6 Spokane Residents On Rachel Dolezal & The "Integrity" They Say Matters Now More Than Ever
Outside of a structure aptly named the Community Building nearby the local NAACP headquarters, Spokane community members rallied for integrity Monday night. Using the slogan #IntegrityMatters, the local rally focused not on the controversy swirling around Rachel Dolezal's race, but instead on living positively with integrity, honesty, and respect, qualities the crowd felt Dolezal did not show in her actions due to the alleged misrepresentation of her heritage. The demonstration focused on the community and how it has been affected and provided some answers to the question that's been a bit overlooked since the story began: What does the Spokane community think about Rachel Dolezal?
The rally took place an hour before the Spokane NAACP monthly membership meeting was to take place. Dolezal had said she would make a statement during the meeting, but instead announced her resignation earlier in the day via a Facebook post. “This is not me quitting; this is a continuum,” she wrote. Although she resigned and said that her parents claims were not "the full story," Dolezal did not directly address her race or the allegations. On Tuesday morning, however, she told Today's Matt Lauer, "I identify as black."
Speaking to me, Spokane residents say they're angry, disappointed, and hurt. They feel like they've been lied to on a personal level, they say, and a few also mentioned that the national conversation has portrayed the community in a way that's untrue. Demonstrators chanted not only about how integrity matters, but also about loving their town. To serve the community, "All you need is a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love," resident Kitara McClure says.
Spokane residents of all races, ages, and genders attended the demonstration to call for integrity. Here's a look at what some of them had to say.
"Let’s pray that Rachel is blessed, that her family is blessed, that this community is blessed, that we will rise above this and no longer settle for leaders that will not tell the truth," says Kitara McClure, a member of the NAACP and of the Human Rights Commission in Spokane.
McClure, who led the event, gave an impassioned, tearful speech about what's right and wrong and how important it is to just tell the truth. She says her mother taught her to stand up for what she believes in, and "I still believe that integrity matters. Young people begin to say, 'Why? What is integrity; what does that matter? It doesn’t matter.' But I know you’re here with me to say, 'Yes it does.' Doing the right thing never goes out of style."
McClure says, "This day we will choose to make the conscious decision to no longer focus on a negative, to no longer give power to things that do not reflect who this community is. We will stand for integrity, we will hold our leaders accountable."
Alexis Nicholson & Meggie Mendoza
It wasn't so much about whether Dolezal is black or white, but about the fact that she didn't tell the truth. Meggie Mendoza, a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University who attended the rally with her friend Alexis Nicholson, tells Bustle that she knew Dolezal on a personal level and that it just hurt to be lied to. "When you think somebody’s your friend, and you think that you can trust people and what they say, and nothing was true, it’s really hurtful. I hope that Spokane uses this in a positive way and does something positive with this. We’re not here to hurt her in any way, she just needs to be accountable for the actions that she’s taken," Mendoza tells Bustle.
Nicholson, a senior studying public relations at Gonzaga University, says with the presence of the NAACP and the work they do, it's saddening to see someone "who assumably doesn't value integrity" in a leadership position. She stressed that the person leading the Spokane NAACP should be a role model and a good example for the community. Nicholson tells Bustle, "I think as a college student myself, they’re setting the stage for us and setting the standard for us, and so I think it's just about figuring out how we can make this positive and get somebody in leadership who is going to be that model for Spokane."
Mendoza added that Naima Quarles-Burnley, who will take over as the NAACP chapter president, is an amazing woman who will do a wonderful job.
Blaine Stum, the chair of the Human Rights Commission in Spokane, says Dolezal lied to the majority of people who showed up to the rally. He says he has "zero tolerance for racism, and that means white people in blackface." Stum says he wants the community to talk to one another about the hurt the situation caused and "forge a path toward a unified community" based on trust and mutual respect and that people "have to be honest with yourself and everyone else if you want to roll with us."
Dennis Mitchell, who emceed the rally, says both diversity and integrity matter. "You walk that way, you talk that way, you live that way each and every day of your life," he says.
Maria Bertelsen led the group in a prayer to close out the demonstration. She says that she is praying for racial reconciliation, not just for Spokane, but for the entire United States.
Images: Celia Darrough (7)