Rachel Dolezal resigns amid race identity scandal

Rachel Dolezal, center. (AAP) Source: The Spokesman-Review

Rachel Dolezal, a civil rights advocate who became embroiled in national controversy over her racial identity, announced her resignation on Monday as leader of a local branch of the NAACP in Washington state.

Dolezal, 37, who served as president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the country's oldest and largest civil rights organization, said the controversy over her race had shifted dialogue away from key social and political issues.

"It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the presidency and pass the baton to my vice president, Naima Quarles-Burnley," Dolezal said in a statement on the NAACP Spokane chapter's Facebook page.

Dolezal came under intense scrutiny last week after questions emerged about her racial background and a white couple who identified themselves as her biological parents came forward to say she had misrepresented her ethnic background.

"It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the presidency and pass the baton to my vice president, Naima Quarles-Burnley."

Dolezal, who also holds a post in Spokane's city government, identified herself as white, African-American and Native American on her application, City Council President Ben Stuckart said.

He said the city had opened an investigation of the veracity of her application. Stuckart said Dolezal had filed police complaints of racial discrimination, most recently that she received hate mail.

In announcing her resignation from the NAACP, Dolezal said she had remained quiet through the controversy out of respect for the work of the civil rights group. She did not directly address whether she had misrepresented her race.

"The dialogue has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity," she said. "I have waited in deference while others expressed their feelings, beliefs, confusions and even conclusions - absent the full story."

The NAACP said on Monday that Dolezal had resigned from the Spokane chapter to ensure the group's work could focus on civil and human rights.

"The NAACP is not concerned with the racial identity of our leadership but the institutional integrity of our advocacy," President Cornell William Brooks said.

"This resignation today comes amidst the real work of the NAACP and the real challenges to our democracy," he said, citing income inequality and allegations of police bias in minority communities.

A Montana couple who identified themselves as her parents said the family was of European and Native American descent. They told CNN and Spokane media they had lost touch with their daughter but that she had showed an interest in diversity and black culture, especially after the couple adopted black children.

Dolezal holds a master's degree from Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C., and held an adjunct teaching role until last week in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University.

University spokesman David Meany said Dolezal's contract with the school expired last week, and declined to comment on whether it would be renewed.

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