Meet Rachel Dolezal. She's the president of the local NAACP in Spokane, a small city in eastern Washington State.
Over the past few years, she has consistently identified as either black or bi-racial in her own newspaper columns, interviews with the news media, and even her own painting.
But on Thursday, her biological parents said the civil rights activist is actually white.
BuzzFeed News read through more than a 100 articles by or about Dolezal. Following are some excerpts:
1. Passing as white while black "might be seen as a little bit of a traitorous act."
Earlier this year, Spokane was shaken by controversy after the relatives of one of its more prominent citizens called the man's ethnicity into question.
Daniel K. Oliver was the the first black member of the town’s legislature, elected in 1895. But when he was inducted into the town hall of fame in 2015, his great- grandnephew and great-granddaughter – the family's genealogist – told the Spokesman-Review that their relative was white.
The paper asked local Dolezal to comment. Here’s what she had to say:
Dolezal said she was familiar with Oliver’s name from references in books that researched the African-American community’s roots in Spokane. She’s seen a picture of bearded Oliver, who admittedly doesn’t look African-American, but that doesn’t really prove anything, she added.
“Visible identity is just one factor,” Dolezal said. Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896, the year Oliver took his council seat, was similarly light-skinned, she noted. Plessy was considered “colored” even though seven of his eight great-grandparents were white.
People of mixed race in that era often tried to pass as white “for purposes of survival,” Dolezal said. “Now, that might be seen as a little bit of a traitorous act. Given the time, it’s forgivable, looking back in hindsight.”
If he was trying to “pass,” Oliver might not have been a visible leader of the African-American community. But he wasn’t trying to pass, his family counters. He simply wasn’t African-American and “some researchers won’t listen,” [great- grandnephew] Steve Oliver said.
2. "I spent a lot of time in Mississippi, so when I saw that rope, I knew what it was."
In September of 2009, Dolezal told the Associated Press that she had found a noose hanging outside her door in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. Here's what she had to say about the incident:
"I spent a lot of time in Mississippi, so when I saw that rope, I knew what it was," Dolezal told the Coeur d'Alene Press in a story published Wednesday. "You have to learn and practice how to tie a noose. It's a very intentional thing."
The incident occurred a week after burglars stole $13,000 and two guns from Dolezal's home, the AP reported.
The article, which identifies Dolezal as the head of a "black family," notes the local police were investigating the noose as a hate crime.
3. "L.A. cops move up here [to Washington State] to get away from diversity."
In another article, Dolezal shared her thoughts about living in Spokane:
"LA cops move up here to get away from diversity," said Rachel Dolezal, director of education for the Human Rights Education Institute in downtown Coeur d'Alene.
Dolezal, a multi-racial woman who graduated from Howard University, jokes that she traded one monoculture for another when she moved here in 2004.
As a woman of color, she finds plenty of challenges in Coeur d'Alene. The center's efforts to bring black history programs to schools, and a black student association to North Idaho College have resulted in letters to the editor criticizing the efforts, she said.
There was also a recent incident in which three skinheads visited the office and asked for a tour, Dolezal said.
They showed little interest in the center's work, she said, but saluted a Nazi flag that was part of an exhibit on propaganda.
"They asked me where I lived," she said, and where her young son went to school.
4. "At 12, he still distinguishes himself as the only black kid as his school actually being raised by a black parent."
One Saturday morning, my kids burst into my bedroom. “Mom, there's a rope hanging in the backyard; it looks like a noose!” I raced outside as my mind instantly tracked back to the parting words of a colleague at Howard University when we left Washington, D.C., en route to Idaho. “Don’t go there; you’ll get lynched!” I remember brushing off her comment with some theoretical statement about not living in a culture of fear. But that day my sons found the noose really broke my heart in a certain kind of way. I hadn’t told them about all the other incidents of harassment toward us before that day; I wanted to be their shield against the wave of terror that kept me awake at night. And now they were faced with a symbol of death when picking garden strawberries for breakfast. The police came. They interviewed all three of us, mumbled something about us getting security cameras and logged the incident as a hate crime. Our house was burglarized not once, but several times. There were nooses, swastikas and death threats.
