The city of Spokane, Washington, has opened an investigation into whether Rachel Dolezal, the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, lied about her race when she identified herself as African-American on her application to serve on the citizen police ombudsman commission, thereby violating the city’s code of ethics.
In addition to serving as the chair of the police commission and president of the local NAACP chapter—which the Spokesman Review credits her with revitalizing—Dolezal works as an adjunct faculty member at Eastern Washington University. Here she is delivering a lecture on the cultural significance of black women’s hair.
However! Dolezal’s birth certificate lists her biological parents as Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal of Montana. On Thursday, Ruthanne and Lawrence confirmed to the Coeur d’Alene Press that Rachel is their biological daughter—and that they are both white:
They backed up the claim with a copy of their daughter’s birth certificate and photos. The images show a younger, pale, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Dolezal who looks much different than the woman with caramel-colored skin now leading the Spokane NAACP and helping review claims of police misconduct in that city.
“Rachel is very good at using her artistic skills to transform herself,” Ruthanne said in a recent telephone interview.
Below, a recent photo of Rachel, next to one of her (allegedly) as a child.
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.
For her part, Dolezal has said she experienced abuse at the hands of her mother and stepfather, and that they would punish her and her siblings by “skin complexion.” (Ruthanne has denied any claims of abuse in interviews.)
So who is Rachel Dolezal, professor, activist, ethnic hair styling expert? In a recent interview with KXLY, a reporter awkwardly confronted Dolezal about her race. Gesturing to a photograph of Dolezal with an African-American man she had claimed was her father, the reporter asked her if her dad was “really an African-American man.”
“That’s a very—I don’t know what you’re implying,” Dolezal stammered. “Are you African-American?” he asked. “I don’t understand the question. I did tell you that that’s my dad,” she said, before abruptly walking away.
Dolezal avoided questions posed to her on the subject by the Review on Thursday as well. “That question is not as easy as it seems,” she said. (True! Well, sometimes.) “There’s a lot of complexities… and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.”