Wed | Apr 26, 2017

Head of Spokane NAACP quits amid furor over racial identity

Published:Tuesday | June 16, 2015 | 6:00 AM
In this March 6 file photo, (from left) Della Montgomery-Riggins, Charles Thornton and Rachel Dolezal link arms and sing "We Shall Overcome" at a rally in downtown Spokane, Washingston

SPOKANE, Wash (AP):

Rachel Dolezal resigned

as president of the NAACP's Spokane chapter yesterday amid a furore over racial identity that erupted when her parents came forward to say she has been posing as black for years when she is actually white.

The announcement, posted on the civil rights organisation's Facebook page, said the attention surrounding Dolezal has distracted from the group's goals.

"In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organisational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP," said Dolezal, a long-time figure in Spokane's civil-rights community who was elected to the NAACP post six months ago. "Please know, I will never stop fighting for human rights."

City officials, meanwhile, are investigating whether she lied about her ethnicity when she landed an appointment to Spokane's police oversight board. On her application, she said her ethnic origins included white, black and American Indian.

public complaints

Dolezal, a 37-year-old woman with a light brown complexion and dark curly hair, graduated from historically black Howard University, teaches African studies at a local university and was married to a black man. For years, she has publicly complained of being the victim of racial hatred in the overwhelmingly white region.

The uproar over racial authenticity and professional honesty began last week after Dolezal's parents told the news media that their daughter is white with a trace of Native American heritage. They produced photos of her as a girl with a pale complexion and straight blond hair.

Her mother, Ruthanne Dolezal of Troy, Montana, told reporters she has had no contact with her daughter in several years. She said Rachel began to "disguise herself" after her parents adopted four black children more than a decade ago.

Rachel Dolezal initially dismissed the controversy, saying it arose from a legal dispute that has divided the family. And she sidestepped questions about her race, saying, "That question is not as easy as it seems. There's a lot of complexities."

Late last week, the national NAACP stood by her, saying "one's racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership."

But Dolezal came under increasing pressure from local chapter members to resign.