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Another White Academic Has Admitted To Lying About Being Black

Illustration for article titled Another White Academic Has Admitted To Lying About Being Black
Photo: Mike McGinnis / Stringer (Getty Images)

Mere weeks after former George Washington University professor Jessica Krug was pressured into coming forward and admitting that she had been pretending to be Black for the entirety of her professional career, another white academic has been outed for lying about their racial identity. CV Vitolo-Haddad, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has resigned from a teaching position at the college after an anonymous Medium post led them to admit that they had lied about being a person of color.

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The Medium post, which provides a detailed and well-researched account of the anonymous author’s reasons for questioning Vitolo-Haddad’s racial identity, starts off their account by explaining that the outing of Jessica Krug as white was actually the catalyst for them taking a closer look into Vitolo-Haddad. In different contexts, Vitolo-Haddad had referred to themselves as Cuban, claimed to have an Afro-Latinx grandparent, alluded to themselves as Latinx, claimed to have Ethiopian ancestry, and identified with Blackness by referring to themselves as “lightskin.” The anonymous author, who identifies themselves as a non-Black person of color, also discusses that one of the reasons they chose to share their concerns was because of Vitolo-Haddad’s presence in Black organizing spaces on the Wisconsin-Madison campus.

“For years, I have doubted my intuition, questioned whether anyone would believe me, and rationalized that CV might, despite all of the inconsistencies in their story, somehow be telling the truth. Race, after all, is slippery and racialization is not just about what is immediately visible, a fact I now believe CV has taken advantage of as they slide themselves further into spaces of Black identity and political organizing that do not belong to them.”

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After the accusations surfaced, Vitolo-Haddad posted two apologies on Medium, shared several days apart. In the first, entitled “A First Step” Vitolo-Haddad offered apologies to their “friends, loved ones, and organizing comrades,” but failed to actually use the words “race,” “ethnicity,” or even to directly name what they were apologizing for, preferring to remain vague. The closest their post comes to addressing the reason for the apology was with a vague mention of their ancestry:

“I have let guesses about my ancestry become answers I wanted but couldn’t prove. I have let people make assumptions when I should have corrected them.”

.... Weak.

In the second Medium post, Vitolo-Haddad was more explicit about the lies they were apologizing for.

“What I know is that I am Southern Italian/Sicilian. In trying to make sense of my experiences with race, I grossly misstepped. I went along with however people saw me. I over-identified with unreliable and unproven family history and latched onto anything I remembered growing up.”

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They continued on to make some vague statements about race that presumably they

“What I know now is that perception is not reality. Race is not flat, it is a social construct rife with contradictions. Fighting racism never required dissociating myself from whiteness. In fact, it derailed the cause by centering my experience.”

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I’m unimpressed by these faux-revelatory statements. As someone who cashed in on their ambiguity to claim a number of different racial identities, varying how they identified depending on what would give them the most authority in a particular context, it’s much too late for Vitolo-Haddad to feign ignorance of even the most basic aspects of racial politics. They certainly understood racial politics well enough to manipulate them to their favor.

Although Rachel Dolezal is the most well-known example of a white person pretending to be a person of color, there is a long history of white people to claim marginalized identities as people of color for their own purposes. Oftentimes, they use that identity to attain positions of authority within the communities of color that they are claiming to be a part of—and then later turn around to make some nonsensical assertion about how they didn’t believe that they could fight racism as a white person. Not only is that not believable, but it also doesn’t make any sense. If they really wanted to support communities of color, how would they be doing that by claiming a racial identity that was not their own and stealing resources and opportunities from actual people of color? CNN reports that Vitolo-Haddad had actually accepted a tenure-track professor position at California State University, Fresno starting in fall 2021.

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In the anonymous blog post calling out Vitolo-Haddad, the author includes tweets that Vitolo-Haddad had written after the Jessica Krug story went public, doubling down on identifying themselves as a light skin Black woman and even going as far as to call Krug a “Kansas kracker.” The jokes write themselves.

Freelance writer who loves sandwiches, astrology, & fighting on the internet.

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DISCUSSION

calamityjane12
CalamityJane12

Could someone from academica explain why people choose to do this? Is it because they want to seem “cool” and with “real” experiences in a way that us boring, white people can’t? Does a lot of this go on and a few knuckleheads have been caught lately? I’m honestly baffled by this.