The president of a local chapter of the NAACP who has identified as partially black on official documents is “Caucasian by birth,” according to her parents, who are accusing her of misrepresenting her identity.
Rachel Dolezal, head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, does not speak to her parents because of an ongoing legal conflict. This week, they told reporters that Dolezal is white, despite how she portrays herself.
“She knows it’s false, but I think she’s told herself as well as she’s told others this erroneous identity of hers enough that by now, she may believe it more than she believes the truth,” Dolezal’s mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, told NBC affiliate KHQ in Spokane. Ruthanne and her husband Larry live in Montana and have not been in contact with their daughter for years.
“She is Caucasian by birth,” Larry told KHQ.On Friday, the NAACP said it has 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,” it said in a statement, adding that it stood behind her advocacy record.
In addition to her position at the NAACP, Dolezal, 37, is the chairwoman of Spokane’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, a volunteer appointment. On the application for the job, she identified as white, black, and American Indian.
Prompted by claims from her parents that their family heritage is Czech, Swedish, German and a trace of Native American — but not black — the city is looking into whether Dolezal violated policy by lying about her race on a job application.
WATCH: A word on Rachel Dolezal
“We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated,” Mayor David Condon and Council President Ben Stuckart said in a statement Thursday. “That information will be reviewed by the City Council, which has oversight of city boards and commissions.”
In the meantime, controversy is swirling over Dolezal’s appearance and NAACP role.
After pictures of Dolezal as a freckly girl with straight blond hair and light skin were put on social media side-by-side with photos of her now — with a bronze complexion and dark, curly hair — tweets started accusing her of deceit.
Blair L. M. Kelley, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University and host of a weekly podcast that discusses race issues in America, said she doesn’t understand why Dolezal wouldn’t identify as white.
“Many of the founders of the NAACP were white,” she told NBC News. “It was founded as an interracial group. So there’s white people in the NAACP, and there’s no need to be not white in the NAACP.”
Dolezal did not return media inquiries from NBC News. But in a tearful interview with CBS affiliate KREM in Spokane, Dolezal said she has no relationship with her biological parents, and doesn’t see why they feel the need to bring up her ethnicity.
“I do not talk to Ruthanne or Larry anymore,” she said. “What I say to them is, you know, I don’t give two ***** what you guys think.”
As for who she considers to be her family, in January, Dolezal posted a photo on her NAACP chapter’s Facebook page of herself with a black man whom she referred to as her father.
Jeff Humphrey, a reporter from KXLY in Spokane confronted her on Thursday about the photo, asking if it was really her dad. When Dolezal said it was, Humphrey pressed her: “I was wondering if your dad really is an African-American man.”
“I don’t know what you’re implying,” Dolezal replied.
“Are you African-American?” he asked.
“I don’t understand the question. I did tell you that yes, that’s my dad,” she said before walking away.
Her biological parents told The Spokesman-Review in Spokane that Dolezal began to “disguise herself” in 2006 or 2007 after the family adopted four black children; Dolezal told KREM she considered herself to be the mother, not sister, of one of those children.
“I am his mom,” she insisted. “He’s not my brother. That’s not our relationship.”