Verda Byrd may be in her 70s, but she has strong opinions about prominent figures in the media, especially disgraced former NAACP President Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Washington.
“She lied about her race," Byrd told KENS5. "I didn't lie about my race because I didn't know.”
Byrd is white, but after her father deserted her biological family and her mother was involved in a trolley accident, she was adopted by a black family in Newton, Kansas. Ray and Edwinna Wagner changed their new daughter’s name from Jeanette Beagle to Verda Wagner and raised her as a light-skinned black girl.
"My adoptive mother, Edwinna Wagner, never told me that she had adopted a white baby," she said. "She took it to her grave that she had a white daughter.”
Byrd was the only child in her adopted family and, although she was told she was adopted, she didn’t know what it meant, My San Antonio reported.
“I was raised without any questions,” Byrd said. “It didn't matter because I had a loving home.”
In 2013, Byrd learned she had several siblings and that she was not, in fact, black.
"It's was unbelievable,” said Byrd, who uses her married surname.
Despite the shock, Byrd still identifies as African-American and she doesn’t discuss race with her newfound siblings.
"Jeanette Beagle does not fit Verda Byrd," she said. "Jeanette Beagle does not have an education. Jeanette Beagle has no social security money because she does not work. She never went to kindergarten.”
Byrd remains critical of Dolezal. Though they both made decisions about their racial identity, Byrd said it was for personal reasons.