Later in the same column, Dolezal wrote that her son was the only black student in his school "actually being raised by a black parent:"
On the first day in second grade, my son came home with a despondent face. Never mind the fact that he was stung by a bee inside his ear that day; what was really on his mind was that he was the only black kid in his class again. Perplexed, I said that two of the other kids in his class looked black. “They don’t know they’re black,” he said matter-of-factly. At 12, he still distinguishes himself as the only black kid at his school actually being raised by a black parent.
Dolezal's parents said that Izaiah Dolezal, whom Rachel claims is her son, is actually her adopted bother.
5. "I asked my son yesterday if he is all ready for seventh grade. Without hesitation, he said, 'Ya, pretty much. I've got basically everything except white privilege.'"
I asked my son yesterday if he is all ready for seventh grade. Without hesitation, he said, "Ya, pretty much. I've got basically everything except white privilege." His words have been haunting me ever since, with the memory of last year starting out with him getting a concussion, followed by other bullying incidents and social challenges at school here. What exactly does white privilege mean to a 12-year-old embarking on seventh grade …at Sacajawea Middle School? What does white privilege mean in Spokane, or North Idaho in general? I think of him turning 13 this October and feel powerless to spare him from the daily reminders of white privilege, or maybe more accurately white supremacy... the school curriculum, the school staff demographics, the student body, the national news stories. In case you’ve missed them: more young Black males being beaten, shot, arrested, or killed, while their white counterparts get away with… yes, sometimes murder.
6. "The flames erupting in Ferguson are the fires burning in the hearts of mothers of black sons in this nation. We cry for the life nurtured inside us those nine months."
In this piece for Inlander, Dolezal wrote about the pain of black mothers in the face of police brutality:
The flames erupting in Ferguson are the fires burning in the hearts of mothers of black sons in this nation. We cry for the life nurtured inside us those nine months, for the years of tending and mending our child, for the brief pride we felt in his manhood before the light left his eyes. We tell our sons to walk with both eyes open, hands visible and quick feet ready to run. We advise them to keep receipts for everything they purchase, speak politely and dress sensibly. We hoped that the toil of our ancestors would have freed them from the curse of these limitations and the threat of harm, and we dreamed that we would never awake to feel this pain.
7. "People who have not felt the lash of centuries of oppression beating down on their backs tell us to keep calm and carry on."
In the same column, she wrote about the difficulties that people who have not experienced oppression sometimes have in understanding those who have:
Where do we go from here? People who have not felt the lash of centuries of oppression beating down on their backs tell us to keep calm and carry on. What insanity makes those in power imagine they have any idea what the logical response should be? What psychosis perpetuates the myth that if we listen to “both sides,” we will somehow find the truth, as if the hunter and the hunted, the dead and the living, could be consulted with a fair and even outcome.
8. "It is important for white Spokane and non-black communities of color in the area to support and affirm the value of black lives."
It is important for white Spokane and non-black communities of color in the area to support and affirm the value of black lives. Whether you march with us, advocate for your black friends and colleagues, or join the NAACP, allies in this cause are appreciated. At 1.9 percent of the local population, we need to know that black lives matter to the other 98.1 percent. We notice which teachers, co-workers, bosses, organizations, churches and local businesses show support. We also notice who doesn't show up and sometimes wonder why.
9. Her jobs have included "ethnic hair stylist."
Dolezal also wrote an Inlander column about the difficulties of making money, where she said the following:
My career has ranged from serious roles such as nonprofit director, political campaign manager and adjunct professor, to artistic jobs like being a sushi chef, model and ethnic hair stylist.
10. "It would make me nervous to be there [at a Tea Party rally] unless I went with a big group."
Dolezal was quoted in a 2010 New York Times article about the rise of the Tea Party:
Rachel Dolezal, curator of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, has also watched the Tea Party movement with trepidation. Though raised in a conservative family, Ms. Dolezal, who is multiracial, said she could not imagine showing her face at a Tea Party event. To her, what stands out are the all-white crowds, the crude depictions of Mr. Obama as an African witch doctor and the signs labeling him a terrorist. “It would make me nervous to be there unless I went with a big group,” she said.
11. "This composition is a double self-portrait of the artist's spirit."
"Sidhe" is a Gaelic term meaning, "spirit." This composition is a double self-portrait of the artist's spirit, both disciplined and controlled in subtlety, as seen in the foreground figure, and unbounded & free, as seen in the figure departing the composition at right. Set in an undefined interior scape, the background could also be imagined as a landscape horizon. Intricate detail, precise craftsmanship.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Nicolás Medina Mora at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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