05 September 2020 16:33
Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday. Jessica Krug has cancelled herself. "You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself," Krug wrote in a Medium post on Thursday after admitting she had spent the last decade pretending to be black. Krug is an associate professor at George Washington University (GWU); her self-described areas of expertise include Africa, African American History and colonialism. While she uses the name Krug to teach, she has also gone by Jess La Bombalera in activist circles, and described herself as "an unrepentant, unreformed child of the hood".
In reality she's a white Jewish woman who was raised in the Kansas City suburbs. While Krug's Medium post is full of self-flagellation, it would appear that the only reason she 'fessed up is because she'd been found out and wanted to get ahead of the story. I'm not entirely sure that worked: her confession has made headlines around the world and drawn numerous comparisons to the infamous Rachel Dolezal. (Side note: if you're wondering what Dolezal is up to, she's currently selling "skin tone" face masks online.) There is, quite rightly, a lot of anger and incredulity that she passed herself off as a black woman – and an authority on blackness – for so long. GWU has now said it is investigating her blogpost.
Krug blames childhood trauma for her adulthood deceit. Whatever her reasons for lying about her identity, it's worth noting that she and Dolezal are far from the only examples of this sort of behaviour. Last year a British theatre director called Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, whose parents and grandparents were white, was accused of "passing" as black and collecting grants and funds meant for people of colour. Earlier this year a neuroscientist, BethAnn McLaughlin, posed as a Native American professor on Twitter and tweeted frequently about sexual harassment. McLaughlin then killed off her alter ego, saying the professor had contracted Covid-19 and died. I think many white liberals have cut Warren far too much slack for insisting she was Native American for so long, particularly as Warren was used as an example of "diversity" by Harvard while she was working there. A 2012 Boston Globe article notes that "for at least six straight years during Warren's tenure, Harvard University reported in federally mandated diversity statistics that it had a Native American woman in its senior ranks at the law school". Warren, for her part, has said she didn't know Harvard was promoting her like this. I don't know whether that's true or not, but I can tell you that there is nothing institutions love more than being able to signal that they are diverse while not actually being diverse. This may or may not have been why GWU were so willing to take Krug at her word for so long. Krug must be held accountable for her actions. To vilify Krug is to point at her and say: "She's the issue." In reality, however, Krug is a symptom of a far bigger problem: she's an extreme example of the insidious way in which blackness is routinely consumed and appropriated. From Kim Kardashian to Selena Gomez to Ariana Grande, there are endless examples of celebrities "blackfishing": changing their appearance to make it seem like they have black heritage. For years I assumed Rita Ora was mixed-race – it was only recently that I (and numerous others) discovered that her parents are both white Albanians. Instagram, meanwhile, is full of white female influencers passing themselves off as black. The western world loves black culture, just as long as the people profiting from it aren't black. "The names of these women are often not as well known as the men," the Washington Post notes. "[B]ut their deaths in some cases raise the same questions about the use of deadly force by police and, in particular, its use on Black Americans." Wear a mask while having sex, Canada's chief medical officer says Brazil and England announce equal pay for men's and women's national soccer teams Pay disparity in professional soccer has been in the spotlight ever since the United States women's team sued US Soccer for equal pay. Street harassment should be taught in school, new campaign urges "The majority of schoolchildren in the UK are not taught about street harassment, despite the fact that two in three girls will be subject to this violence," the campaign group Our Schools Now notes. A Canadian professor recently tweeted that her eight-year-old girl's school was distributing "girls masks" and "boy masks". MacKenzie Scott has become the world's richest woman Jeff Bezos's ex-wife has overtaken the L'Oréal heiress Françoise Bettencourt Meyers in Bloomberg's Billionaire index. It should be noted that Scott didn't get obscenely wealthy just because she divorced Bezos: she helped him build Amazon into the behemoth that it is today. Nobody should be a billionaire. Not as much as the people who are actually paying money to eat airline meals at home. A few Asian airlines are selling their in-flight offerings as takeaway to the public and there appears to be a market for them. George Washington University has cancelled the classes set to be taught by Jessica Krug, a professor who claimed to be Black when in fact she was a white Jewish woman from suburban Kansas City. In a statement released on Friday night, the University provost, Brian Blake, and dean, Paul Wahlbeck, wrote: "Dr Krug will not be teaching her classes this semester. We are working on developing a number of options for students in those classes, which will be communicated to affected students as soon as possible." Krug triggered headlines around the globe last week after she posted a blog on Medium that claimed she was in fact white despite having lived most of her adult life "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". Krug blamed "unaddressed mental health demons" dating back to childhood and said she frequently thought of confessing the deception, "but my cowardice was always more powerful than my ethics". Krug's biography on the GW website lists imperialism and colonialism and African American history among her areas of expertise. Her writings center heavily on issues of African culture and diaspora. The post caused an immediate furor on social media, with Black academics, writers and activists recalling their interactions with Krug. Hari Ziyad, the editor of the online publication RaceBatr, which had published Krug's writings, wrote on Twitter that Krug had confirmed the details of the blogpost to him in a phone call on Thursday morning. He described Krug as "someone I called a friend up until this morning when she gave me a call admitting to everything written here". Ziyad wrote that Krug claimed to be Afro-Caribbean from the Bronx. He said he had defended Krug in the past against suspicious colleagues. In retrospect, he recalls clues to the deception including her "clearly inexpert salsa dancing" and "awful New York accent". In Krug's book Fugitive Modernities, published before the revelations, she paid tribute to her apparently invented past in the acknowledgment sections. She wrote: "My ancestors, unknown, unnamed, who bled life into a future they had no reason to believe could or should exist. Krug's public persona comes across in a video testimony to a New York city council hearing on gentrification from June. Referring to herself as Jess La Bombalera, Krug refers to "my Black and brown siblings" in the anti-gentrification movement and criticizes "all these white New Yorkers" who "did not yield their time to Black and brown indigenous New Yorkers". In their letter on Friday night, addressed to the "GW Community", Blake and Wahlbeck said: "We want to acknowledge the pain this situation has caused for many in our community and recognize that many students, faculty, staff and alumni are hurting." Beyond the initial Medium post, Krug has not commented publicly on the furore.