US & Canada

Rachel Dolezal: Fallout continues unabated

Rachel Dolezal Image copyright AP

The furore shows no sign of abating over the case of a US civil rights worker accused of falsely portraying herself as black for years.

Rachel Dolezal's parents say she has been "pretending to be black" for years. The case has sparked huge reaction from the public.

Here is what we've learned about Ms Dolezal since the story broke.

She says she considers herself black

Image copyright EVN

The 37-year-old came out fighting in an interview at her office on Friday.

Asked what she would say to those questioning her ethnicity, she replied: "Really, it was the article that was questioning, and Larry and Ruthanne [her parents], so what I say to them is, you know, I don't give two [expletive] what you guys think, you know, you're so far done and out of my life."

"I can understand that [it sounds like a misrepresentation], but like I said it is more important for me to clarify that with the black community and with my executive board than it is to explain it to a community that I quite frankly don't think really understands the definitions of race and ethnicity."

Asked directly if she identified herself as an African-American, Ms Dolezal said: "I actually don't like the term African-American, I prefer black, and I would say that if I was asked I would say that... I do consider myself to be black."

The NAACP stands by her

Image copyright NAACP

Earlier the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) issued a statement appearing to back the activists position, saying: "One's racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership... In every corner of this country, the NAACP remains committed to securing political, educational and economic justice for all people.''

Police have dropped investigations into claims she received hate mail

Image copyright
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Media captionThe US authorities are investigating whether Ms Dolezal broke any laws

Ms Dolezal claims she has received hate mail at the NAACP's post-office box. However the authorities think it is unlikely a letter that didn't have a date stamp or bar code could have been placed in the box without a key, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The activist also says she has been a victim of hate crimes in the past, and local media have detailed some of these allegations after submitting public records requests.

The case is still provoking outrage

The reaction to the case has been passionate and widespread. There have been some supporting voices, but mostly commentators have vilified Ms Dolezal for "cultural appropriation", placing her in the context of recent US debates over transgender identity and police treatment of black people.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption This post references (clockwise from top left): Rachel Dolezal, Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and US Senator Elizabeth Warren

One tweet gained a particular amount of traction. Twitter user Godfrey Elfwick claims he was born in the wrong skin and identifies as being black.

Genuine or not, the post sparked conversation about the idea of a "transracial" identity, and over the tone and subtext of much of the commentary.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Sowing the seeds of confusion still further, the Elfwick post was subsequently commented on by a fake Rachel Dolezal account.

Image copyright Twitter

The real Rachel Dolezal's past is slowly being unpicked

Ms Dolezal's parents Lawrence and Ruthanne adopted four young children, two of whom are black, when she was a teenager. Her parents said this fuelled her interest in the African-American community.

But two of her adopted brothers say she asked them to keep quiet about her racial origins. Her brother Zach told the Washington Post that his adopted sister asked him not to speak of Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal as their parents. And her brother Ezra Dolezal told Buzzfeed News that she asked him "not to blow her cover".

"His sister did not offer 'any logical explanation' for why she was changing her identity, and Ezra never confronted her about it. But it was the next stage after growing apart from her parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, and leaving their home in Montana," the article says.

One thing is clear, however. Rachel Dolezal's identity continues to baffle America.