NAACP Leader on Dolezal: ‘We Applaud Her Quality Work,’ Ethnicity Questions a ‘Distraction’


It’s just one of those Friday where particular cable news networks are going to go wall-to-wall with coverage of a relatively bizarre story that doesn’t necessarily require analysis from every possible angle. But here we are, with the strange saga of Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane NAACP leader who was outed as having pretended to be black for the past decade.

CNN had her parents on earlier in the day to express dismay at their daughter’s behavior, and then a few hours later, Gerald Hankerson, president of the regional NAACP Alaska Oregon Washington State Area, phoned in to give a slightly different take.

“For over 106 years, the NAACP has been known as a diverse organization that consists of leaders from all different ethnicities — blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and yes, even whites,” he said. “So it’s unfortunate, considering all the ills of society going on today, that we’re having a discussion about one of our leaders in Spokane.”

Asked whether Dolezal’s good intentions “make her deception any less harmful,” Hankerson replied:

We are a civil rights organization first, which means that we represent all civil rights issues regardless of a person’s ethnicity. And the quality of the work that she has done to elevate the issue of civil rights in that region is what we applaud. The fact that we’re having a conversation about her ethnicity, that’s not important to us.

UPDATE — 1:50 p.m. ET: And now an official statement from the national NAACP:

Baltimore, MD – For 106 years, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has held a long and proud tradition of receiving support from people of all faiths, races, colors and creeds. NAACP Spokane Washington Branch President Rachel Dolezal is enduring a legal issue with her family, and we respect her privacy in this matter. One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership. The NAACP Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference stands behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record. In every corner of this country, the NAACP remains committed to securing political, educational, and economic justice for all people, and we encourage Americans of all stripes to become members and serve as leaders in our organization.

Hate language sent through mail and social media along with credible threats continue to be a serious issue for our units in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation. We take all threats seriously and encourage the FBI and the Department of Justice to fully investigate each occurrence.

Watch the full interview below, via CNN:

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