What to make of Jessica Krug?

I still don’t have a firm opinion about, or anything much to add to, the case of Jessica Krug, who resigned her history professorship at George Washington University yesterday after revealing that she wasn’t really the Afro-Latina woman woman she’d pretended to be her whole academic career, but a white Jewish woman from Kansas City. During that career, she wrote a highly regarded academic book and several scholarly articles centering on race, as well as articles for mainstream venues like Essence.  

Apparently Krug didn’t expose herself willingly, but, as the New York Times (below) and Wikipedia articles on her case note, confessed to the duplicity when she realized she was about to be outed by colleagues.  George Washington University, after it read her confession on Medium (see below), asked her to resign, and so she did. She’s toast, singing with the choir invisible. She is an ex-academic.

Here’s Krug’s confession, which pulls no punches. She attributes her charade to mental illness resulting from childhood trauma, but makes no other excuses, nor does she ask for forgiveness. She knows she’s a goner, for the uproar against her has been deafening, and she asks that she be “canceled”:

Note that Krug couches her duplicity as “Anti-Black Violence”, which is arrant hyperbole in several ways.

An excerpt:

I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is 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 — but I have formed intimate relationships with loving, compassionate people who have trusted and cared for me when I have deserved neither trust nor caring. 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 believe in restorative justice, where possible, even when and where I don’t know what that means or how it could work. I believe in accountability. And I believe in cancel culture as a necessary and righteous tool for those with less structural power to wield against those with more power.

I should absolutely be cancelled. No. I don’t write in passive voice, ever, because I believe we must name power. So. You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself.

This abasement and apology wasn’t good enough for some people; one angry Ph.D. candidate has called for “reparations”!

Krug’s case has been compared with that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who passed as black, eventually becoming the president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP. (She was outed when her parents revealed her background.)

But there appears to be an important difference between the two women. As far as I can see (and I’m willing to believe this), Dolezal really wanted to be black; she was the racial equivalent of a transgender person (i.e., “transracial”)—a parallel that got philosophy professor Rebecca Tuvel in big trouble when she merely pointed out the philosophical similarities between transgender and transracial identities.

Krug, on the other hand, seems to be more of a race grifter: somebody who never felt they were black or Latina but used that identity to advance herself professionally. The only parallel is that both Dolezal and Krug pretended to be women of color. I thus can’t feel much animus for Dolezal, but feel a lot more of it for Krug.

But the Krug case does bring up some uncomfortable questions:

If race is a social construct, what’s the problem with assuming membership in another race? The social constructionists assume that there are no meaningful biological differences between race; like gender, it’s basically a persona you take on. (The “no biological differences” trope is, of course, misleading: even a difference in pigmentation rests on a difference in genes.) This is why, if Dolezal really felt like a black person, and wanted to be black, I can’t fault her that much for trying to pass. Transracialism should be a lot less problematic for social constructionists than for people who see a real biological difference, based on ancestry, between races. But the woke don’t accept the existence of biologically different ethnic groups, and they’re still steamed at Dolezal and Kru.

Now the obvious difference here is that Krug’s motivations were dishonest: she wanted to avail herself of what we might call “color privilege”: the academic credibility that comes with being able to write about issues of race, particularly one’s own race, with perhaps a soupçon of victimhood status thrown in. It’s not clear to me whether Krug availed herself of minority positions and scholarships to work her way up the academic ladder.

But perhaps the disinction it’s not so clear, for Krug wasn’t really “appropriating down” if she was getting advantages of passing for black/Latina. If that’s the case, then what is the difference between her passing for black, and getting advantages, and black people who, historically, have sometimes passed for white for exactly the same reasons: to get “white privilege.” Is one of these pretenses okay and the other is not? Apparently so, though philosophically I can’t see a difference. After all, while you can argue that passing for white removes you from oppression, it’s still duplicitous and, at least these days, and for academics, comes with the same kind of gains that Krug got.

Clearly there’s something very wrong with passing for black, even if you feel you’re black and even if you construe blackness as a social construct, not a biological reality. This “wrongness” is even true for Rachel Dolezal, who—and I’m assuming that her blackness was taken on psychologically and honesty—was still excoriated by the black community as well as by many whites. This I don’t get at all, for, as Rebecca Tuvel pointed out, the moral boundary between transracialism and transgenderism is hard to discern.

