“She just told me, ‘Over here, I’m going to be considered black, and I have a black father. Don’t blow my cover,’ ” Ezra Dolezal, who is of African-American descent, told BuzzFeed.
Rachel’s parents first outed her to local media in Spokane, Washington, where she is the head of the local NAACP; and they have said she has no trace of African American ethnicity.
Ezra offered this theory for Rachel’s alleged deception: He claims she said she was mistreated as one of the few white students at Howard University, a historically black college, where she graduated in 2002.
“She used to tell us that teachers treated her differently than other people and a lot of them acted like they didn t want her there,” Ezra told Buzzfeed. “Because of her work in African-American art, they thought she was a black student during her application, but they ended up with a white person.”
Ezra also commented on other parts of Rachel’s supposedly invented biography. He said she’s “never been to Africa in her entire life,” after she claimed she lived in South Africa. He also said that while their parents were strict and used corporal punishment, she wasn’t abused by her parents, which she had previously claimed.
“She was treated really well as a child,” Ezra said, adding, “I think I would know if I was abused growing up, and I definitely wasn’t.”
He also said that he didn’t believe that she had been the subject of race-based attacks, which she had previously claimed to police.
“She made herself into a martyr on purpose for people to feel sorry for her and to help her,” Ezra said.
“It’s like what psychologists call self-hating,” he continued. “She had no reason not to like herself being white. She was an awesome artist and she could have accomplished everything she did, if she had stayed exactly the same.”
Ezra acknowledged that he and Rachel are estranged and she has drifted away from her parents.
“I would talk to her all the time before all this fell apart and she became angry towards everybody,” he said
Rachel gained custody of one of her younger brothers in 2010, according to Buzzfeed, and now claims him as her birth son.
In comments to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, who broke the story, Rachel dismissed the controversy as the result of litigation between the family over allegations of past abuse.
In that same story, Rachel’s mother Ruthanne said she had had no contact with her daughter in several years. “I would caution you on all of this,” Rachel told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “This is ridiculous.”
“Really it s [dad] Larry and Ruthanne that are questioning. What I d say to them is, ‘I don’t give two s—- what you guys think.’ You know?” Rachel told local station KREM. “Like, you re so far done and out of my life.”
Answering a subsequent question in that interview – “Would you identify yourself as an African American?” – she said:
“I actually don’t like the term ‘African American.’ I prefer ‘black.’ And I would say that, if I was asked, I would definitely say yes, I do consider myself to be black.”
One close relative from Dolezal’s Montana-based family tells PEOPLE Rachel hasn’t been much in touch with her blood relations in Montana since she left for college and, despite this family feud spilling over into the national media, the Dolezals can heal as a family – if Rachel and her parents communicate and Rachel resolves unspecified personal issues.
“I”m sure I would welcome her back,” the relative said. “In forgiveness there has to be coming together – you can forgive and that’s your responsibility. Theirs is to work out their own problems.”
Ezra told Buzzfeed he felt that Rachel’s alleged deception was a “slap in the face” to African Americans and their struggles.
“She puts dark makeup on her face and says she black,” he said. “It’s basically blackface,” he said.
• With reporting by SARA HAMMEL