SPOKANE, Wash. (June 15, 2015) — Some members of the Spokane, Washington, NAACP chapter are upset that a Monday meeting was postponed, because they had hoped to hear Rachel Dolezal explain herself.
Did the chapter president, who presented herself as black, lie about her race? Is she, as her parents allege, actually white?
“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 accused her of falsely portraying herself as black for years, claiming she is white.
“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 is planned outside the NAACP office in Spokane on Monday, CNN affiliate KXLY reported.