On the grounds of duplicity, though, I can’t beef about Krug having to leave George Washington University, for she was in effect lying on her curriculum vitae.

This leaves one problem:

What do we do with Krug’s scholarship?  It’s usual when someone is canceled to also cancel their works, or at least give a caveat when they’re discussed. In the case of Krug, I suspect that her books will be completely discredited and taken out of print.  But is that the right thing to do? After all, she’s the author of several journal article and one book, Fugitive Modernities: Kisama and the Politics of Freedom, that was well reviewed and nominated for two prizes (she’s holding it in the photo at bottom). Does the book become any less valid because Krug wasn’t really black or Latina? Should the work even be seen in a different light in view of Krug’s duplicity? (Of course, if she claims a false ethnicity in the book, that should be called out, but I’m talking about the scholarship here.)

The main issue I have trouble with is the rancor descending on Krug not simply for lying, but for assuming a “minority” identity when she was white. After all, people of color are taken to be oppressed, and so by taking on a “minoritized” persona you are supposedly subjecting yourself to all that oppression. But perhaps one can say that things are different in academia. And this is largely true: black and Hispanic professors are much sought after by everyone, and are in short supply. By claiming to be one, you have a leg up on jobs. For jobs and admissions to graduate school, we do have “color privilege.” But then what can one make of the claims that academics is infested with structural racism?

Jessica Krug.(Credit: Duke University Press)

78 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Humans sure are an odd bunch.

    • Randy Ficklen
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t that the truth 🤔😂

  2. Mike Mayer
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I’m no expert but I think the difference between transgender and transracial is that race is an “identity” and therefore it is who you are at the most fundamental level, but gender is not. Therefore gender can be fluid, but race cannot.

    I don’t agree, but that is how I understand it.

    That is why if your identity is “deaf person” (as opposed to “person who happens to be deaf”) then anything that makes deaf people hear is erasing the identity of deaf persons and is therefore genocide. Again, I don;t agree.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      I take serious issue with your claim that gender is not an identity. It is absolutely an identity, as many transgender people claim. “A trans woman is a woman” is one slogan supporting that. The question, which you seem to be begging, is why race CANNOT be fluid? That’s what Rebecca Tuvel asked, and the answer is not as clear cut as you suppose.

      • Posted September 11, 2020 at 5:07 am | Permalink

        It’s not actually Mike’s claim. He is just putting the case that people who support trans gender but revile trans race use to rationalise their position.

        He explicitly says he doesn’t agree with it twice.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Being racially fluid sounds exactly like something that Titania oughta teach us about.

      • Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Yes!

        • Ray Little
          Posted September 10, 2020 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          I’ve been wondering: why is blackface unforgivable, but drag is not just tolerated, but celebrated – Rupaul’s Drag Race, and its Canadian copy. Why are they different?

          • Doug
            Posted September 10, 2020 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

            Some transgender people object to drag queens, unless said queen is transgender. The idea of a man in wearing a dress as a form of entertainment is seen as mocking transwomen, but not, apparently, ciswomen. At a gay pride parade a few years ago in England, the organizers tried to bar drag queens, but allowed them after the proposed rule created an uproar.

            They also are offended by comedians [Milton Berle, Benny Hill, etc.] who dress in drag to get laughs. “You’re treating my identity as a JOKE??” In the near future, movies like TOOTSIE, SOME LIKE IT HOT, etc. may be as taboo as blackface is now.

          • savage
            Posted September 11, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

            I guess that women are a lot more agreeable than blacks and thus complain less.

            Minstrel shows are a bad argument for outrage: They have been irrelevant since more than 100 years and went extinct by the 1960s. Blackface to depict Othello, one of the three Magi or the rat king is no legitimate grievance to me.

            Crossdressing males on the other hand do reaffirm the idea that women are inferior to men since they are usually used for comedic purposes. I guess women can laugh at them too, but I can understand the discomfort. Another purpose of them has been to exclude female artists (and prostitutes) in misogynistic societies. The extent to which drag queens are sexualized also makes them a crude mockery of women.

    • EdwardM
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      I believe you have confused gender with sexuality – the former is not very fluid, the latter is. Sometimes in deeply weird ways.

