Administrators investigating White history professor who falsely claimed Black heritage

Media Credit: File Photo by Alexander Welling

A University spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation, adding that she could not comment on personnel matters.

Updated: Sept. 4, 2020 at 1:59 p.m.

Officials are “looking into” a White professor’s claim that she had lied about her racial identity for years.

Jessica Krug, an associate professor who specializes in Africa, Latin America, and African American history, wrote in a Medium post Thursday that for years she falsely claimed to be Black, when in fact she is a White Jewish woman from Kansas City, Missouri. Krug said she lied about claiming Black North African descent, Black American descent and Black Caribbean descent.

“I should absolutely be canceled,” she wrote in the post. “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.”

University spokesperson Crystal Nosal said officials are “aware of the post and are looking into the situation.” She declined to say whether Krug is the author of the Medium post, when officials were alerted about the post and whether action will be taken against Krug as a result of the post.

“We cannot further comment on personnel matters,” she said in an email.

Krug and Daniel Schwartz, the chair of the history department, did not return requests for comment.

Krug is teaching two classes this semester on African and Latin American history, according to the schedule of classes.

She wrote in the post that she has experienced “mental health demons” throughout her life, saying she pretended to be Black in her teen years and held onto that false identity into her adulthood. Krug added that mental health issues can’t justify or excuse appropriating herself to Black culture, and her false identity was “crafted entirely from the fabric of Black lives.”

“I am not a culture vulture,” Krug wrote in the post. “I am a culture leech.”

Krug penned an op-ed in Essence – a media and technology company dedicated to Black women that runs a lifestyle, fashion and beauty magazine – last week titled “On Puerto Rico, Blackness and being when nations aren’t enough” which has since been removed, according to Internet archive The WayBack Machine.

She has also written for RaceBaitr, a publication that explores the “ways race is expressed and defined.” Hari Ziyad, the editor in chief of RaceBaitr, tweeted Thursday that Krug, whom they identified as a University professor, called them this morning “admitting to everything” in the Medium post. Ziyad did not immediately return a request for comment.

“She didn’t do it out of benevolence,” they wrote. “She did it because she had been found out.”

Kurg is not the first University professor to falsify their background. Novelist H.G. Carrillo, who taught creative writing at GW for eight years and died of complications from COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, earlier this year lied about being Latino, according to The Washington Post.

Student Association President Howard Brookins, SA Executive Vice President Brandon Hill and the body’s Black Senators’ Caucus condemned Krug’s “Blackfishing” – when a non-Black person pretends to be or make themself appear Black – Thursday, calling for her “immediate termination” and for an ‘“increased investment in the Black community” at the University.

“Professor Krug serves as a primary example of the University’s racially insensitive undertones existing on every institutional level,” SA leaders said in the post. “As Black students, we no longer feel pride in our University and fear how the negative reputation of the George Washington University will impact us in our future endeavors.”

The Black Student Union released a statement Thursday evening stating Black students and students of color are “tired” of writing statements and “fighting to make an institution that doesn’t seem to want to be better.” Krug’s actions are “one more blow to the soul of the community,” the group wrote. 

“Students, people, are being hurt by this institution’s disregard of Black life,” the group said in the post. “Black students across the diaspora deserve better. This University’s staff and faculty deserve better. GW deserves better. It’s time to begin to address the root of these issues, and rip them from the soil.”

GW’s “embarrassing lack of authentic” Black and Latinx faculty “made room for a person like Jessica Krug,” the group wrote. The lack of “institutional support” for students prompted Black students and students of color to need to reach out to Krug and other faculty “only for it to fall from grace,” they said.

“Jessica Krug is a symptom, not the problem,” they wrote. “We are ready to address the problem.”

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