SPOKANE, Wash.—Rachel Dolezal resigned as president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter Monday amid a furor over racial identity that erupted when her parents came forward to say she has been posing as black for years when she is actually white.
The announcement, posted on the civil rights organization’s Facebook page, said the attention surrounding Dolezal has distracted from the group’s goals.
“In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP,” said Dolezal, a longtime figure in Spokane’s civil rights community who was elected to the NAACP post six months ago. “Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights.”
City officials, meanwhile, are investigating whether she lied about her ethnicity when she landed an appointment to Spokane’s police oversight board. On her application, she said her ethnic origins included white, black and American Indian.
Dolezal, a 37-year-old woman with a light brown complexion and dark curly hair, graduated from historically black Howard University, teaches African studies at a local university and was married to a black man. For years, she has publicly complained of being the victim of racial hatred in the heavily white region.
The uproar over racial authenticity and professional honesty began last week after Dolezal’s parents told the news media that their daughter is white with a trace of Native American heritage. They produced photos of her as girl with a pale complexion and straight blond hair.
Her mother, Ruthanne Dolezal of Troy, Montana, told reporters she has had no contact with her daughter in several years. She said Rachel began to “disguise herself” after her parents adopted four black children more than a decade ago.
Rachel Dolezal initially dismissed the controversy, saying it arose from a legal dispute that has divided the family.
And late last week, the national NAACP stood by her, saying “one’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.” But Dolezal came under increasing pressure from local chapter members to resign.
Kitara Johnson, an NAACP member in Spokane who has been calling on Dolezal to step down, welcomed the resignation as “the best thing that can happen right now.”
Johnson said that the most important thing is to focus on the work of the NAACP, and that she hopes Dolezal remains a member of the organization.
“She knows her stuff,” Johnson said.
Cornell William Brooks, national president of the NAACP, declined to comment on the resignation.
Dolezal has not returned numerous calls to her home and offices by The Associated Press.
On Friday, police said they were suspending investigations into racial harassment complaints filed before the uproar by Dolezal, including one from earlier this year in which she said she received hate mail at her NAACP office.
Police released files showing that one package did not bear a date stamp or barcode, meaning it was probably not handled through the post office.
In resigning, Dolezal boasted that under her leadership the NAACP chapter acquired an office, increased membership, improved finances, and made other improvements. She said the conversation had “unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity.”
Dolezal’s parents appeared on the “Today” show Monday and said they hoped to reconcile with their daughter.
“We hope that Rachel will get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues. Of course, we love her,” her mother said.