  3. lesliefish
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Ahahahahaha! I can see why the Wokey-dokes are so pissed off at Krug. By “passing” as Black/Latina for professional gain, she revealed that there *is* a professional gain to being “a person of color”. In other words, there really is “Black/Latina Privilege”! (As viz. Jerry Rivers, whose TV career took off when he changed his name to Geraldo Rivera.) They don’t want to admit to that!

    Another reason for their outrage is her (and Dull-Zeal’s) assumption that you really are the race you “feel” you are. If that’s false, then so is the transgender claim that you really are the sex you “feel” you are. After all, there’s a lot more biological grounding for gender than for race. So either race is mutable or gender isn’t; you can’t have it both ways. That’s a conundrum the Baizuo Wokey-dokes don’t want to deal with either. After all, if you can change your race because of “feelings”, then there’s no reason to stay “oppressed”, and there goes the profitable Victim card.

    Heheheheh. They’re upset because she threatens their cash cow; it’s as simple as that.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      You might want to deep-six the pejorative nicknames, which don’t add anything to your comment and may, in fact, make people take it less seriously.

      • sugould
        Posted September 10, 2020 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        Agree entirely.

        • sugould
          Posted September 10, 2020 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          …that yet more name calling adds anything.

    • phoffman56
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      “Wokey-dokes” ?? Are there also wiki-dicks?

  4. DrBrydon
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    This is an unusual story. I am struggling to put into words my thoughts here. One thing I will say is that there are no “reparations” due. If somone has been injured, let them sue, and make their case in court. Harm should not be assumed.

    • Mike
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Recently a different discussion thread on a very different blog generated comments from a surprisingly large and vocal (and pissed-off) contingent of people who were outraged by a similar case of fraud that led to professional advancement. In that case the criticism was aimed at career advancement for the people who would have been the equivalent of Krug’s coauthors and collaborators who benefited from Krug’s fraudulent successes but did not participate in or know about the fraud.

      These whiners also issued loud calls for reparations, although none of them were directly involved in the fraudulent events or claimed to have been competing with the individuals who got jobs or grants or book contracts as a direct or indirect consequence of the fraud. The details don’t matter, but what was impressive was the depth of anger and resentment among academics who feel left behind in a hyper-competitive race for jobs and grants, and who blame people like Krug (or people like Krug’s coauthors and collaborators) for their own relative lack of success.

      It was an impressive display of grievance, although directed at the wrong targets. It suggested that many academics no longer see scholarship as a meritocracy, and instead assume that corrupt influence and fraud are the main ways that successful scholars get ahead in their careers. If such views become common they will have a terrible effect on the academy.

  5. Marty
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    It will be nice when our species stops seeing everything through a racialized world view. Probably won’t happen in my life time though. A world where the first thing we see when a police shoots a subject isn’t the race of those involved, but the actions of those involved. A world where there is no preference provided based on race or other immutable characteristics. It seems like we are going in the wrong direction recently.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      Part of the problem is that in the first few decades after the Civil Rights/hippie 60s, we had liberals pushing to reduce racializing everything while conservatives clung to the racialized status quo. Now libs have joined in the conservative mission to racialize everything, so I think, yes, that makes it unlikely that you’ll see that paradigm shift in your lifetime.

  6. Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure the Woke will cancel Krug’s work since they give so much importance to lived experience. Even if Krug’s work doesn’t rely on her personal experience, her work will be shunned. Surely Krug can get a book out of her outing and that really will be from lived experience.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Dolezal has apparently written a book, but I haven’t read it.

      • Ray Little
        Posted September 10, 2020 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        I like your take on Dolezal, and agree completely. No earthly reason why someone shouldn’t want to share (and overshare) in something she admires. Silly, but sweet. I’m not sure why (unspecified) abuse in childhood or later should turn Krug into a social-climbing phony.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      The irony being that Krug’s work was itself ultra-Woke (so I gather, I’ve not read it myself).

      • Posted September 11, 2020 at 2:23 am | Permalink

        Converts are usually the most fanatic.
        I think the same goes for “fuggezies” (fakers).
        D.A. NYC

  7. Historian
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Krug managed to pass as a black for many years. What if Krug should take a DNA test that reveals she has a small degree of African-American ancestry? Could she now claim to be African-American and all will be forgiven? In other words, what is the standard for determining a person’s race when interracial sex is hardly a new phenomenon? Should we go back to the “one drop” rule that was common in the antebellum South? How about using the Nazi racial laws?

