Things That Matter

White Professor Pretended To Be Black And Taught African-American And Latino Studies

As the debate around racial justice and inequality continues to rage throughout the U.S, a white woman has reignited the debate on cultural appropriation and ‘black fishing.’

The woman – a professor at George Washington University – has confessed to faking her identity as a Black woman and using that identity for financial gain with book deals and to teach African American history. She’s also accused of claiming a fabricated Latina heritage by former students.

The story is eerily similar to that of Rachel Dolezal who made similar headlines in 2015 when – as president of a local NAACP chapter – was outed as a white woman pretending to be Black.

A white woman has admitted to faking a Black identity for her entire professional career.

Social media is reacting to the news that a white professor who teaches African, Caribbean, and Latin history pretended to be a Black woman for years. The story has reignited a debate on race and identity and cultural appropriation.

Jessica Krug, who teaches at George Washington University in Washington, DC admitted in a blog post on Medium that for the better part of her adult life, “every move I’ve made, every relationship I’ve formed, has been rooted in the napalm toxic soil of lies.”

She added, “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.”

In many New York activist circles, Krug was known by the name Jessica La Bombalera and was often seen speaking at New York public hearings on police brutality. Those who knew Krug as La Bombalera have taken to social media today to announce their upset.

“I’m dazed and still processing my emotions, but mostly, I feel betrayed, foolish and, in many ways, gaslit,” said the author Robert Jones Jr on Twitter.

She’s also accused of appropriating Latin culture in her speech and discussions.

According to students at GWU, Krug would use a lot of Spanish in her speech. For example, rather than “plantains” she would always say “plátanos.” But the exact place she was from always changed.

She once spoke about how plantains were important to her family in the Dominican Republic, but told another student she was from Puerto Rico, according to students. Still, she never would have guessed Krug was lying.

Krug admits that she financially benefited from faking a Black identity.

When writing her book Fugitive Modernities, Krug accepted financial support from Black cultural institutions such as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. But according to her own Medium post, her career was rooted in a “toxic soil of lies.”

In her book, which was published before her recent confession, she goes on to say, “My ancestors, unknown, unnamed, who bled life into a future they had no reason to believe could or should exist. My brother, the fastest, the smartest, the most charming of us all. Those whose names I cannot say for their own safety, whether in my barrio, in Angola, or in Brazil.”

Although she points to mental health issues as affecting her, she doesn’t see them as an excuse for her actions.

In the same Medium post, Krug points out that she suffered from a traumatic childhood and has faced several mental health issues. However, she acknowledges that these are not excuses for her behavior.

“To say that I clearly have been battling some unaddressed mental health demons for my entire life, as both an adult and child, is obvious. 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.”

“But mental health issues can never, will never, neither explain nor justify, neither condone nor excuse, that, in spite of knowing and regularly critiquing any and every non-Black person who appropriates from Black people, my false identity was crafted entirely from the fabric of Black lives,” she wrote.

The story is eerily similar to that of Rachel Dolezal – who also faked being Black for professional gain.

Credit: Tyler Tjomsland / Getty Images

Krug’s confession about her identity is similar to the case of Rachel Dolezal – a white woman from Spokane, Washington – who made headlines in 2015 when she was outed for similar lies.

When Dolezal was outed as a white woman impersonating a Black woman, she was president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP, a civil rights organization, and a a part-time African studies teacher at a local university.

Dolezal, who said she started identifying as Black around the age of five, was a graduate from Howard University, an historically Black college, which she sued in 2002 for discrimination against white people and for favouring African American students.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com