The racial identity of Rachel Dolezal, the president of the Spokane NAACP, was questioned this week, after reporters quoted her parents has saying she has been falsely claiming to be multi-racial black, white and American Indian.
NAACP HQ in Baltimore backed Dolezal, saying the group supports her regardless of her race and that there is no racial criteria for NAACP leadership. The NAACP released a statement saying it stands behind Dolezal’s advocacy record, and encouraged the continued investigation of hate mail and threats against Dolezal and the organization.
After the controversy over her race emerged this week, Dolezal walked away from a television news reporter with KXLY this week when he asked her if her parents were white.
The Coeur d’Alene Press quoted her parents Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, from whom she is estranged, in a detailed story on Thursday. The Dolezal family shared with the paper her birth certificate and photos from her childhood, showing a blond, blue-eyed girl with freckles.
The Dolezals also told Spokane television station KREM2 that Rachel Dolezal, 37, has long had an affinity for black culture, including identifying with her younger adopted siblings, who are black, and getting a masters in fine arts at Howard University, a historically black college. They said she started identifying as biracial after her divorce about 10 years ago.
Dolezal has been an outspoken advocate on diversity issues in Idaho and Spokane, recently giving an interview to Al-Jazeera America about police accountability. Dolezal also has spoken in interviews about childhood experiences with racial tension and has reported racially motivated threats targeted at her.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly stated which NAACP officials released a statement Friday backing Dolezal.