Civil Rights Activist Who Pretended To Be Black Quits NAACP Post

Photo: Nicholas K. Geranios/AP Photo.
Update: In a Facebook post, Rachel Dolezal announced on Monday that she is resigning from her post as president of the Spokane NAACP. Naima Quarles-Burnley, the chapter's vice president, will take over the position from Dolezal. "Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It's about justice. This is not me quitting; this is a continuum," she said. A civil rights leader in Washington State is a white woman who's been pretending to be Black for years. Rachel Dolezal is the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP and teaches Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. On Thursday, her parents told a local news station that they're both white, as is their daughter. In a statement issued Friday, the NAACP said it stands by Dolezal and her advocacy work, and notes that people of all races are welcome in the organization. "NAACP Spokane Washington Branch President Rachel Dolezal is enduring a legal issue with her family, and we respect her privacy in this matter," they write. "One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership." The statement goes on to encourage "Americans of all stripes" to join the NAACP (and sadly, notes that threats and hate speech will be reported to the FBI). Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal spoke to Spokane's KREM 2 on Thursday, explaining that Rachel was raised in Mississippi in a predominantly African-American community and has Black adopted siblings, but is white, from mostly German and Czech heritage.
Rachel Dolezal, 37, has since declined to explicitly self-identify as Black or white: The Spokesman-Review reports that she refused to answer the question outright on Thursday, saying it was a "multi-layer issue" and that not everyone would understand. "We're all from the African continent," she added. A short video clip has been widely shared since the story broke, in which she's asked if she's African-American and dodges. Her social media, however, is full of direct references to living as a Black woman: On a couple Facebook posts (screen grabbed by BuzzFeed and since removed), she writes about seeing 12 Years a Slave while Black, and discusses her decision to "go natural" with her hair.
The City of Spokane says it's investigating whether Dolezal committed any ethics violations. Refinery29's request for comment from Dolezal and the local NAACP weren't immediately returned. We'll continue to update this story as news emerges.

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