Okay. This is a very strange story. A police investigation into racial threats made against the NAACP chapter president, Rachel Dolezal, in Spokane, Washington revealed something interesting about the alleged victim; she’s not African-American. She’s not even biracial–she’s white. Her parents, both Caucasian, have come forward to say that she’s their daughter. Yet, that’s not the weird part. Reportedly, Dolezal has reported several instances of racially based harassment to the police, which have gone nowhere. She’s holds a powerful position in Spokane’s city government and seemingly excelled academically. She also serves as an adjunct professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University, where she lists in her faculty biography that she’s been the victim of eight “documented hate crimes.” As Buzzfeed reported, no suspect has been identified. To make things a bit more bizarre, it's not like the NAACP bars people who are Caucasian from joining, or serving as chapter president.
Spokane has a small African-American population–and about half of the local chapter is made up of people who are of European descent. Not being a person of color also doesn’t bar you from serving as Spokane chapter president either–a woman of European descent served in the 1990s.
Second, the serial instances of harassment allegedly inflicted upon Dolezal when she worked for the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho “didn’t pass the smell test” (via Spokesman-Review):
A former board member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations said he recently approached other board members, urging them to come forward with concerns about Dolezal’s truthfulness. That assertion, however, is disputed by two current board members.
The Human Rights Education Institute, which employed Dolezal for three years, is the education arm of the task force.
Kurt Neumaier has served as an alternate board member or former full member of the task force since 2001. He said he had suspicions about alleged hate crimes that Dolezal has reported to police in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane, and said he was concerned that the decision of the task force and Human Rights Education Institute to hire her was done without proper vetting and checking into claims about her background.
“None of them passed the smell test,” he said.
He said that after Dolezal left the institute and he saw her gaining prominence in Spokane – becoming head of the NAACP, chairman of the police ombudsman oversight commission, teaching at Eastern Washington University, and speaking frequently in public on racism and justice issues – that he became worried that there might be “blowback” for the institute for not doing a better job of vetting her.
Part of Neumaier’s job on the board is to look at complaints of human rights violations and help victims take action and seek justice.
“In all of these incidents (she reported in Coeur d’Alene), she was the sole witness to events that, when put under scrutiny, don’t hold up,” he said.
Dolezal has made many reports of harassment and other crimes to police. None have resulted in arrests or charges – but neither have any included direct claims that she fabricated them. In some cases, such as a report that a noose was left on her porch in Spokane, there were other witnesses.
Ruthanne Dolezal said her message to her daughter is simple.
“I would say, ‘I love you, and honesty is the best policy,’” she said. “I firmly believe that the truth is in everyone’s best interest.”
"Our daughter is Caucasian" say parents of Spokane NAACP President Rachel Dolezal. pic.twitter.com/6VHxm9v4Wt— Taylor Viydo (@KREMTaylor) June 11, 2015
Neumaier said he brought his concerns before the board, but two other members deny having such a conversation about Dolezal. Now, Dolezal is in Spokane–and has re-energized the NAACP chapter there, according to the Spokesman. Alas, we arrive to her possible ethics violations regarding her appointment to the police oversight committee (via KXLY):
The City of Spokane announced Thursday it's investigating whether the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP violated the city's code of ethics in her application to serve on the citizen police ombudsman commission.
Rachel Dolezal serves as chair of the independent commission, in addition to her work as an adjunct faculty member at Eastern Washington University and president of the NAACP local chapter. On her application to serve on the commission, she identified herself as African-American. But public records, including Dolezal's own birth certificate, list her biological parents as Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal of Montana. The Dolezals told KXLY Thursday that Rachel is their biological daughter and that they are both white.
"We are committed to independent citizen oversight and take very seriously the concerns raised regarding the chair of the independent citizen police ombudsman commission," Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart said it a joint statement Thursday. "We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated. That information will be reviewed by the City Council, which has oversight of city boards and commissions."
On the NAACP Spokane Facebook page, a picture was posted earlier this year showing Dolezal and an African-American man. In the post, he's identified as Dolezal's father. KXLY4's Jeff Humphrey asked Dolezal about that claim Wednesday afternoon.
"Ma'am, I was wondering if your dad really is an African-American man," Humphrey asked.
"I don't understand the question," Dolezal answered. "I did tell you [that man in the picture] is my dad."
"Are your parents white?" Humphrey asked. At that point, Dolezal removed the microphone, ended the interview and walked away.
Dolezal's parents, who live in Troy, MT, say Rachel has been deceiving people. They want people to know the truth. pic.twitter.com/sS3aiUwD0H— Taylor Viydo (@KREMTaylor) June 11, 2015
[Image courtesy of the Washington Post]
To add another layer into this bizarre saga, her persona completely changed when she got divorced in 2004. Also, she claims to have been subject to abuse from her parents, which they stringently deny, and was born in a teepee in Montana (via Coeur d'Alene Press) [emphasis mine]:
In a February issue of the Easterner, EWU's student-run newspaper, Dolezal reportedly told a reporter that the man who raised her with her mother is her stepfather. In January, a photo of Dolezal and a black man appeared on the Spokane NAACP's Facebook page with the message: "President Dolezal's father announced today that he will be coming to town for January 19th ribbon-cutting ceremony for the NAACP office ... and is expected to speak at the 7 p.m. MLK tribute membership meeting."
But the man in the photo is not her father. The person in the photo is Albert Wilkerson - a black man who lived in North Idaho and volunteered at the Human Rights Education Institute several years ago when Dolezal was in charge of the organization's education programs. A similar picture was posted on Dolezal's personal Facebook page in December, with a comment made from Dolezal's account on the social media platform: "L-R: Me, my oldest son Izaiah, and my Dad."
