By Neetzan Zimmerman - 06/12/15 09:05 AM EDT
A prominent civil rights activist who heads a Washington state NAACP chapter has apparently been identifying herself as African-American for years despite being white, her mother revealed Thursday.
Rachel Dolezal, president of NAACP Spokane and adjunct professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University, is a leading voice in the local black community, and was even invited by the city to chair a police oversight commission.
But her mother Ruthanne revealed to the Coeur d’Alene Press that Dolezal is of Czech, Swedish and German origins, and produced a birth certificate which lists the woman’s race as “white.”
Dolezal insisted to the reporter that the man was her father, but when asked if she was African-American, she responded “I don’t understand the question.”
Rachel’s mother attributed her daughter’s behavior to being raised among four adopted African-American siblings, during which time Dolezal began to “disguise herself.”
"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,” Ruthanne Dolezal told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
Responding to the revelations about Dolezal, Spokane Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart released the following statement: “[We] take very seriously the concerns raised regarding the chair of the independent citizen police ombudsman commission.”
An investigation into potential policy violations is currently being conducted.
UPDATE, 12:00 p.m.: The NAACP has released the following statement concerning the Rachel Dolezal scandal:
For 106 years, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has held a long and proud tradition of receiving support from people of all faiths, races, colors and creeds.
NAACP Spokane Washington Branch President Rachel Dolezal is enduring a legal issue with her family, and we respect her privacy in this matter. 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. In every corner of this country, the NAACP remains committed to securing political, educational, and economic justice for all people, and we encourage Americans of all stripes to become members and serve as leaders in our organization. Hate language sent through mail and social media along with credible threats continue to be a serious issue for our units in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation. We take all threats seriously and encourage the FBI and the Department of Justice to fully investigate each occurrence.