On September 3rd, Professor of African and Africa Diaspora History Dr. Jessica Krug of George Washington University outed herself as a white woman masquerading as an Afro Puerto Rican woman. In a five minute self-deprecating piece for Medium, Krug cops to gaslighting her students and friends, taking up space in Blackness, and being a culture leech. Her admission predictably caused an uproar of frustration, especially since her story shares interesting parallels with Rachel Dolezal. Krug’s revelation raises the question; why did these non-Black women believe they could pick up and put down Blackness as it was convenient?
When Rachel Dolezal was exposed by her local news station for pretending to be a Black woman, the nation was shaken. The scandal came at the end of a long struggle with Spokane police where Dolezal claimed she had been on the receiving end of hate mail regarding her position as NAACP president of the Spokane chapter. The conflict had become public enough that local journalists were tipped off to Dolezal was being dishonest about her race and upbringing. A reporter asked her directly if she was Black. Dolezal responded by walking away from the interview, and the rest, as they say, is history. Except that police stopped taking NAACP claims of hate mail seriously, with journalists in the documentary even claiming that Dolezal was “making it seem like racism in Spokane was making a comeback”. According to the NAACP chapter that she was president of, racist hate mail always was and remains a concern, despite Dolezal’s dishonesty. Spokane authorities have moved on, though. The damage has been done.
While Krug is facing consequences for her lie; George Washington University has demanded her resignation. Krug is now a public laughingstock. There’s also a serious concern for what her lie means for the work she was a part of and the community she claimed to labor for.
In a time when Trump has called Critical Race Theory a “sickness,” Krug’s prolonged minstrel show threatens much. Her lie endangers public support for Black studies as a serious field of research.
What does it mean when a charlatan can cruise to such a high place in a Black studies program? What about the social justice work Krug was involved in that advocated for the preservation of communities of color against the violence of gentrification?
Dolezal’s lie set back civil rights work in Spokane several years, and completely discredited her as a pivotal witness in her Black sister’s sexual assault case.
Krug wrote work in Black spaces, used scholarships meant for young Black people, and militantly forwarded causes for Black lives. There is no telling how much of a mess her act could unfold.
Since both Dolezal and Krug could have accomplished their exact careers as white women, it’s frustrating that they decided to pursue their interests in blackface. Their personas are extremely flattening and insulting with both women citing trauma and pain as their major connection to Blackness.
Those of us who are Black are well aware of the fullness that is our culture; the food, the movement, and the little nuances that haven’t been written about or studied to death. Whether white people know this or not, struggling is a tiny part of what makes us Black or what motivates our future. Blackness is multifaceted, deep, special, and sometimes unexplainable. You can’t cry, bleed, or march your way in. To cheapen our community like that, while claiming to fight for it, is disturbing beyond words.
One has to wonder why a bad copy of an Afro-Latina woman was able to take up so much room in spaces reserved for members of the African diaspora. Why a woman with no real connection to Blackness was able to infiltrate the community so deeply, even when real Black women questioned her identity. We need to examine the influence of colorism and proximity to whiteness that convinces us that lighter skin and looser hair equal trustworthiness. It’s the same system that, in the case of both Krug and Dolezal, blocked access for unambiguous Black people.
The lesson? We must learn to center those darker-skinned, kinky-haired voices and come appreciate real Blackness, in its complex entirety, or else we are doomed to fall for more counterfeits.