BLACK VOICES

Donald Harris, White NAACP Leader, Weighs In On Rachel Dolezal

06/13/2015 03:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 13, 2015
ASSOCIATED PRESS

There are a lot of questions swirling around NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal's ethnicity.

But as far as the NAACP is concerned, her race doesn't matter. There are other chapter leaders throughout the country who aren't African-American.

Donald Harris is one of them. The 77-year-old white, Jewish Brooklynite took the helm of the Maricopa County chapter of the NAACP in Arizona six months ago. He won the seat with a 19-0 vote of the executive board that he served on for 15 years.

Harris weighed in on the controversy stemming from Dolezal's apparently bogus claim that she's African-American, echoing the NAACP's statement that "One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership."

"There are some people who don't think I'm the favorite flavor. ... I tell them to kiss my ass and I go out and do my job," Harris said. "I love the organization. I want to see everybody treated equally. It ain't gonna happen in my lifetime but I want to see it happen. And that's why we have a NAACP. I believe in that. I fervently believe in it. I'm losing over $100,000 a year not going to my law office every day because I come down here." ...

Still, Harris is frank about how some people, within or outside of the NAACP, may perceive his racial identity as it relates to his work in the African-American community.

"I tell people, 'Look, I can't ever say to you I know what it's like to grow up in a Black home. I can't. I just can't because it's not true and it didn't happen and I don't know.' "

Harris told AZ Central he had never met Dolezal and said he didn't have enough knowledge about her apparent deception. "All I know is she's dynamite in the civil-rights movement in her area," he said.

Harris, who is the child of civil rights activists and calls himself "a lifelong member of the NAACP," moved to Arizona from New York with his family when he was 14 years old. During high school and college he met with periodic racism as a Jewish person, he told AZ Central.

Harris hopes his story will quell some of the outrage pointed at Dolezal, who has been on the defensive for several days. She's been under fire after her parents revealed that she is white, despite identifying as African-American for years. On Friday, she told reporters, "Yes, I do consider myself to be black," and said that she "doesn't give two shits" about what people think of her ethnicity.

Meanwhile, the NAACP issued a statement decrying the hate speech flooding social media:

"Hate language sent through mail and social media along with credible threats continue to be a serious issue for our units in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation. We take all threats seriously and encourage the FBI and the Department of Justice to fully investigate each occurrence."

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