    When I worked for the government, there was a racial census of sorts. I was asked with what race I identified with. Notice, it didn’t say what race I belonged to nor was the word “identified” defined. Thus, I answered that I identified with Pacific Islanders. I think they are fine folks. My response was never challenged. I suppose racial classification has some validity in the medical realm and dealing with discrimination, but it is a concept fraught with danger because it divides society as the events of the past months clearly reveal.

    • eric
      Posted September 11, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Personally, it’s the professional/academic deception that I consider the main problem, not some woke idea that only black/latinx people can do good sociology on black/latinx roles in society.

      So for me all wouldn’t be forgiven even if she turned out genetically to be black and latino. IMO the problem here is lying for professional gain, not being the “wrong” genetics to talk about the role of blacks and latinos is society. The lie is wrong no matter what your genetic makeup, and conversely honest scholarship on black and latino roles in society is fine also no matter what your genetic makeup.

  8. Mike
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The transracialism idea is super interesting because it is so hard to explain or define what’s wrong with it. I always thought Tuvel had it about right. The parallels with ideas about transsexual identity are obvious, especially the idea that individuals have a kind of core, unalterable inner sense of identity that might conflict with some aspects of outward physical traits but is nevertheless the true feature of the individual.

  9. Matt Young
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    If I may suggest another (imperfect) analogy, you can be born Jewish, or you can convert. But conversion requires education, commitment, and approval by an authority, the rabbinate. Conversion or, at least, the fact of conversion is generally public. You may not just show up and announce that you are Jewish. Neither Ms. Dolezal nor Dr. Krug ever, as far as I know, formally converted. Whether they needed to I will leave up to someone else.

    • Mike
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      @ Matt that’s an interesting idea that there is a community vetting required to convert. I sort of agree that the social cconstructivist view of race has this implied: that there’s a “rabbinate” of others who review, moderate, and approve (or disapprove) a request to identify with a particular racial group. That review process is more or less what happened to Krug and to Dolezal (and probably should have happened to Andrea Smith).

      But the conversion analogy assumes that there is a starting position or state, followed by a conversion (with some community moderators involved), and then a new state. I don’t think that’s quite apt because someone like Dolezal who consistently identified as Black for a long time isn’t converting from some other race.

      It also conflicts with the ideas about transsexual identities: that each person has an inner core sense of sexual identity that is true no matter what other people think that person’s sexual identity might be (or should be). Trans activists would bristle at the idea of a “rabbinate” who approves of requests to convert from one gender to the other. FWIW I’m not saying I think the trans activists are right on this point, just that the two views are in conflict and it’s not obvious how to sort out the conflict.

      • Matt Young
        Posted September 10, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Thanks to you and @Eric for the replies. I have no incisive answer, but as for Ms. Dolezal, if race is a social construct (it is not, but never mind), then she may be black if she likes. No one calls a black person a liar for passing as white; can we not extend the same courtesy to Ms. Dolezal?

        I used to quip that gender is a topic of interest mainly to linguists and grammarians, but it has come to be identified with sex. I could write a lot, but let us say that some people are born biologically male or female but harbor the conviction (not the delusion) that they are the opposite. Fine, let us use whatever pronouns they like and treat them as whatever gender they like, irrespective of their biological sex; that is no one’s business but theirs, and no “rabbinate” is needed. If you claim to be a Jew (or an American citizen), though, you have to apply and meet certain criteria. I therefore do not think there is any conflict between requiring criteria to join certain kinds of group and not requiring criteria to state how you want to be treated.

        I know almost nothing about the case of the American Indian, but I understand the problem you pose. Being an Indian is evidently a little different from being black or white. Can you not become a member of a tribe without actually being descended from Indians? By marriage, for example? At any rate, to be an Indian you have to meet certain criteria, whereas there is no established criterion for being black.

        • Curtis
          Posted September 10, 2020 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

          My mother-in-law was adopted by an American Indian and grew up on a reservation. She and some of her children are registered by that tribe. I think this means she is legally an Indian despite having no Indian ancestry.

    • eric
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      An interesting idea.

      I think the other key difference is deception. If you want society to accept you as an X, you probably shouldn’t attempt to deceive society, because then they’re not honestly or informed-consent accepting you, they’re just conned. I said this with the Dolezal case too – I have no problem with a local NAACP chapter electing a white person to a leadership post. That’s their prerogative. Dolezal’s problem wasn’t her position, it was that she lied to the group she was trying to be a part of. Had she come in and said “look, I’m white, but I feel black and I want to try and live the black experience”, and they had accepted her and decided to elect her to the exact same post she had under the deception, no problem.

