The Strange Case of Rachel Dolezal

What to make of Rachel Dolezal, the “trans-racial” woman in Washington state who not only posed as a black person, but made a career out of it? The facts relating to Ms. Dolezal are summed up well by Ben Shapiro:

Rachel Dolezal is president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP. For years, she has passed herself off as black. Now her parents have told the press that she is their “birth daughter and we’re both of European descent…we’re puzzled and it’s very sad.” Her ethnic heritage: German, Swedish, Czech.

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

Photos of Ms. Dolezal when she was younger show that she is very white. She seems to have darkened her skin as well as curled her hair. She apparently is a habitual fabulist:

In an interview with The Easterner, the newspaper for Eastern Washington University, conducted by Shawntelle Moncy (who described Dolezal as a woman with unexpected green eyes, a caramel skin complexion and a warm smile, as well as a woman of “many faces”), she said that she was born in a “Montana teepee.” She said that her family “hunted their food with bows and arrows.” She said she and her parents lived in Colorado and South Africa after moving from Montana. Her parents say all of that is false.

For Ms. Dolezal, being black wasn’t just a delusion. It was, seemingly, a career choice:

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

She Is An Adjunct Professor of African-American Studies at Eastern Washington University. President of the university Mary Cullinan described her in March as “an inspiring role model for EWU students.” She teaches African-American studies, as well as classes including “African and African American Art History, African History, African American Culture, The Black Women’s Struggle, and Intro to Africana Studies at EWU.” Yes, “The Black Women’s Struggle.” Her profile says her “scholarly research focuses on the intersection of race, gender and class [Ed.: Of course!] in the contemporary Diaspora with a specific emphasis on Black women in visual culture.”

She has other interests, too, including “African dance” and “ethnic hair styling.”

Despite being an obvious flake, Ms. Dolezal has been taken seriously in her faux identity as an African-American. She is a second Elizabeth Warren: the first time tragedy, the second time farce. This is from her Eastern Washington University profile:

In addition to her role as an educator, Doležal has fourteen years of experience as an exhibiting artist and has taught K-12 & college art lessons in public, private, and non-traditional school settings. Her works have been featured in The Artist’s Magazine, shown in 13 states and displayed at the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York. Doležal began teaching private & group art lessons in 1994 and synthesizes art history, cultural studies, & the creative process when teaching. She believes that the creative process is part of what makes us human and unifies our self-identity with the world around us. Doležal was an instructor in the Art Departments at North Idaho College from 2005-2013 and has taught at Eastern Washington University since 2007.

This is a sample of Dolezal’s art, titled “Afrika.” There is much more here; it actually isn’t as bad as one might expect:


Like so many serial liars these days, Ms. Dolezal has fabricated stories of abuse and hate crimes:

She Says She Was Repeatedly Abused By Her Parents and Ex-Husband. They then moved to South Africa, where her mother and stepfather beat her and her siblings, “punish[ing] us by skin complexion.” The reporter continues:

According to Doležal, the object her mother and stepfather used to punish them was called a baboon whip, used to ward baboons away in South Africa. These whips would leave scars behind, “they were pretty similar to what was used as whips during slavery.”

Her parents say she’s a liar; they never even lived in South Africa.

Naturally, she also claims to be a rape victim. Why not?

Dolezal tried to pass off her adopted brother, who actually is black, as her son:

She Says She Her Black Brother Is Her Black Son. As BuzzFeed reports, according to her dad, Larry, her “oldest son Izaiah,” who she cites in the press, is actually her adoptive brother. “He used to be my brother,” she told the Couer D’Alene Press. “But I have full custody of him now.” She told that same outlet that they could “DNA test me if they want to.”

Dolezal has repeatedly complained of hate crimes presumably directed at her because of her African-American heritage, which undoubtedly were fabricated like the rest of her story:

She Has Repeatedly Claimed To Be The Victim of Anti-Black Hate Crimes. She says Idaho white supremacist groups burglarized all of her homes when she lived in the state, and explained that they felt “threatened by female power.” She says they threatened to kidnap her son, Franklin, and “hung nooses in her home.” No arrests were ever made.

This week, Spokane police released information about Dolezal’s most recent complaint: that she received hate mail. But according to the Spokesman-Review, it’s highly possible she sent it herself:

Police records say the initial package Dolezal reported receiving did not bear a date stamp or bar code, which Dolezal told police when she reported it. Investigators interviewed postal workers, who said it was either very unlikely or impossible that the package could have been processed through the post office, implying that the only alternative was that it had been put there by someone with a key… Asked about the possibility that she had put the package there herself, she said, “That’s such bullshit. What mother would terrorize her own children?”

Kurt Neumaier of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, where Dolezal worked for three years, now says he doubts all of her claims as to hate crimes.

Ms. Dolezal’s bogus status as a black woman landed her a municipal position, too:

She serves as chairwoman of the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission; her application to that position included the self-identifiers black, white, and American Indian. Spokane City spokesman Brian Coddington admitted, “The community wanted diversity and limited background checks.” He also admitted that race “was certainly taken into account,” according to

Dolezal’s profile on the Eastern Washington University web site presents her as a heroine of the civil rights movement. Click to enlarge:

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 8.44.58 PM

I love this touch:

Her efforts were met with opposition by North Idaho white supremacy groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, the Neo Nazis and the Aryan Nations, and at least eight documented hate crimes targeted Doležal and her children during her residency in North Idaho.

The EWU profile continues with what should have been a tipoff that the woman is stark, raving mad:

Doležal also entertains an interest in the medical field and has begun pre-medical studies, working toward an MD and a residency in trauma surgery. She hopes to combine her medical knowledge with her passion for human rights and engage in life-saving surgery efforts around the world.

This is not the Onion, folks, this is the web site of a public university with over 12,000 students. Somehow, I don’t think you need to hold your breath waiting for Ms. Dolezal to graduate from medical school and “engage in life-saving surgery efforts around the world.”

What can we make of the story of Rachel Dolezal? It is bizarre, but also, in my view, emblematic of our times. She may be a lunatic, but–in the words of John Lennon–she’s not the only one. This woman received constant support and encouragement–and in some cases, money–from the NAACP, Howard University, Eastern Washington University, the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, the City of Spokane, and, apparently, the United Nations. She has made what seems to be a fairly decent career out of a transparent tissue of lies, which went unquestioned until her parents finally blew the whistle.

Ms. Dolezal pushed all the right buttons: she was black, her parents and husband abused her, she was once raped by someone who was too rich to prosecute, the KKK(!) and the Aryan Nation are out to get her, she was born in a teepee to a family that hunted with bows and arrows (hence the Native American element in her ancestry), and as a result of this tortured history, she is now an expert in African history, the “black woman’s struggle,” African art, the African Diaspora, “black women in visual culture,” “fairness and equity in law enforcement,” ethnic hair styling, and–before long!–surgery.

The story of Rachel Dolezal reads like a parody of modern liberalism, but it isn’t a joke–these people really are that crazy. It will be interesting to see how liberals react to the Dolezal story. Will they disown her, or will they say, hey, if she “identifies” as a black person, that’s all that counts! The NAACP has released a statement supporting her, and pointing out that “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.” Fair enough. But one’s racial identity is a “qualifying criteri[on]” for getting into colleges and graduate schools and for getting jobs, promotions and university and government positions. So liberals will not be quick to jump on the “you are what you claim to be” bandwagon with regard to race, as they were with Bruce Caitlyn Jenner. Too much money and power are at stake.

It is curious how much we can learn about contemporary America from the weird story of Rachel Dolezal.