Dolezal's mother said she has never met Albert Wilkerson and Rachel does not have a stepfather. She said her daughter's father is Larry Dolezal, a former Lincoln County Commissioner in Montana. Ruthanne and Larry just celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary on Monday, she said.
"Anybody who lives in the town of Troy or Libby knows that Larry is her father," Ruthanne said.
Wilkerson, who has since moved away from the area, could not be reached for comment.
Dolezal's birth certificate filed in Lincoln County, Montana in 1977 states that Ruthanne is her mother and Lawrence Albert Dolezal is her father.
Ruthanne also clarified that Izaiah, who Dolezal often says is her son, is actually
Dolezal's adopted brother. Between 1993 and 1995, Ruthanne and Larry adopted four black infants: Ezra, Izaiah, Zachariah and Esther.
Rachel Dolezal confirmed in a recent phone interview with The Press that Izaiah is one of her adopted brothers.
"He used to be my brother," she said. "But I have full custody of him now."
There are other questionable details of Rachel's personal history that have appeared repeatedly in media articles about Dolezal.
Multiple interviewers have reported that Dolezal told them she was born in a teepee in Montana. The detail appeared in 2012 in a profile for Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine and several times in interviews and features published by EWU's student newspaper.
"That is totally false," Ruthanne said.
Dolezal's mother said she and Larry lived in a teepee for a while in 1974, when they were first married and three years before Dolezal was born.
"That was the end of living in the teepee," Ruthanne said.
Ruthanne said other claims attributed to her daughter in the media are untrue.
Rachel did not have to use bows and arrows to hunt for her own food, Ruthanne said, and she never lived in South Africa or Colorado. Ruthanne said she, Larry and the younger adopted siblings moved to South Africa in 2002, and lived there until 2006. Larry was stationed there as an employee of the faith-based Creation Ministries International.
"Rachel did not even ever visit us there," Ruthanne said.
Larry Dolezal told The Press that he and Ruthanne and the children moved to Colorado during the time their daughter was finishing her bachelor's degree at Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss.
In stories published by the Easterner in 2014 and earlier this year, Dolezal is reported to have claimed Larry and Ruthanne used violence to punish her and her siblings.
The Easterner reported: "Dolezal has no contact today with her mother or stepfather due to a series of events that still haunt her thoughts today. Dolezal and her siblings were physically abused by her mother and stepfather."
"They would punish us by skin complexion," Dolezal reportedly told the Easterner.
The article went on: "According to Dolezal, the object her mother and stepfather used to punish them was called a baboon whip, used to ward baboons away in South Africa. These whips would leave scars behind, 'They were pretty similar to what was used as whips during slavery.'"
That claim offended Dolezal's parents.
"She is fabricating a very false and malicious lie," Ruthanne said during a phone interview on Tuesday.
So, there you have Rachel Dolezal’s wild–and rather bizarre–life and upbringing. This is a person who literally hijacked a racial identity to build an audience and platform to push forward a political agenda; that’s quite aberrant. This goes beyond racial issues. It’s also about rooting out frauds in our political culture. Dolezal’s racial identity–she also identified as white and Native American on the form–was taken into account when she was appointed chairwoman to the police oversight committee in Spokane–and it seems to be a fabrication. Furthermore, for the legions of progressives espousing the tenets of political correctness every day, can we agree that this isn’t necessarily the best ethical or moral way to achieve social justice? To those who think this is much ado about nothing, pat yourselves on the back; you’ve admitted that your ideology has no standards whatsoever. Nevertheless, that's another debate entirely.
Overall, this is probably the weirdest story of the week.
Back in the early 1900s, what she did would be considered highly racist,” Ezra Dolezal, who said he is “25 percent black,” said. “… You really should not do that. It’s completely opposite – she’s basically creating more racism.”
Zach Dolezal, 21, said when he visited his sister in Spokane, he was told not to speak of Lawrence and Ruthanne as their parents.
“It’s a farce, really, is what it is,” he said, adding he thought Rachel had posted a photo of a black couple from Spokane on her Facebook page whom she referred to as her parents.
Ed added his own “hot take” on the matter:
So what’s to be learned from this? We will assuredly get some people arguing that if gender identity is fluid, then so can ethnic or racial identity as well. We will also hear that Dolezal may be compensating for trauma or attempting to embrace an identity to work for social justice. Those arguments make as much sense as claiming a common fossil ancestor to justify Dolezal’s posturing. There won’t be much to learn from this except that all claims require some verification, and people who commit fraud will sometimes go to great lengths to sustain it. But we’ll definitely call this Hot-Take Friday and have fun with it until the next identity-crisis story comes along.
Update: All right, I can’t resist adding my own hot take to this story. What’s the difference between this and people claiming different gender identities than their DNA demonstrates? Not one thing. Either one embraces both Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal, rejects them both, or sets up a cognitive dissonance that will become truly epic between identity groups.
Oh, that’s right; some people are calling what she did to be transracial. I’ll let you all debate that amongst yourselves. I can certainly tell you that this isn’t the same situation as when parents adopt children from other countries to become transracial, or multi-racial, families. It’s not even close.
My prob w/ #Transracial: Black folk cant decide to be white when the cops raid their pool party. But a white woman can be NAACP president.— |L I Z Z O| (@lizzo) June 12, 2015
Remember: Left defended Warren when she falsely claimed to be Cherokee for a job. They thought her appropriation was NBD. Precedent set.— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) June 12, 2015
This debate is going to get messy.
BONUS: J. Christian Adams at PJ Media discusses how he isn't shocked at this story since a) he's seen this behavior before as a lawyer at the DOJ's Civil Rights Division b) The gentlelady from Massachusetts–Liz Warren–did it as well.
Full KXLY interview:
Prof. Dolezal's lecture on black hair.