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Furor over NAACP head sparks widespread debate on racial identity

NAACP logo and American flag
NAACP logo and American flag
Justin Valas/flickr

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The embattled leader of the Spokane chapter of NAACP resigned from her post on Monday, after news of how she portrayed her racial background and identity sparked heated controversy.

In a post on the Facebook page for NAACP-Spokane, Rachel Dolezal wrote that she will step aside and allow the chapters vice president, Naima Quarles-Burnley, to take over.

She also added:

"Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It's about justice. This is not me quitting; this is a continuum."

She did not offer an apology or explanation for her actions. Last week, her parents, who say they are both white, provided a birth certificate to media and questioned her claims to being African American.

"I think people are still going to want more from her," said Yesha Callahan, staff writer and editor with "They're going to want to know why she went through all this effort when she could have just been a white woman doing this work."

What Rachel Dolezal doesn’t understand: being black is about more than just how you look (Washington Post)

Osamudia James, a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law, wrote about her personal reaction in the Washington Post and said it sparks debate on some key issues in the country today.

"How does this shape our conversation about race, identity, belonging in the United States?" James said. "The black experience is a spectrum and there are a lot of different ways to understand yourself as being black, but it's not one particular hair, it's not one particular style of dress, it's not one particular way of speaking."