OMAHA, Neb. ― Omaha residents have raised concerns about a visit from Rachel Dolezal, who resigned as president of an NAACP chapter in Washington last year after it was revealed that she is White.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that University of Nebraska Medical Center professor Dr. Renaisa S. Anthony’s decision to bring her to Omaha to talk about race on Wednesday sparked a backlash on social media.
Anthony said she organized an invitation-only dinner with Dolezal for 25 people, including faculty, students and people from the community, as part of the university’s series of events called “Race-Inclusion-Diversity & Equity.”
Anthony welcomed the controversy, saying that she sought a “polarizing national figure” to attract people’s attention and start a conversation.
“Isn’t it great?” Anthony said Wednesday. “It’s time that we talk about race, inclusion, diversity and equity, starting in my own backyard.”
Anthony said that minorities are under-represented among the medical center’s students and faculty, and that the city and state have disparities in health among various races.
Peggy Jones, an associate professor in the Black Studies Department and associate director of women’s and gender studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said that the event started a conversation, but not the one that Anthony said she wanted.
“No one’s saying anything about medical disparities, only ‘why the hell was this woman brought in?’” Jones said. “She (Anthony) seems to be mistaking justified outrage for conversation.”
Last summer, Dolezal sparked outrage nationally when her parents revealed that the former president of NAACP’s Spokane, Washington, chapter was White. She had once sued historically Black Howard University, alleging the college discriminated against her because she is White.
During the controversy, Dolezal continued to assert that she identified as Black.
Anthony said she used professional development funds from her office for the event and that she didn’t invite Dolezal for a public event because that would’ve been offensive to the community.
Dolezal spoke about her experiences for about 10 minutes at the dinner.