Rachel Dolezal's parents say she needs counseling: She is trying to reject her own reality
Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal speak to ABC News (Screenshot)

The white parents of a US civil rights activist who has raised a stir by portraying herself as black needs counseling to address her identity issues, her mother said Monday.

The comments by Rachel Dolezal's estranged parents came as it emerged she had cancelled a public appearance Monday at which she was to have tried to clear up all the confusion.

With frizzy -- sometimes braided -- hair and tawny skin, Dolezal, 37, built a career as an activist in the black community of Spokane, Washington.

She is the local chapter president of the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People, America's oldest and largest advocacy group for African-Americans.

But since the controversy went national last week her parents have provided a birth certificate for their daughter and released childhood photos in which she is blonde and fair-skinned.

Speaking on Monday on ABC News, parents Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal said they were baffled by what their daughter has done.

They said they have known for years but kept quiet until reporters came to them recently and asked about their daughter.

"Rachel is trying to reject her own reality, her own identity, and by doing that she does not alter reality," Ruthanne Dolezal said.

She said that if she had the chance to speak to her daughter now she would urge her to get help.

"I would say, 'Rachel we love you. We hope you?ll get the help you need to deal with your own personal issues so that you can know and believe and speak the truth,'" Dolezal said.

Dolezal has so far dodged questions seeking clarification about her race and ethnicity.

Last week Spokane newspaper the Spokesman Review reported she had told them: "I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation."

"That question is not as easy as it seems," she said after being contacted at Eastern Washington University, where she is a part-time professor in the Africana Studies Program.

"There's a lot of complexities ? and I don't know that everyone would understand that."

And she broke off an interview with a local TV reporter when he asked her point blank: "Are you African American?"

Her parents, who adopted four black children, said their daughter had always been interested in issues of ethnicity and diversity.

But around 2007, they learned from a newspaper article that she was claiming to be African-American.

At that point she had already severed contact with her parents.

Watch the interview below:

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