      If Krug wanted to talk and teach about race relations, then that’s great, there’s nothing wrong (and a lot right, I think) with a Jewish woman doing that. Even if she wants to talk about black and hispanic experience and how it fits in to US society, well hey, maybe she has something important and relevant to teach us. But show some academic honesty. Don’t lie about your background.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Don’t overlook the Native American conundrum. Genetics isn’t sufficient to ‘make’ one an American Indian. To be a member of a tribe, all manner of bewildering criteria must be met. Lots of judging but who’s to judge? Insofar as I can determine, if one is 100% Native American genetically but can’t prove tribal identity, then one can’t be called an American Indian. Who’s to be the judge?

      • Matt Young
        Posted September 10, 2020 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, I got confused and thought I was replying to you, above.

  10. savage
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t seem worse to me than people Anglicizing their surname if they feel that makes it easier to get jobs. Race should not matter in academia, and having a certain identity does not necessarily lead to more insights (I imagine it can also induce a lot of bias). If Shaun King is black, Jessica Krug can be too. And I may self-identify as a bot so I can’t be replaced by automation.

    • eric
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      I think there’s an important difference between being judged unfairly based on superficial aspects such as skin color, and giving someone’s opinion more weight because of their claimed lived experience. When someone anglicizes their name, they’re trying to stop the former. Krug deceived about the latter to make money and professional reputation.

  11. Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I have an idea. Perhaps we can cure racism and wokeness in one stroke. Let’s all out ourselves and claim to be members of a different race than we’ve assumed up to this point; a sort of “I am Spartacus” ploy but using race. Everyone will be so confused that they’ll start thinking that race doesn’t matter, not for some moral reason, but from a purely practical point of view. Could work. 😉

  12. Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    1. If the wokes would quit demanding racialized practices, people like Krug (who “pass” for personal gain) would not exist, and people like Dolezal would perhaps be seen as having a quirky sense of identity but would not be socially dangerous. 2. Per Krug’s scholarship, what if she had discovered the cure for lung cancer and was then exposed as a closet smoker? Would her cure have to be discarded as invalid? It’s the old “Intentional Fallacy” of Wimsatt and Beardsley.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      I think the scholarship point you make is a good one. To dismiss her work because of this revelation – except to the deal that it is explicitly predicated on that assumed identity – amounts to no more than an ad hominem attack. The scholarship, at least, should stand or fall on its own merits.

      • Posted September 10, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the “amen,” brother 🙂 This ad hominem evaluation of scholarship is one of the big drawbacks of campus/identity politics.

      • eric
        Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        I’ve never read her work so can’t say, but three things come to mind.
        1. If she’s using her own false background to bolster her points or implying her observations arise from some lived experience she never actually had, then I’d say that’s a problem.
        2. If she’s using more objective evidence (surveys, trends in demographics and statistics, etc.), then that should stand up better, but…
        3. We still report funding sources for a reason. i.e. because scientists can be victims of their own subtle biases. I think it’s fair to take a good look at even her more objective data and conclusions, given the fact that someone self-professedly lying about their racial identity for professional gain might reasonably be suspected of having some unconscious or conscious biases when it comes to doing research on racial identity.

        • savage
          Posted September 11, 2020 at 5:52 am | Permalink

          I doubt that much of what racialist studies produce stands up to scrutiny. Isn’t it unfair to subject her work to so much higher standards than the work of her colleagues? It would be better to look at her prized work as a showcase for general problems in her field, rather than pretend that she is a rotten apple in it.

          • eric
            Posted September 11, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

            Isn’t it unfair to subject her work to so much higher standards than the work of her colleagues?

