­ing­ton State Con­fer­ence stands be­hind Ms. Dolezal’s ad­vo­cacy record.”

Dolezal did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest from AFP for com­ment.

Unan­swered Ques­tions

Dolezal has so far dodged ques­tions seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion about her race and eth­nic­ity.

The Spokane Spokesman Re­view re­ported she told them: “I feel like I owe my ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee a con­ver­sa­tion.”

“That ques­tion is not as easy as it seems,” she said af­ter be­ing con­tacted at Eastern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, where she is a part­time pro­fes­sor in the Africana Stud­ies Pro­gram.

“There’s a lot of com­plex­i­ties ... and I don’t know that ev­ery­one would un­der­stand that.”

And she broke off an in­ter­view with a lo­cal TV re­porter when he asked her point blank: “Are you African-Amer­i­can?”

Her par­ents, who adopted four black chil­dren, said their daugh­ter had al­ways been in­ter­ested in is- sues of eth­nic­ity and di­ver­sity.

But around 2007, they learned from a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle that she was claim­ing to be AfricanAmer­i­can. She had cut off con­tact with her par­ents.

“She doesn’t want to be seen with us be­cause that ru­ins her im­age,” Ruthanne Dolezal said.

Dolezal’s bi­og­ra­phy in­di­cates she stud­ied at Howard Uni­ver­sity, the his­tor­i­cally black uni­ver­sity in Wash­ing­ton.

Her pro­file on the Eastern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity web­site lists her in­ter­ests as in­clud­ing “African dance, culi­nary arts, eth­nic hair styling, mod­el­ing, man­ag­ing a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, and moth­er­ing two sons.”

AP

In this July 24, 2009, file photo, Rachel Dolezal, a leader of the Hu­man Rights Ed­u­ca­tion In­sti­tute, stands in front of a mu­ral she painted at the in­sti­tute’s of­fices in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

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