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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Editorial: Explanation by Dolezal worth a listen

Rachel Dolezal has submitted only the first of two letters of resignation she owes the Spokane community.

Monday, she stepped down as president of the Spokane NAACP chapter. She should submit a similar letter to the City of Spokane, surrendering the chairmanship of the police ombudsman commission.

Eastern Washington University, where Dolezal taught African-American Arts and Culture and advised the Black Student Union, has removed her faculty profile from its website, but the erasure corresponds with the end of her employment for the term.

But Dolezal should not become an unperson in the Inland Northwest.

She might resume her advocacy for human and civil rights – a mission that by all appearances is sincere – if she will explain herself and a personal journey that apparently took her from a childhood with Caucasian parents to an adulthood as a woman who represents herself as black.

As such, Dolezal became education director of Human Rights Education Institute, an arm of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Rights, the organization that led the fight against white supremacists in the 1990s. From there, she was elected to head the NAACP chapter here last year.

Along the way, she made questionable claims of harassment, including the placement of a rope noose on her porch; almost as racially charged an act as one can take short of assault.

True or false, they heighten a narrative that has become front page and opinion fodder for the national press.

Racial identity, and who defines it, has been at the core of American life and debate from its birth. Dolezal is not the first to zigzag across the battlefield.

Sadly, those who embraced her in one identity have been hurt as she assumed another. Many in Spokane’s black community, and on Eastern’s campus, stood by Dolezal admirably as doubts arose about who she is and what she is, because of the teaching and the work she has done.

But the messenger has betrayed the message.

Those who believe in the cause of human rights, believe in its beauty, its struggle, its truth, will not hear its call from a voice of falsehood.

Dolezal can restore her voice by speaking to the community about her life in all its convolutions and asking for its understanding of the motivations that propelled her along her way. Dolezal is certainly articulate enough to present her story – if she will.

To some, Dolezal has become a joke, and those who relied on her representations, all-too-gullible. Neither is true.

What brought Dolezal to change identities, we do not know. She was accepted for who she said she was and appeared to be.

How Dolezal chooses to peel back her past now that so much has been confused will tell much about where she hopes to go. She has stumbled into an opportunity to speak about race from a very unique place.

She has abused her listeners in the Inland Northwest. We can handle the truth.

Let’s hear it.