            No, it’s not unfair once she’s caught lying for professional gain. Then you have a valid reason to suspect fraud, and since you can’t trust her word on what she did and didn’t lie about, all her past work is now suspect. This doesn’t mean all her work is wrong or should be immediately flushed away (which, unfortunately, is likely to happen). But it does mean all her significant past work probably now needs a second, more critical look and possibly some form of independent confirmation before believing it.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Let’s not forget the sad case of the Breatharians, a cult in California (where else?) who advocated strict avoidance of food, and allowed nourishment only from air and sunlight, following their guru Wiley Brooks. Alas, according to Wiki, in 1983 Mr. Brooks “was reportedly observed leaving a Santa Cruz 7-Eleven with a Slurpee, a hot dog, and Twinkies.[37]”

  13. Alan Garcia-Elfring
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Unless she got to where she was through affirmative action, I really don’t get the extent of the outrage (other than the lying), specially how her being white discredits her work. There are white latinos. I have Mexican cousins with blonde hair and green eyes. Could they not claim that they’re a minority?

  14. KD
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Borderline Personality Disorder transcends race, creed and color.

    • Posted September 11, 2020 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      A touch of that sure but my money is on Munchausen syndrome.
      D.A.
      NYC

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Jessica Krug seems a mirror image of sorts of Coleman Silk, the protagonist of Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain, a light-skinned Black man who “passes” as a Jew and goes on to career as a college professor (until his query whether a couple students who’ve been absent from his class all semester are “spooks” — meaning ghosts — but which is taken to be a racial slur when the students turn out to be Black).

    As I recall l’affaire Dolezal, the reaction of the black community seemed, at least in part, to be split along generational lines, with younger Blacks reacting negatively, but older Black folk (the ones who well remembered when “passing” was a one-way street) seeing it with something like a sense of accomplishment in that, at long last, someone saw a benefit in walking that path in the opposite direction.

    Traditionally at least, the black community has been for mixed-race people (under the practices of hypodescent and the antiquated “one-drop” rule) the essence of what the poet Robert Frost defined as “home” — “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

  16. Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    The question of her scholarship is a delicate one, and perhaps a major reason for the torches and pitchforks being waved by embarrassed colleagues in her field. Take this rave about Fugitive Modernities

    “With Fugitive Modernities, Jessica A. Krug proves herself to be a brilliant historian, as adept at mining the archive as she is at theoretical analysis. She is an intellectual historian who traces an idea through all of its varied meanings, languages, and shifts throughout time and space. This book will constitute a paradigm shift in how we think of intellectual history, of concepts of the Black Atlantic, and of the political ideas that traversed continents with black bodies who defined and gave meaning and purpose to them. This is a major accomplishment by a scholar whose dazzling intellect has opened new avenues for the work that will follow in its wake.”

    If the book proves she is a brilliant historian and a scholar of dazzling intellect capable of shifting paradigms, then exactly how does her race change these supposed facts?

  17. KD33
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The opprobrium of Krug that I’ve read most about stems from the idea that she displaced an actual person of color from her faculty position. Seems like a good reason to be upset.

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      This. If increased chances of getting the position are supposed to be compensation for the racial injustices of the American education system, it matters that Krug took that away from those who are likely to have suffered those injustices. That contrasts pretty heavily with passing for white, which reduces injustices albeit only for oneself.

  18. John Dentinger
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Ok, here’s a what-if: a year from now, an actor in a Spike Lee movie wins an Oscar for best actor. Two years from now he reveals to the world that he was born to white parents but has always identified as black. I’m not so much interested in what happens to him as I am in the rest of the people involved in the movie, and especially in the money they have made from it–and the prestige. I guess that some charities will receive windfalls, and many careers will be ruined.
    Will actors now have to be vetted like Vice-Presidential candidates?

  19. jezgrove
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Writing in The Guardian, Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez and Yarimar Bonilla noted: “Over the course of her life Krug built an identity based on the worst stereotypes, beliefs and supposed dysfunctions of Black and Latinx people. It is bad enough that she pretended to be Black or Latina; worse, she portrayed herself as the daughter of addicts battling overdoses and suicide attempts on the “streets” of the Barrio. She claimed to be the only person in her family to go to college, took on caricaturesque anti-racist stances, and engaged in racist cosplay under the nonsensical name of “Jess La Bombalera.” If anyone questioned her white appearance, she would retort that her mother was a drug-addicted sex worker who her white father had raped.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/09/jessica-krug-white-scholar-black-latina

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Well, I didn’t know these things, or I would have put them in my post. The question is, though, that if Krug (who of course had to confect a backstory), didn’t make up such a bizarre one, would she still deserve such demonization?

