NAACP chapter president questioned about her racial identity

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, file photo, Rachel Dolezal, center, Spokane's newly-elected NAACP president, smiles as she meets with Joseph M. King, of King's Consulting, left, and Scott Finnie, director and senior professor of Eastern Washington University's Africana Education Program, before the start of a Black Lives Matter Teach-In on Public Safety and Criminal Justice, at EWU, in Cheney, Wash. Dolezal's family members say she has falsely portrayed herself as black for years. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review via AP, File)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, is facing questions about whether she lied about her racial identity, with her family saying she is white but has portrayed herself as black.

Rachel Dolezal would not answer questions about her background in an interview with The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

“That question is not as easy as it seems,” she said Thursday. “There’s a lot of complexities . and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.”

Dolezal is president of the local branch of the civil-rights organization, an adjunct professor in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University and chairwoman of Spokane’s police overnight board.

Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart say an inquiry is underway into whether she violated city polices when she listed herself as white, black and American Indian on her application for the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission.

“If this is true, I’ll be very disappointed,” Stuckart said Thursday, adding that the council will meet soon to discuss the issue.

Dolezal’s mother, Ruthanne, said the family is Czech, Swedish and German, with some Native American roots.

Ruthanne Dolezal said that she and her daughter have not been in touch for years but that Rachel Dolezal began to portray herself as African-American eight or nine years ago after the family adopted four black children.

“It’s very sad that Rachel has not just been herself,” the mother told the newspaper by phone from her home in Montana. “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”

Rachel Dolezal says the controversy is emerging because of legal issues between family members. Her mother says the family has been aware of the racial claims but has only commented about them when contacted.

The NAACP’s national communications office did not immediately respond to a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Eastern Washington University would not discuss a personal issue, spokesman Dave Meany told the newspaper.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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