News

Rachel Dolezal's parents: We taught our kids 'always be honest'

Update: Watch Matt's Tuesday interview with Rachel Dolezal

The parents of Rachel Dolezal, the former Washington state NAACP leader pretending to be black, say they have been estranged from their daughter for years and believe she made up her background as a way to hurt them.

“I think Rachel has tried to damage her biological family and those kind of claims, as false as they were, seem to serve her purposes in her mind,” her mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, said Monday on TODAY.

A few hours later, Rachel Dolezal resigned from her position as president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington. The move followed national scrutiny over her claims to be partially black, as well as stories she told of being born in a teepee and growing up hunting for food with a bow and arrow.

Both parents insist they never sought out publicity or raised red flags about their daughter. Instead, they said they were approached less than a week ago by a newspaper, the Coeur d'Alene Press, assumedly as “part of some investigative reporting,” Lawrence Dolezal said.

“Somehow, they got wind of us as her parents as a possibility and so they contacted us to see if we were in fact her parents,” he said. “We taught our children, as we raised all six of them, 'Tell the truth. Always be honest.' So we weren’t going to lie, we told the truth. Rachel is our birth daughter.”

Dolezal's Montana birth certificate states she was born to Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, who say they are white.

TODAY
Rachel Dolezal

“We’re puzzled,” Lawrence Dolezal said when asked why his daughter lied about her background. His wife suggested their daughter, who is also a professor in the Africana Education Department at Eastern Washington University, may have wanted to boost her credentials as a black activist and educator.

Rachel Dolezal, 37, had scheduled to address the uproar at a NAACP chapter meeting Monday night but the meeting was postponed over the weekend. On Monday, the chapter posted her resignation statement to its Facebook page.

Dolezal called it an honor to be involved in Spokane’s social justice movement but said she had to step down because “the dialogue has unexpectedly shifted internationally to my personal identity in the context of defining race and ethnicity.” She did not provide any more details about that particular issue.

Dolezal's parents on TODAY denied charges they were abusive parents, calling the claims a “dramatic change” to what they knew of Rachel growing up, who always wanted to introduce them to her friends.

“We still hold out hope that we’ll be able to be reconciled someday,” Lawrence Dolezal said.

His wife added: “And we hope that Rachel will get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues. Of course we love her, and we hope that she will come to a place where she knows and believes and speaks the truth.”

Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.

TOP