      • jezgrove
        Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        I suppose if the only thing that she had done was to lie about her racial heritage and her research was valid (i.e. not predicated on her own “lived experience”, say), and she hadn’t disadvantaged anyone else (winning funding or awards that she wasn’t really eligible for) then there wouldn’t be much harm done that a heartfelt mea culpa couldn’t remedy.

        Interestingly, there was a moving BBC Radio 4 piece yesterday about a white working-class man who has become an accepted historian of the black British experience, despite leaving school with few qualifications. He didn’t feel the need to lie about his background to do so. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000mb0b

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          Yup. Well said Jez.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      “Racist cosplay.” Gotta remember that. Is that what minstrelsy is called these days?

  20. Posted September 10, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Jerry alludes to something I find very interesting. The CRT people say two things:

    1) Race is only a social construct (no basis in biology, etc.)

    2) Race is the most important factor* for any individual: What you can cook and eat, what clothes you can wear, your permitted hair styles, whether one should take your opinions seriously, whether you owe reparations to some other person(s), whether the medical school should admit you, which characters or images you are permitted to include in your artwork, etc.

    These are contradictory.

    But, with DRT, it is supposed that what matters is your “lived truth”, rather than objective evidence and logical consistency (which are obviously White Supremacist propaganda).

    Sorry to be so cynical and sarcastic; but the subject goes there directly, from my perspective.

    (* Which is a very long way from “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” MLK, Jr. 28-Aug-1963)

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I don’t disagree; but I find myself continually hung up on this word ‘race’. There is only one human race; and we’re all members of it. The problem is that we all differ in colour and culture, and these things serve to separate us; indeed, history suggests that tribes have always sought things that differentiate them from other tribes.

      And the current climate of identity politics and censorious cancel culture isn’t going to help.

  21. pablo
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    According to the woke; gender is a spectrum but race is quantum.

  22. revelator60
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    We’re going to be hearing a lot in the future about individuals like Dolezal and Krug. If you want to know what the future holds, take a look at the largest multi-racial, multi-ethnic country in South America: Brazil.

    Back in 2016 this website posted an article titled “Race as a ‘social construct’: trouble in Brazil” (https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2016/10/17/race-as-a-social-construct/). It discussed “how Brazil is now using skin color to determine who fits into various categories subject to affirmative action boosts. Brazil has “race tribunals” to place people in ‘racial’ groups, and the traits used can include more than just skin color.”

    One man scored “a coveted government job in Brazil after scoring well on a test and identifying himself as ‘mixed race.’ People looked at his Facebook page, determined he didn’t look ‘mixed race’ but white, and they complained bitterly. The government put his job on hold.” In order to “prove” that he was Afro-Brazilian, the man “went to seven dermatologists who used something called the Fitzpatrick scale that grades skin tone from one to seven, or whitest to darkest. The last doctor even had a special machine.”

    Race tribunals “were made mandatory for all government jobs. In one state, they even issued guidelines about how to measure lip size, hair texture and nose width, something that for some has uncomfortable echoes of racist philosophies in the 19th century.”

    ***

    How soon before all of this is imported to America? The cutthroat struggle for jobs will become even nastier. How soon before animosity breaks out between African Americans with part-white ancestry and those with darker skin and more African ancestry? How soon before whites with a smidgen of American Indian DNA desperately start asserting Native American heritage on job applications?

    PCC writes “After all, people of color are taken to be oppressed, and so by taking on a ‘minoritized’ persona you are supposedly subjecting yourself to all that oppression. But perhaps one can say that things are different in academia. And this is largely true: black and Hispanic professors are much sought after by everyone, and are in short supply. By claiming to be one, you have a leg up on jobs. For jobs and admissions to graduate school, we do have ‘color privilege.’ But then what can one make of the claims that academics is infested with structural racism?”

    Those claims are obviously nonsense, as far as one can speak generally about universities. It is certainly possible that POC might be subject to racist acts in a university setting, but those acts won’t come from the university administrators, who are terrified of looking racist and willing to bend over backwards to show they aren’t.

    In the future we can expect to see lots of mostly white people trying to claim the “color privileges” in academia, where jobs are scarce. And because the universities are remaking the US in their own image, what happens in them will spread to the rest of the country.

    Regarding the “passing white” versus “passing black distinction: an oppressed POC who passes as white to escape oppression is much easier to cheer on than a non-oppressed white who passes as a POC to score career advantages (that might have otherwise gone to POC). The huckster’s motive is self-enrichment rather than self-defense. I think the days when a POC had to pass as white to get good jobs in a university setting are long gone. This is becoming increasingly true in many corporate settings as well. But in non-elite, working class settings racism is far more dangerous.

