Rachel Dolezal quits as president of NAACP’s Spokane chapter amid race controversy
SPOKANE, Wash. — The president of the NAACP Spokane, Washington, chapter Rachel Dolezal has resigned, according to a letter from her which was posted Monday on the NAACP Spokane Facebook page.
Dolezal did not address allegations that have landed her and her family in the national spotlight over the past several days. Her parents, who are white, allege that she has been lying and presenting herself as black when she is not.
The story ignited debate over race and identity and blew up social media.
In her letter to the NAACP’s executive committee and its member, she wrote, “I have waited in deference while others expressed their feelings, beliefs, confusions and even conclusions — absent the full story. I am consistently committed to empowering marginalized voices and believe that many individuals have been heard in the last hours and days that would not otherwise have had a platform to weigh in on this important discussion.
“Additionally, I have always deferred to the state and national NAACP leadership and offer my sincere gratitude for their unwavering support of my leadership through this unexpected firestorm.”
She said that though “many issues face us now” such as “police brutality, biased curriculum in schools, economic disenfranchisement, health inequities, and a lack of pro-justice political representation … the dialogue has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity.”
“While challenging the construct of race is at the core of evolving human consciousness, we can NOT afford to lose sight of the five Game Changers (Criminal Justice & Public Safety, Health & Healthcare, Education, Economic Sustainability, and Voting Rights & Political Representation) that affect millions, often with a life or death outcome. The movement is larger than a moment in time or a single person’s story, and I hope that everyone offers their robust support of the Journey for Justice campaign that the NAACP launches today!” the letter reads.
While she is “delighted that so many organizations and individuals have supported and collaborated with the Spokane NAACP under my leadership to grow this branch,” she wrote that she “can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP.”
She said that she has “complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP” and is passing her role to the chapter’s Vice President Naima Quarles-Burnley.
“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 wrote.
A meeting – and answers – postponed
Earlier a member of the chapter appeared on CNN to say that others were upset about a Monday meeting that the NAACP has postponed. It was expected that Dolezal would explain herself then.
“People want resolve. They want some kind of closure” to the controversy that has triggered national headlines about Dolezal, debates over race and identity, and put the NAACP in the spotlight, chapter member Kitara Johnson said on CNN on Monday morning.
Johnson said that members want clear direction from the national office of the NAACP about how to handle Dolezal’s future with the organization, and in the meantime, Johnson has started a petition to make Dolezal take a leave of absence.
On Sunday, the Spokane chapter of the NAACP issued a statement: “Due to the need to continue discussion with regional and national NAACP leaders, tomorrow’s meeting is postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date.”
Dolezal hasn’t made a public statement.
“All the information hasn’t come out completely,” Johnson said. “We want to ask her, in a nice way and be respectful of the work she’s done in the community, to take a leave of absence to take care of her personal issues (so) the work of social justice and equity can move forward.”
Dolezal declines to respond to allegations
Dolezal’s estranged parents have spoken to the media about her misrepresentation.
“We are her birth parents,” her father, Lawrence Dolezal, said Friday. “We do not understand why she feels it’s necessary to misrepresent her ethnicity.”
CNN contacted Dolezal last week, and she declined an interview. She said she stands by her record of service and hoped to address the accusations at Monday’s meeting.
Dolezal has said she received threatening hate mail in the past, but the Spokane Police Department told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that it dropped its investigation of the letters because of a lack of leads. The investigation was dropped before the controversy about her race became public.
Johnson said her concern isn’t that Dolezal may be white, but rather that she was perhaps untruthful about that.
“We have never called (whether she should lead) into question in terms of race,” Johnson said. “Martin Luther King said we don’t want to be judged by the color of our skin, (but) … on the content of our character.”
Adopted brother speaks out
More of her relatives have joined the chorus of criticism.
Her adopted brother, Ezra Dolezal, said she took him aside three years ago and asked him “not to blow her cover” about her alternate identity.
“She said she was starting a new life … and this one person over there was actually going to be her black father,” he said.
Dolezal has identified herself as at least partly African-American, but her Montana birth certificate states she was born to two parents who say they are Caucasian. The parents shared that document and old photos with CNN.
She began identifying herself more with the African-American community in 2007, according to her parents.
Chapter supports her
The regional NAACP leader has said her race is not a factor.
What Dolezal has done is more important to the NAACP than what race she is, regional President Gerald Hankerson said. He called the NAACP a civil rights organization first that includes “leaders from all different ethnicities,” adding that it “doesn’t do a genealogy search on what a person’s ethnicity is when they” take a top position.
“We represent all civil rights issues, regardless of a person’s ethnicity. And the quality of the work that she has done to elevate the issues of civil rights in that region is what we applaud,” he said.
A peaceful protest against Dolezal was planned outside the NAACP office in Spokane on Monday, CNN affiliate KXLY reported.
See Dolezal’s Facebook post below.
CNN’s Stephanie Elam, Paul Vercammen, Greg Botelho, Tony Marco and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.