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The Many Blacknesses of a Confused White Academic

Illustration for article titled The Many Blacknesses of a Confused White Academic
Image: Toni L Sandys (Getty Images)

Jessica A. Krug is a history professor with a focus on “politics, ideas, and cultural practices in Africa and the African Diaspora, with a particular interest in West Central Africa and maroon societies in the early modern period and Black transnational cultural studies,” according to George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Krug’s areas of expertise are listed as Africa, Latin America, imperialism, and colonialism. In fact, she is such an expert that she wrote a book, Fugitive Modernities, which in 2019 was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, presented by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. But most significantly, up until Thursday morning, Jessica A. Krug claimed that she was Black. What the fuck is happening here, you might be wondering as I did when I first came across this story. The answer is a lot. A lot is happening here. Again.

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Krug admitted in a lengthy, infuriating essay on Medium that she “assumed identities within Blackness” despite the fact that she is a white Jewish woman who, despite an author bio claiming “hood” status, grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City. Some of the identities she assumed were, “North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.” Krug’s essay which does not include the words “apologize” or “sorry,” but frames her as a victim, blaming this assumption of identity on her state of mind. “Mental health issues likely explain why I assumed a false identity initially, as a youth,” she wrote, “and why I continued and developed it for so long; the mental health professionals from whom I have been so belatedly seeking help assure me that this is a common response to some of the severe trauma that marked my early childhood and teen years.” Krug also calls for her own cancellation and gives reason after reason as to why she behaved in this way, going as far as to list her childhood traumas.

In 2019, Krug wrote an essay for Essence on the resignation of former Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosillo after Puerto Ricans poured into the streets to overturn their corrupt government. Krug wrote about this historic moment as a point of personal pride, writing, “And just so you know—you, fellow boricua, you, fellow colonized people of all nations, from the South Bronx to San Juan, from Ponce to Palestine: Another world is possible.” Krug is neither Puerto Rican nor a Bronx native and yet she posed as an “Afro-Puerto Rican” activist under the name Jess La Bombera, going so far as to adopt an obviously fake accent that is far from the one she likely used to teach her classes.

Identity is a difficult thing to grapple with for the average person, particularly people of color who are a product of various diasporas. But one would expect that an academic who devoted her entire education to history and the African diaspora would know better, would choose to stay in her lane and be a professor instead of transforming into racist, anti-Black, stereotype-laden caricatures for the purpose of what? Bringing authenticity to her work? An attempt to be embraced by Black or Latinx communities? What was it all for?

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Krug joins an exclusive club of white academics who decided one day that being white just wasn’t for them. And somehow these people get away with it for years before anyone thinks to question that the white-looking person at the head of the class might actually be white. It truly boggles the mind that in an age where everything is filmed or streamed and thrown up on the internet, it took this long for Krug to be shown for the white person that she is.

In Krug’s non-apology essay she poses an important question: “Accountability works only when you are in community with people. How can I be in any type of meaningful community with those whom I have so harmfully and horrifically deceived for so long?” Well lucky for Krug, I happen to be a representative for the delegation of Bronx Caribbeans and can answer this poignant question with an equally poignant answer: Get the fuck out of here, you white devil!

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DISCUSSION

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JurassicSnark

her apology is weird to me because she honestly hits the nail on the head with identifying

“I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation, of the myriad ways in which non-Black people continue to use and abuse Black identities and cultures”

“No white person, no non-Black person, has the right to claim proximity to or belonging in a Black community by virtue of abuse, trauma, non-acceptance, and non-belonging in a white community.”

etc - like she’s another level of audacious for fully understanding how wrong it is, and how minstrel-y it is, in a way that Rachel never seemed to grasp.