  23. Type Logician
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Quite relevant to this discussion:

    https://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/when-being-jewish-isnt-interesting-or-exotic-enough/

    • Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      She would have been outed earlier had she not played the part with full conviction, including the antisemitism.

  24. dd
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Here is a thread from Colin Wright, biologist and writer:

    • Type Logician
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      It’s an interesting question to what extent she adopted expression of virulent Jew-hatred as a calculated move to increase the plausibility of her impersonation, and to what extent she was in fact expressing the kind of self-hatred that many Jews on the far left seem to have absorbed as part of their socialization into CRT culture…

      • dd
        Posted September 10, 2020 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        It’s not just Jews who have absorbed it….it’s largely, seems to me, gentile leftist (not liberal) whites.

  25. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I suppose Ms. Krug’s lamentable experience means that I may have to give up my own other identity, that of the last heir of the royal Romanov family, and thus Его Величество Царь.
    ЁКЛМН!

    • jezgrove
      Posted September 10, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Probably just as well, or Vladimir Putin might invite you round for a cup of tea…

  26. Posted September 10, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    My immediate heritage … Baltic and Eastern European. Before that my ancestors wandered over parts of Eurasia. And even further back they left Africa.

    Before that, the story all gets a bit fishy.

    Ms Klug could not have done otherwise.

  27. C.
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I dunno what to make of her either. I can say that I’ve a tricky relationship with race. I am fairly pale, with a mop of unruly red hair. A ginger, or carrot top, depending on your side of the pond. I look every bit my majority English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish ancestry, and like three of my four grandparents. I look nothing much like my paternal grandfather, who was dark haired, dark eyed, and very dark skinned; obviously indigenous in every aspect, though not “full blooded” as the old fashioned race ideology goes. And thus growing up I heard over and over again that “there ain’t no red-headed Indians!” Now, I loved my grandpa dearly. he died when I was only 7, and when people said this I was quite hurt. Still am, if I’m honest. But I never thought it racist that they said that to me. Maybe it was. Maybe others thought me racist for claiming an ancestry that didn’t fit their skin-deep perceptions. I don’t know. I know who I am, who I came from, and I also know that I’m an oddball. I know I’m not culturally indigenous (South American Amazon apparently, not Cherokee like I was always told) but I’m also not culturally English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or anything else European in my genes. I know one other thing too, that this race obsession is just damn dumb and the new critical race and anti-racism is just another form of bigotry and racism so to hell with it all. I’m a people, that good enough for now.

  28. Posted September 10, 2020 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    For some reason, to me, this whole thing has the feel of an unintended Sokal hoax.

  29. Caldwell Titcomb IV
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    …black and Hispanic professors are much sought after by everyone, and are in short supply.

    If that is not “structural racism”, what is?

  30. Max Blancke
    Posted September 10, 2020 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I don’t suppose anyone actually wants to experience oppression.
    Obtaining status through appearing to be a victim of oppression just seems like a sad sort of pathology.

  31. Posted September 11, 2020 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    This poor woman, obviously with something akin to Munchhausen’s syndrome is going to be burnt at the stake.

    Goodness we’re utterly obsessed about race in this country.
    If – like a large % of humanity she pretended to be something *else* in another context (pretended to be rich, poor, famous or smart, Irish, an architect like George Costanza, or any of the other fictions people adopt)
    everybody would just go “eh? So what?”
    But RACE?
    “Take this mentally troubled young lady to the bonfire!”
    “Where are the matches?”

    That she could (or anybody could) make an entire career based on race (albeit fake) shows we’ve kind of lost the plot on what’s important in life.

    D.A., B.A. (psych/politics), J.D., NYC
    (non clinician)

  32. Pete Taylor
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    “I should absolutely be cancelled. No. I don’t write in passive voice, ever, because I believe we must name power. ”

    Maybe I’m being pedantic, but does she know what the “passive voice” actually means?

  33. Richard C
    Posted September 11, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    By assuming a different racial identity you are not also taking on the oppression felt by members of that race, because most of that oppression is based on others’ snap judgements of what race you belong to. Racist people don’t generally pause to ask you what you identify as, they determine your race for themselves by looking at you.


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