Controversy is swirling around one of the Inland Northwest’s most prominent civil rights activists, with family members of Rachel Dolezal saying the local leader of the NCAAP has been falsely portraying herself as black for years.
Dolezal, 37, avoided answering questions directly about her race and ethnicity Thursday, saying, “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.”
Later, in an apparent reference to studies tracing the scientific origins of human life to Africa, Dolezal added: “We’re all from the African continent.”
Dolezal is credited with re-energizing the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. She also serves as chairwoman of the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, where she identified herself as white, black and American Indian in her application for the volunteer appointment, and previously was education director for the Human Rights Institute in Coeur d’Alene.
In recent days, questions have arisen about her background and her numerous complaints to police of harassment. Members of her family are challenging her very identity, saying she has misrepresented major portions of her life.
Dolezal’s mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, said Thursday by phone from her home in Northwest Montana that she has had no contact with her daughter in years. She said her daughter began to “disguise herself” in 2006 or 2007, after the family had adopted four African-American children and Rachel Dolezal had shown an interest in portrait art.
“It’s very sad that Rachel has not just been herself,” Ruthanne Dolezal said. “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”
This is… awkward.
And no, Chet Haze, you still can’t use the N bomb.