Centering whiteness while claiming (and un-claiming) Blackness & Why I personally call for reparations
Recently GWU Africana Studies Associate Professor Jessica Krug came out in a personal blog on medium as a fraud. She self-outed as pretending to be Black for decades for personal and professional gain.
I graduated from George Washington University in 2008. Although I do not know Krug or her work, I know the department she is coming from relatively well. And honestly, I can feel the tired reverberating from Black faculty in the Africana Studies department that I know and love. My first question: Why in the hell do white people do this?
In begrudging reading her Usher-like confession, I see Krug highlighting themes of personal mental health instability, trauma, and experienced pain that translated into creating a false narrative starkly diverting from her identity as a white Jewish woman from Kansas City. This is how it reads. The letter seems rushed, unsure, and frazzled — not very well thought out but urgent. According to some sources, she had already been found out and was getting ahead of the situation.
Her discussion of this “life of lies” as overlapping and unaddressed mental health crises stuck out to me. White people commonly, within in context of the media in particularly (for example, the white-male-lone-wolf-mass-shooter as an archetype), use mental health crises as reasoning for racist, anti-black, and targeted acts of violence.
Her personal healing has very little to do with repairing the trauma and instability she has caused. Krug can take responsibility without highlighting or centering her need to heal. Whether she heals or not, this is a lot bigger than her. I call for reparations.
I am troubled that the small community of Black scholars at GWU that I know and trust were manipulated by this woman, a fraud. It is unfair to them that the department — they have worked so hard to create — is marred with this centering of white guilt and lies.
The truth is this confession is not apologetic, but centers Krug and her whiteness.
She could have quit her position, dyed her hair brown/blond (no more self tanning), stop putting on a tired AAVE/Boricua Bronx-ish accent, and moved to Idaho to become a 3rd grade teacher. But she had to “confess”. The world did not know who Jessica Krug was — a few notable scholars did, but I did not know her or her work. She could have just faded herself in anonymity. She has one book published and a few articles, it is not that seriously. But as a grandstand, it seems that she had to center herself and her guilt.
Moving on with her life and not “outing” herself would have also saved the face of GWU’s Africana Studies department. Particularly, the Black faculty and staff that have worked so tirelessly over decades to create a program that predates Krug’s arrival. I was there in 2004/2005 when GWU first established Africana Studies as an undergraduate minor due to the combined pressure from faculty, students, and staff. Years later, I was excited to hear news from a GWU mentor that it became a major — a B.A. in Africana Studies.
Krug’s “personal” outing has literally destabilized a community of Black scholars at GWU and the future of the program. She needs to contend with entering a community that is already marginalized within a predominantly white institution, and additionally causing exponential harm by desecrating a safe academic and cultural space for Black and Brown students.
The Rachel Dolezals and Jessica Krugs of the world are worse than leeches. They are parasites. These are women educated in the historical, social, and psychological aspects of Blackness. They study Black people and culture (creepy — based on what they are doing). And since I work within a similar scholarly field as Dolezal and Krug, I know the type of information they know.
In a world where they may not stand out as white women, they definitely do as Black or Brown. They use their conceptual knowledge of antiblackness within Black communities to center their whiteness as “lightness”. Their “insider” mastery of colorism and how white supremacy translates within a Black context gives them leverage and privilege. They feed on the insecurities of Black and Brown host communities to not only center themselves, but to gain dominance, power, and expertise.
They are not entering Blackness within the realms of richly melanated complexion and tightly coiled 4C hair, which is hierarchically degraded and demeaned. They are also not entering Blackness with other intersectionally disadvantaged positionalities, such as being disabled or queer. These women are entering Blackness as cis-heteronormative, highly educated, and able-bodied with extreme hierarchical proximity to whiteness. Layered with Krug’s acquisition of Puertoricanness via Latinidad proves there are calculative narcissistic ego driven dynamics at play.
I have questions, the most important being: Did Jessica Krug select Black/Hispanic/Latinx as her racial-ethnic identity when applying for jobs, educational scholarships, fellowship, grants, etc? We would like to know. Black women make up about 3% of full-time faculty at degree granting institutions in the United States, white women are 35%. Hispanic/Latinx identified women are also 3%. This 6% total includes women faculty at community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities, and low resourced institutions — so we can expect this percentage to be lower when accounting for their presence at predominantly white and well resourced institutions.
Black women, in particular, are discriminated against at high rates in all levels of academia from graduate school admissions, funding (scholarship, fellowships, research grants), publication, hiring, and the tenure process — the case of Black Latinx scholar Dr. Lorgia García Peña being the most recent and well known.
Krug took up space, opportunity, time, and money. I call for reparations.
I call reparations for every teaching position.
I call reparations for every fellowship.
I call reparations for every scholarship.
I call reparations for every research grant.
I call reparations for every paid and unpaid speaking engagement.
I call reparations for every article published.
I call reparations for books published and under contract.
I call reparations for every Black and Brown community she had access to.
I call reparations for every Black person that ever confided in her.
I call for reparations.