Racial identity in America is always a deep subject, but sometimes a story comes along that seems baffling to everyone on several different levels.
For your inspection: Rachel Dolezal, a white woman from Idaho who attended a traditionally black college then proceeded to "invent" an identity for herself as a black woman with no genetic basis in fact. Dolezal became a Black Studies professor and eventually head of the Spokane, Washington, NAACP. Of course she could have fulfilled both those roles as a white woman, but for some reason she chose to tell everyone that she was African American with a black father, had lived in South Africa, and had been the victim of hate crimes - none of which was true.
It's hard not to make Steve Martin and "The Jerk" jokes, and in fact, there have been many all over Twitter. Not to mention Jan Brady Afro jokes.
Dolezal was not born a poor black child and is definitely white. Her also-white parents had adopted African-American children and really had lived in South Africa, but apparently Dolezal never visited them there. Dolezal really did attend Howard University, but it's unclear whether the college viewed her as white, black, or mixed-race. She really is a gifted artist who chooses to paint about the African American experience, but whether her art fans knew she was white is also unclear. The NAACP obviously thought she was black, but they have come out in support of Dolezal so far.
This all came out when Dolezal's parents decided to do some interviews about their daughter. Why they waited years to discuss her strange story isn't clear, but it has hit the news and social media like a bombshell.
"Rachel has chosen to distance herself from the family and be hostile towards us," her mother Ruthanne Dolezal told CNN on Friday. "She doesn't want us to be where she is, she doesn't want to be seen with us because it ruins her image."
"We are her birth parents," Lawrence Dolezal added. "We do not understand why she feels it's necessary to misrepresent her ethnicity."
Speaking from their home in Troy, Montana, the Dolezals told CNN's At This Hour that their daughter's identification as a black woman "started kind of gradually, maybe around 2007 or so."
Dolezal's Real Parents interviewed on CNN
Dolezal had recently reported hate mail arriving at the Spokane NAACP, but police wondered whether it was authentic. The day after the news came out that Dolezal was "passing as black" the authorities suspended the investigation, because at this point who can believe a word she says?
From Boise Weekly
Dolezal, president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP, had previously filed multiple police reports, claiming to be the victim of threats and hate crimes. KREM-TV is reporting the SPD has halted its investigations into those claims, at least for now.
"If new information comes to light, we can investigate that information," the SPD tweeted June 12.
This past March, Dolezal told police hate mail had been found in the Spokane NAACP chapter's post office box, but police investigators stated the envelope had neither a barcode nor date stamp on the envelope, and no one at the post office was considered to be a suspect. Dolezal reported a second envelope, which included hate mail, was delivered to the NAACP's downtown Spokane office, and police were still investigating until Friday, when they announced they were suspending their probe.
The reporter first asks Dolezal if her father was able to make it to Spokane this past January for a ribbon cutting event. Dolezal replies that her father did not attend the ceremony because he has bone cancer (which itself might be a lie). The reporter then presents Dolezal with an off-camera photo of her father, which leads to the following exchange:
Reporter: Is that your dad?
Dolezal: Yeah. That’s... that’s my dad.
Reporter: This man right here is your father? Right there?
Dolezal: Do you have a question about that?
Reporter: Yes, ma’am. I was wondering if, uh, your dad really is an African American man?
Dolezal: That’s a very—I mean, I don’t know what you’re implying.
Reporter: Are you African American?
Dolezal: I don’t... I don’t understand the question of—I did tell you that yes that’s my dad. And he was unable to come in January.
Reporter: Are your parents—are they white?
Dolezal: [Walking away] I refuse...