On Monday, local NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal announced she would be stepping down as president of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the organization. In a lengthy post on the chapter's Facebook page, Dolezal wrote that she feared the controversy had become a distraction to the organization's central mission:
"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. 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."
In her resignation, Dolezal thanked the NAACP for its support and cited her own record of achievement during her tenure at the helm of the organization's chapter. She also made it clear that she would never abandon the cause of equal rights.
"Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It's about justice," she wrote in the statement.
Shortly after the post went live, many took to the comments section in what appeared to be an overwhelmingly negative response to Dolezal's actions and statement.
On Friday, local news in Spokane confronted Dolezal about allegations made by her parents, saying she was white and had misrepresented her racial identity. A flustered Dolezal said she didn't understand the question before ending the interview and walking off camera.
Throughout Friday and the weekend, media and commentators expressed disbelief and condemnation over the deception, and some argued Dolezal had profited off an assumed identity in exactly the same way she had condemned in the past. On Sunday, comedian Dave Chappelle called her case simply "ridiculous" and noted there was utterly no reason for her to assume a black identity in order to help black people.
With her resignation, Dolezal will likely fade from the spotlight, ending one of the strangest chapters in recent memory covering race and identity. The questions her case raised, however, about what it means to be black and who is qualified to be black are likely to go on.
Read the full statement below:
Dear Executive Committee and NAACP Members,
It is a true honor to serve in the racial and social justice movement here in Spokane and across the nation. Many issues face us now that drive at the theme of urgency. Police brutality, biased curriculum in schools, economic disenfranchisement, health inequities and a lack of pro-justice political representation are among the concerns at the forefront of the current administration of the Spokane NAACP. And yet, the dialogue has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity.
I have waited in deference while others expressed their feelings, beliefs, confusions and even conclusions — absent the full story. 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. Additionally, I have always deferred to the state and national NAACP leadership and offer my sincere gratitude for their unwavering support of my leadership through this unexpected firestorm.
While challenging the construct of race is at the core of evolving human consciousness, we cannot afford to lose sight of the five Game Changers (Criminal Justice & Public Safety, Health & Healthcare, Education, Economic Sustainability, and Voting Rights & Political Representation) that affect millions, often with a life or death outcome. The movement is larger than a moment in time or a single person's story, and I hope that everyone offers their robust support of the Journey for Justice campaign that the NAACP launches today!
I am delighted that so many organizations and individuals have supported and collaborated with the Spokane NAACP under my leadership to grow this branch into one of the healthiest in the nation in five short months. 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.
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. It is my hope that by securing a beautiful office for the organization in the heart of downtown, bringing the local branch into financial compliance, catalyzing committees to do strategic work in the five Game Changer issues, launching community forums, putting the membership on a fast climb and helping many individuals find the legal, financial and practical support needed to fight race-based discrimination, I have positioned the Spokane NAACP to buttress this transition.
Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It's about justice. This is not me quitting; this is a continuum. It's about moving the cause of human rights and the black liberation movement along the continuum from resistance to chattel slavery to abolition to defiance of Jim Crow to the building of Black Wall Street to the civil rights and black power movement to the #?BlackLivesMatter movement and into a future of self-determination and empowerment.
With much love and a commitment to always fight for what is right and good in this world,