The parents of an African American civil rights leader in Eastern Washington state have shocked the nation by declaring that their daughter isn’t black, as she has claimed to be for the last 10 years. In several recent interviews with the media, Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal revealed that their daughter Rachel is actually caucasian.
“She’s our birth daughter and we’re both of European descent,” Larry told news reporters. “We’re very puzzled and it’s very sad.”
Since January, Rachel has been the president of the Spokane County chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). She is also chair of the city’s police oversight commission, and an adjunct professor of African studies at Eastern Washington University. Rachel is currently estranged from her parents – they claim that they only found out about her disguise when they read about her in a newspaper a few years ago.
“She has never claimed to be biracial or African-American in our presence,” they told CNN. They also revealed photographs of Rachel’s early days, when she was clearly a blue-eyed, blond-haired, freckled caucasian – a complete contrast from her current avatar with dark complexion and tight curls. “Our daughter is primarily of German and Czech and of European descent,” Ruthanne confirmed in an interview. “Yes, Rachel is a master artist, and so she’s able to disguise herself and make her appearance look like any ethnicity.”
“Rachel has chosen to distance herself from the family and be hostile towards us,” her mother said. “She doesn’t want us to be where she is, she doesn’t want to be seen with us because it ruins her image.” Ruthanne added that she didn’t understand the need for her daughter’s disguise, because “she could accomplish the work that she set out to do in the beginning, by being herself, and by being a white woman who’s an advocate for African Americans.”
It turns out that Rachel has slowly worked her way into the African American community, through her social justice work. But her parents revealed that her interest in diversity started at a very young age, growing up around friends from various ethnicities. After graduating from Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, she applied for her master’s degree at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington.
Although she did not claim to be African American in her application, the school automatically assumed that she was, based on her artwork that used African imagery. “The way we understood, eyes were popping and jaws were dropping when she walked in to finalize her registration,” Larry told CNN.
Over time, Larry and Ruthanne noted that Rachel’s accent began to sound more African American over the phone. But the real turning point came after her divorce in 2004, when she started altering her appearance. She also started claiming that her parents’ adopted African American children were her own. In fact, when one of her adopted brothers – 21-year-old Zach – visited Rachel in Spokane, she had asked him not to speak of Larry and Ruthanne as their parents.
“Back in the early 1900s, what she did would be considered highly racist,” said 22-year-old Ezra Dolezal, another adopted brother. “You really should not do that. It’s completely opposite – she’s basically creating more racism.”
Rachel has confirmed in a phone interview with the press that Izaiah, her son, is actually one of her adopted brothers. “He used to be my brother,” she said. “But I have full custody of him now.” In fact, in the interview she maintained that she is indeed black, as are her adopted siblings. She added that Larry and Ruthanne had abused her and her siblings, punishing them ‘by skin complexion.’ “They can DNA test me if they want to,” she said.
Following the recent controversy, the NAACP released a statement stating that they don’t want to interfere in what is clearly ‘a legal issue with her family’. “We respect her privacy in this matter,” the statement read. “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership. The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record.” James Wilburn, former president of the Spokane NAACP chapter, added that Rachel’s race was not a criteria that qualified her for her current position.
Spokane city hall has also issued a statement, revealing that Rachel had listed her ethnicity as a mix of black, Native American, and a number of others, in her application to the office of police ombudsman commission. “We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated,” said David Condon, mayor of Spokane.
Rachel herself has largely remained silent on the issue, stating that she would first want to speak to her executive committee before talking to the media. “I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation,” she said. “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.”
Since the controversy broke out, Rachel has disabled her Facebook account, where she used to actively post commentary on African American issues and culture. A photograph on the Spokane NAACP’s Facebook page showed Rachel with her African American ‘father’, but her parents insist that she isn’t related to the man, sharing her birth certificate as proof.
When a KXLY reporter confronted Rachel on camera, with the Facebook picture, she seemed flustered.“Ma’am, I was wondering if your dad really is an African-American man,” the reporter asked her, showing her the photograph.
“I don’t understand the question,’ Rachel replied. ‘I did tell you that yes, that’s my dad.” She is later seen removing her mic and walking away from the camera.
You’re probably thinking this story couldn’t get any weirder. But get this: during her years at Howard University, Rachel Dolezal actually sued the learning institution, claiming that she was a victim of racial discrimination, because she was white… Records show that the now former leader of NAACP Spokane claimed that she was denied an assistant teaching position, an application to become an instructor, and a scholarship because she was white. The case was dismissed. Then she went and pretended to be black for 10 years…