GWU Investigating Whether White Professor Invented Her Black Identity

George Washington University says it is investigating after a blog post purportedly written by history professor Jessica A. Krug claimed that she fabricated various Black identities.

In a post published Thursday on the website Medium, a person under the name Jessica A. Krug writes that she is white and grew up in the Midwest, but lied to others in presenting herself as having a Black Caribbean identity.

“To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness,” the post says. “People have fought together with me and have fought for me, and my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial — but it means that every step I’ve taken has gaslighted those whom I love.”

“I am not a culture vulture. I am a culture leech,” the post continues. Predicting the sharp criticism she now faces, the author writes: “You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself.”

The author attributes her donning of a false identity to mental health issues: “Mental health issues likely explain why I assumed a false identity initially, as a youth, and why I continued and developed it for so long.” She says she experienced severe trauma as a child.

Jessica A. Krug is the name of an associate professor in the history department at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Krug did not immediately reply to an NPR request for confirmation that she wrote the post.

Krug’s faculty page identifies her as a historian of politics and cultural practices in Africa and the African Diaspora, with a particular interest in West Central Africa and Black transnational cultural studies. Last year, her book Fugitive Modernities was published by Duke University Press, and was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize.

In a statement, GW spokesperson Crystal Nosal says: “We are aware of the post and are looking into the situation. We cannot comment further on personnel matters.”

In a July 2019 article for Essence magazine, Krug wrote:

“I am boricua, just so you know. Boricua, not Puerto Rican, to reflect the name by which the indigenous people knew the island before Columbus invaded.

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.”

At the end of the article, her bio says: “Jessica A. Krug is an unrepentant and unreformed child of the hood. … Much of her time, energy, and all of her heart are consumed in the struggle for her community in El Barrio and worldwide, whether against the violence of the state as manifest by police, the encroaching colonialism of gentrification, or around issues of community health and environmental justice.”

RaceBaitr, a website that publishes articles on race, said Thursday that it had removed Krug’s work from its site.”Her charade has taken her into many Black sacred spaces, including this one. We apologize for platforming her work, and not taking seriously enough some of your warnings. Keeping black spaces safe is our highest priority and we failed this time, but we will do better,” the site said in a tweet.

The editor-in-chief of RaceBaitr, Hari Ziyad, wrote on Twitter that Krug had called him on Thursday and “admitted to everything” that was written in the Medium post. “She didn’t do it out of benevolence. She did it because she had been found out,” Ziyad said.

The situation recalls that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who identified as Black. She was the head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Wash., until her parents came forward and said that she had no Black roots.

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