From time to time, I write about how “white women need to stop”, but this particular story is genuinely disturbing. It appears as though a white Jewish woman named Jessica Krug has “assumed various black identities.”
You’ve probably heard about entertainers blackfishing, but this woman is part of the academic world, so her grift was considered significantly more distasteful. Krug, while pretending to be black, actually became a professor at GW University. What did she teach? African history.
She wrote out a Medium post, which seems like it was written very quickly. One of the most disgusting aspects of the post is that it wastes no time blaming “mental health demons”, which now seems to be the de-facto excuse for almost anything.
While I am sure that Krug has mental health issues, framing it in this way helps her avoid any real accountability. This woman has taken grant money that black women could have used. She’s gotten book deals. She’s won awards for her work, which heightened her profile and led to her networking with prominent black scholars.
Why This Is More Terrible Than Usual
If you’re lying about being black, you are a terrible person. There shouldn’t be a debate about this. However, many noted that she seemed to “shop around” for a black identity for a while. She admits in the post that she eventually settled on “Caribbean rooted Bronx blackness” as if her upbringing is an avatar that she can change at will.
Why is this terrible? It’s because she was so effective. We all know that there are entertainers that benefit from remaining ethnically ambiguous or flirt with exotic styles and looks in order to appeal to new demographics. This is nothing new. It’s one thing for an artist to attempt to pivot to a more “urban” (music industry language for black) audience. It’s much different for a woman to be writing about being black, and getting paid to write about black culture, while never having been black. She made this her specialty, and her career.
In a bio, she comically states that she is an “unrepentant and unreformed child of the hood.” There’s a good chance that I have spent much more time in “hood” neighborhoods than Krug ever has, and she writes about black culture for a living.
“I Cancel Myself”
I don’t know if this matters to other people, but I pay attention to the way someone words an apology. I’ve seen celebrities address a scandal more thoughtfully than I expected, and I’ve also seen artists throw up a half-ass Notes app apology that I am sure will only lead to more apologies down the road. I wonder about these people, and whether they realize how insincere that they come across. Is this something I truly care about, or focus on? No, but I do find it interesting.
In Krug’s post, I noticed something immediately. She isn’t allowing any comments on the post. It might sound strange, but I thought to myself: “Oh. She didn’t even really want to do this.” In the post, she calls herself a “culture leech” — taking it a step farther than a “culture vulture” and claims that she wants to be held accountable — but she doesn’t even want people to comment on her Medium post?
It didn’t take long for me to find out that my instinct was correct. A writer named Hari Ziyad took to Twitter, and he said plainly that the apology only exists because Krug “had been found out.” His apology comes across as extremely sincere as he laments that he gaslit actual black people because he believed Krug. He also attributed some of her behavior to childhood trauma that he now doesn’t even think to be real.
Ziyad hates that he had staunchly defended her work, even though he always “felt something was off.” The fact that she was “negative” and “jealous” doesn’t seem shocking, considering that she literally lied about her background to cultivate a career. This kind of individual would be very focused on accolades, attention, and recognition. Ziyad even points out that she was “always needing to prove her authenticity.”
What does it mean when Krug says that she “cancels herself?” She claims that she “doesn’t know”, and she calls herself a coward repeatedly. So — what happens now?
What Happens Now?
Jessica Krug didn’t resign from her position at GW University in her Medium post. I imagine she understands that she will no longer be teaching there, and I don’t know if she will get a Netflix documentary, like Rachel Dolezal did.
I do know that many students probably confided in her, and it must be disturbing for them to fully grasp what has taken place. That’s an angle here that has to be emphasized — the idea that she was a mentor to young people who wanted to learn about race and social justice.
I don’t think young people care terribly about when entertainers slip up. If a pop singer says something racist, he or she can still have a career. Sabrina Claudio was exposed for racist comments in 2018, but she will be touring with one of the biggest artists in the music industry, The Weeknd, next year. There’s a big difference between someone who listens to your songs and a teacher who listens to your perspective.
If you believe Krug, she points out that this isn’t a “double life” situation, and that she basically went “all-in” on this identity without a Plan B. Specifically, she states: “I have no identity outside of this. I have never developed one.” She adds: “I have lived this lie, fully, completely, with no exit plan or strategy.” I genuinely hope that her “cancelling herself” doesn’t mean that she goes on an apology tour, or that it leads to a book deal or documentary deal of some kind.
I find it sad that people will applaud Krug’s “courage”, despite the fact that it was very clear that she was about to be outed.
Was it colorism that got Krug this far? How many scholars suspected something but felt like it wasn’t their place to “get her cancelled?” Is there any real “restitution?”
George Washington University has tweeted about Krug:
In her now-deleted Essence article, Krug wrote that “white people concocted policy and myth to secure their power.”
Isn’t it funny how people tell on themselves?
White Women Need To Stop: The Amy Cooper Version
One of the great things about Medium is that I get to write about whatever interests me. I don’t make a living off…