There is another controversy over the veracity of representations of minority status in Washington. We previously discussed the controversy raised by the allegedly false claims of Senator Elizabeth Warren that she is a Native American. In this case, however, the accused is the head of a NAACP chapter and she is being accused of lying by her own mother. Worse yet, some have suggested that Rachel Dolezal, who is the head of the NAACP’s chapter in Spokane, planted hate mail at her office.
Dolezal has described her ethnicity as white, black, and American Indian in past papers and applications. However, her mother, Ruthanne, said that she is Czech, Swedish, and German, along with some “faint traces” of Native American heritage.
That has led to angry responses from different groups that she represented herself as a minority when she was selected for different positions. Dolezal has called the controversy a “multi-layered issue” and insisted “That question is not as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of complexities … and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.” She then added “We’re all from the African continent.” Many have interpreted that statement as a claim that, since mankind itself has been traced to Africa, everyone is an African to some degree. The definition is not sufficient for various groups. It raises, as did the Warren controversy, the basis for claiming minority status — a status that can give an edge in applications or hirings.
In addition, critics have raised suspicious racially motivated incidents reported by Dolezal while she was in Coeur d’Alene, including the discovery of a swastika on the Human Rights Education Institute’s door. Likewise, Spokane police records for February and March of this year showed that a hate mail package Dolezal reported receiving at the NAACP’s post office box did not bear a date stamp or barcode. Dolezal denies responsibility for those incidents.
The question is how to handle such cases in not only definition how to prove or what constitutes minority status or how to respond to allegedly false claims. If one receives payment for holding a position secured by assurance of minority status, can it be an actionable from of fraud or misrepresentation for the purposes of criminal or civil liability?