White parents of prominent Civil Rights activist claim she is misrepresenting herself as a black woman
SPOKANE (KUSI) – Civil Rights activist Rachel Dolezal is accused of misrepresenting herself as a black woman when her biological parents are white.
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 organization NAACP.
Her parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, say that Rachel’s heritage is not African American, but German and Czech with traces of Native American ancestry.
Ruthanne and Larry said Rachel grew up with four adopted black siblings and they attended school in Mississippi where her social circle had primarily been African American.
They also said Rachel married and subsequently divorced an African American man.
According to an interview with The Guardian, Ruthanne and Larry said Rachel began changing 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.
Rachel Dolezal told local media she is not in touch with the Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal because of an ongoing lawsuit, and that she does not view them as her real parents.
A statement from Spokane city hall said Rachel 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.
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 organization.
“It is traditional to have a person of color 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 percent 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’ll say things like, “our cultural memory” when speaking about African American history.