Fearing that her dishonesty would soon come to light, a white history professor at George Washington University, Jessica A. Krug, recently revealed that she had pretended to be Black for nearly all of her adult life. The story drew several comparisons to the case of former NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal, and, strangely, another GWU professor, H.G. Carrillo, who wasn’t found out to have been faking his purported Cuban immigrant identity until after his death earlier this year. It has been speculated that, like Carrillo, Krug also would’ve taken her secret to the grave had it not been for some of her peers becoming skeptical of her claims.
In a rather eloquent Medium post, Krug comprehensively exposed herself and did her best to articulate the depth of her wrongdoing. She wrote that her spurious claiming of identity was “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.” Well said. I don’t deny that her actions constituted a gross abuse of what wasn’t hers for personal gain and pleasure, as we often see happen with Bantu knots, kente cloth, Ebonics, etc. But every fiber of her being prior to this revelation, every action taken to further entrench herself in a plundered identity, now viewed within the context of that plunder, appears to me less as abuse or theft, but more accurately as a caricaturesque, scathing, bitterly racist mockery of a culture she would swear on her life that she loves. Writing that her personal politics “condemn me in the loudest and most unyielding terms,” we know that she at least has a marginal understanding of her hypocrisy.
Krug, a white Jewish woman from Kansas City, was a regular contributor to Essence magazine. A CNN report quotes one of her former students as saying that “she seemed like an energetic woman of color being unapologetic about who she was, coming to class in heels, huge hoop earrings and even leopard print.” Krug even struggled at first to find the exact brand of shoe polish she wished to smear her face with, admitting on Medium that her false identity went from “North African Blackness” to “US rooted Blackness” to “Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.” She is more than a “culture leech,” as she refers to herself in the post. In reality, her absurd legacy resembles that of Al Jolson more than it does Dolezal (but perhaps not, as Dolezal likely chuckles to herself for legally changing her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo). Krug’s self-proclaimed “audaciously deceptive” language would have you believe that her disdain for her own roots led her to steal those of others. To believe this crock would give her the last laugh. When viewed for what it really was, the role she played for so many years was satirical and sardonic, not genuine.
“I have no identity outside of this,” writes Krug. Indeed, she dedicated everything she had, and was, to continuing the eternal tradition of theft and exploitation that befalls Black and brown communities. Let such leeches serve as a lesson to those of us who stand to be stolen from. The people that wish to hurt you are very, very creative. They may hurt your body in public. They may hurt your pocket in private. They may hurt you when you step into the hospital. They may hurt you when you call for help. They may pretend to be your friend. They may pretend to be you.
Not that you needed a reminder, but vigilance is key. We could all benefit from remembering to remain cautious.