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Rachel Dolezal Resigns From Spokane NAACP Post


For the last few days it seems the Internet has been nearly swallowed whole by the controversy over whether Rachel Dolezal is black or white. She's the Spokane, Wash., civil rights activist whose parents publicly contradicted her racial identity. Both are white and say she is too. Now, if you've been waiting for answers from Dolezal herself, they did not come in a statement she released today offering her resignation as head of the local NAACP. Reporter Jessica Robinson of the Northwest News Network is in Spokane. Hi there, Jessica.

JESSICA ROBINSON, BYLINE: Hi, thanks for having me.

CORNISH: So for years Rachel Dolezal has claimed to be part African-American. How did she respond to all the controversy in her statement on Facebook?

ROBINSON: Well, she didn't respond to the questions that everyone is asking as part of the controversy. She says that there has been a lot said about her out there, but it's absent the full story, and she doesn't elaborate on what that full story is.

CORNISH: So tell us more about what she had to say about stepping down from the NAACP. Did she apologize or claim any kind of wrongdoing?

ROBINSON: She didn't. She said that the scrutiny about what she calls her personal identity has eclipsed the mission of the organization. And she felt it would be better if she separated herself from the NAACP. She talks extensively about the work that she's done in the organization and says that she helped turn it into one of the healthiest NAACP branches in the country. But as for the larger questions, she leaves everyone still asking.

CORNISH: So what's been the reaction so far, either from the NAACP membership or the community more broadly?

ROBINSON: Well, last week when this story broke, the initial reaction I was hearing from NAACP members was kind of a wait-and-see attitude. They were hoping to hear what Dolezal had to say about the situation, and they wanted to hear her side. But as the attention grew more intense and there was more international coverage of it, some people in the organization were really upset with how it was portraying the organization with her lack of comment. One member started an online petition calling for her to resign. It was expected that she would provide an explanation at tonight's meeting. It was a regularly scheduled meeting and she was expected to speak, but then over the weekend she canceled that appearance. And it doesn't appear that her resignation is really helping with the concerns that people still have about the role that she played in the organization and in the community as a whole.

CORNISH: Speaking of that role, her race played heavily in her resume in other aspects of her life, right? I mean, who were the other people looking for explanations and have they said anything about how they're handling this issue?

ROBINSON: Well, one of those entities is the city of Spokane itself. Dolezal heads the citizen oversight committee for the Spokane police department. And there are couple of issues there now. The first one has to do with whether she broke rules by lying about her ancestry on an application form. And then the second issue is whether she was truthful in reporting threatening messages she says that she received. She reported these to the police, and a recent report revealed that there were some details that didn't quite add up. One racially-charged letter that she says that she received in a post office box, it turns out didn't have a postmark. And people in the post office said that was pretty much impossible. She's also a professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. I should say a part-time instructor. And that's something that the university is emphasizing - the part-time part. They say she's hired on a quarter by quarter basis, so the university could choose not to bring her back next fall.

CORNISH: That's reporter Jessica Robinson of the Northwest News Network in Spokane. Thanks so much for talking with us.

ROBINSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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