Albert Wilkerson defends Rachel Dolezal, telling PEOPLE, "There are bigger issues in the country we can be discussing."

By Christine Pelisek
June 17, 2015 09:45 PM

Albert Wilkerson, the black man who former NAACP Spokane chapter president Rachel Dolezal referred to as her father, is defending her.

“I am not going to throw her under the bus,” Wilkerson told PEOPLE on Wednesday. “There are bigger issues in the country we can be discussing. This is not the movie Imitation of Life, where [an actress] portrays herself as a black female. This is not a movie. I am not going to throw her under the bus.”

Wilkerson says he met Dolezal, who is accused of lying about her ethnicity, as a volunteer at the Human Rights Education Institute in Idaho where she served as education director from 2008 to 2010.

“We have worked together on educational and community things,” he said. “Primarily in education.”

Asked about his relationship with Dolezal, Wilkerson responded, “It has been a good acquaintance.”

Wilkerson’s comments come just days after a media firestorm has surrounded Dolezal who has been accused of pretending to be a black woman for years, while her parents, Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal, say she is white.

In an interview with NBC Nightly News Tuesday, Dolezal, who resigned from her position as head of the local NAACP on Monday, said there was no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne, who are white, are her parents.

“Up to this point, I know who raised me,” Dolezal said. “I haven’t had a DNA test. There’s been no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my biological parents.”

“I’m not necessarily saying that I can prove they’re not but I don’t know that I can actually prove they are. I mean, the birth certificate was issued a month and a half after I’m born. Certainly there were no medical witnesses to my birth. It was in the woods.”

The race scandal surrounding Dolezal, who has not spoken to her parents in years, began after Larry and Ruthanne revealed their daughter’s true ethnicity to a local newspaper last week, sharing family photos and Dolezal’s birth certificate.

Paternal uncle Dan Dolezal told the New York Daily News that Dolezal’s characterization of Wilkerson as her father upset her parents.

“I think Albert was kind of baffled as well,” he told the newspaper. “When she started calling him Dad two or three years ago, it caused my brother quite a bit of pain.”