Rachel Dolezal resigned as the Spokane NAACP president amid the whirlwind of controversy of her being outed as a white woman. Dolezal, who had served as chapter president for roughly a year, had ascended the ranks of the organization and academia under the guise of being Black until she was outed by her parents. Even as the truth of Dolezal’s heritage came to light she has held steadfast to her blackness. When talking to a local station she stated “Yes, I do consider myself to be black and that’s because, you know, that’s how I identify.”
Her resignation letter was posted on the Spokane NAACP Facebook page and read in part, “It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the Presidency and pass the baton to my Vice President, Naima Quarles-Burnley. It is my hope that by securing a beautiful office for the organization in the heart of downtown, bringing the local branch into financial compliance, catalyzing committees to do strategic work in the five Game Changer issues, launching community forums, putting the membership on a fast climb, and helping many individuals find the legal, financial and practical support needed to fight race-based discrimination, I have positioned the Spokane NAACP to buttress this transition.”
Prior to Dolezal’s resignation the NAACP released a statement reminding people that race is not part of the criteria for service or leadership with the organization. “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.” The statement did not, however, address misrepresenting one’s racial or ethnic background.
The Dolezal story continues to take unusual turns. As Dolezal works to stand by her alleged blackness, reports have surfaced of a lawsuit levied by her against Howard University claiming discrimination. The 2002 lawsuit claims that Dolezal, a graduate of the historically Black university, was passed over for scholarship and teaching opportunities in favor of Black applicants. The lawsuit further calls into question not only Dolezal’s alleged blackness but whether or not she intentionally committed fraud. One of Dolezal’s adopted African-American brothers, Ezra Dolezal, has also explained that Rachel warned him “not to blow her cover” about her racial identity.
The Dolezal episode has re-sparked a number of debates in academia and social media as it relates to Blackness and its definition. While some have equated Dolezal’s “transracial” status with the transgender community, others have debated whether black female celebrities like Beyonce, Nikki Minaj and others get an unfair pass for ascribing to white standards of beauty and in turn are attempting to at the very least be “less black.”
Today two interviews will be airing with Dolezal, one on The Today Show and a long exclusive interview tonight with Melissa Harris-Perry.