A white professor who teaches African, Caribbean and diaspora history pretended to be a Black woman for years, reigniting a debate about the appropriation of race and identity in the United States.
Jessica Krug, who teaches at George Washington University in Washington, DC admitted in a blog post on Medium that for the better part of her adult life, “every move I’ve made, every relationship I’ve formed, has been rooted in the napalm toxic soil of lies“.
George Washington University on Thursday said Krug’s revelations were now being investigated.
Krug wrote: “To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.
“I have built my life on a violent anti-Black lie, and I have lied in every breath I have taken.”
Krug cited her childhood trauma as a “likely explanation” for her behaviour.
“But mental health issues can never, will never, neither explain nor justify, neither condone nor excuse, that, in spite of knowing and regularly critiquing any and every non-Black person who appropriates from Black people, my false identity was crafted entirely from the fabric of Black lives,” Krug said.
“I am not a culture vulture. I am a culture leech … I am a coward.”
Krug’s admission led to discussion on social media.
Yarimar Bonilla, a former colleague of Krug’s, said there “was always something off with her”.
I mean, I don’t feel hurt or betrayed in this moment because the truth is I always knew something was off with her, but I thought the pathologies she displayed were the product of systemic violence, and not of her twisted racial fantasies…
— Yarimar Bonilla 👩🏾💻 (@yarimarbonilla) September 3, 2020
“She always dressed/acted inappropriately – she’d show up to a 10am scholars’ seminar dressed for a salsa club etc – but was so over the top strident and ‘woker-than-though’ that I felt like I was trafficking in respectability politics when I cringed at her minstrel show,” Bonilla posted on Twitter.
Leslie Mac, an activist and digital strategist, said Krug’s actions showed that “white women continually harm our communities and are rewarded for their efforts”.
When Jessica Krug gets her book deal and is on the talk show circuit, remember this tweet. White women continually harm our communities and are rewarded for their efforts.
— Leslie Mac (@LeslieMac) September 3, 2020
Krug’s history of deception about her identity is similar to the case of Rachel Dolezal – a white woman from Spokane, Washington, who publicly identified herself as Black.
In 2015, when Dolezal was outed, she was president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP, a civil rights organisation, and a a part-time African studies teacher at a local university. She lost both positions after her fabrications were made public.
Dolezal, who said she started identifying as Black around the age of five, was a graduate from Howard University, an historically Black institute, which she sued in 2002 for discrimination against white people and for favouring African American students.