Once again a white professor at a university was accused of pretending to be not white, this time in—checks notes— South Carolina. For reasons that have not made themselves clear, Dr. Kelly Kean Sharp, an assistant professor of African American history at Furman University, or at least she was until Wednesday when she resigned from her position, decided to be Mexican, Greenville News reports. Dr. Sharp’s resignation comes after an accusation surfaced on Medium by an anonymous source, calling Dr. Sharp’s heritage into question, based on a series of tweets, a look into her genealogical records, and misleading stories about growing up in a “majority-minority” town in California.
By her own admission, Sharp grew up in Encinitas, which she claimed in a biography on the Furman website was the inspiration behind her career path of studying “foodways of the antebellum US South” since the area “was a majority-minority population” similar to Encinitas. In the anonymous post on Medium, the author references a 2010 census finding that states Encinitas’ “white alone” population was 88.7%. Hispanics and Latinos were 13.1% of the population. Perhaps Sharp thought whites counted as a minority at the time, who can say for sure?
The anonymous post was allegedly fueled by several people who had known Sharp during her time at the University of California Davis and say Sharp had “only ever identified as a non-Hispanic white woman as far as they knew.” Sharp’s claim to Mexican heritage—which unlocked her ability to use #chicana on every other tweet—was, according to the Medium post, based on a paternal grandmother who was from Mexico. “But when some of us looked into genealogical records, we found that Kelly had no grandparents who were born outside of the United States, the post reads, adding that the grandmother in question, “was born in LA to white parents and was residing in the US during all the census records of her upbringing.” The grandmother eventually married a white lawyer. Felicidades.
Sharp has not said either way whether these allegations are true or not, or whether her Chicana identity stems from an Ancestry DNA test gone awry. If I had a nickel for every time a white woman claimed to be something else because 23 and Me or Ancestry told her she was .0045% Native American, then I’d have enough nickels to buy one of those things myself. But the real disappointment in all of this is the absolute lack of creativity or commitment to the con. Other than throwing some Spanglish in a few tweets and putting #chicana or #chingona on all of her thoughts, Sharp did nothing to give life to this lie. Jessica Krug, meanwhile, took on several different racial identities and even came up with different names for each of those characters; she fucked-up with style and managed that charade for years. It’s disgusting, while also impressive.
It takes effort to lie about your background and pretend to be something else for the sake of internet clout and the very least that these confused white people can do is provide a little intrigue with their audacious lies. If people of color have to continually have their cultural identity hijacked, with almost no consequences on the part of the wrongdoers, then the least white people can do is make it entertaining. That’s not asking for too much.