Rachel Dolezal, the civil rights activist in Washington state who has come under fire for her disputed racial identity, said Monday she was stepping down as president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter.
In a message posted on the group’s Facebook page, Dolezal wrote that she was stepping aside after the “unexpected firestorm” that erupted over whether she misrepresented her race.
Dolezal became the center of a controversy last week when her parents came forward to say that she was a white woman who was claiming to be black. When a reporter for KXLY in Spokane asked her if she was African American, she said she did not understand the question and walked away.
On Monday, a little more than three days into the national media frenzy, Dolezal cast her decision to step down after five months as head of the Spokane chapter as necessary for the larger organization.
“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,” she wrote.
Still, Dolezal wrote that she was hopeful that she had positioned the Spokane chapter well to transition ahead, saying that she had helped secure the group a downtown office and improved the organization’s financial standing.
“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,” she wrote. She added: “This is not me quitting; this is a continuum.”
The NAACP’s Spokane chapter had a public meeting scheduled Monday, but Dolezal had postponed the meeting. The chapter’s executive committee chairman was critical of this decision.
“I have waited in deference while others expressed their feelings, beliefs, confusions and even conclusions — absent the full story,” Dolezal wrote.
The resignation letter posted on Facebook was Dolezal’s most lengthy response to the ongoing controversy, which has sparked a wide range of jokes as well as a broader discussion of race and identity. She told the Spokesman-Review in Spokane last week that the question of her race “is not as easy as it seems” and called it a “multi-layered” issue.
Dolezal also placed a social justice frame around her decision to wait before releasing a longer statement on the issue.
“I am consistently committed to empowering marginalized voices and believe that many individuals have been heard in the last hours and days that would not otherwise have had a platform to weigh in on this important discussion,” she wrote.
However, Dolezal did not say if or when she planned to offer more of a response to the claims that she was pretending to be black.
“We hope that Rachel will get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues,” Ruthanne Dolezal told the “Today” show Monday. “Of course we love her, and we hope that she will come to a place where she knows and believes and speaks the truth.”
The national NAACP had come to Dolezal’s defense after her name became a hashtag and the reports about her race became widely known, saying that “racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.”
On Monday, after she resigned, the group said that it wanted to focus on its advocacy efforts rather than issues involving individual people.
“Ms. Rachel Dolezal has decided to resign to ensure that the Spokane branch remains focused on fighting for civil and human rights,” NAACP president and chief executive Cornell William Brooks said in a statement. “This resignation today comes amidst the real work of the NAACP and the real challenges to our democracy.”
Dolezal had said that she received hate mail at the NAACP’s post office box in Spokane, and these reports led KXLY, the Spokane TV station, to interview her before asking about her race. However, the Spokane Police Department said Friday evening it was suspending all cases involving Dolezal and did not elaborate on that decision.
This post has been updated. First published at 12 p.m.