A piece in yesterday’s Times:
In an essay about demonstrations in Puerto Rico last summer, a George Washington University professor named Jessica Krug attacked impostors who tried to claim that they were leading the protests.
“I am boricua, just so you know,” she wrote. “Boricua, not Puerto Rican, to reflect the name by which the indigenous people knew the island before Columbus invaded.”
Beneath the essay, a small biography explained that the author was “an unrepentant and unreformed child of the hood” who was perpetually involved in “the struggle for her community in El Barrio” in Harlem, New York.
She had also portrayed herself as African-American and was known as a respected historian of colonialism and the African diaspora who assailed white supremacy in all its forms.
Professor Krug has now offered a correction. She is not from East Harlem. She is actually white and Jewish, and grew up in a suburb of Kansas City.
“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 I had no right to claim,” she wrote in a blog post.
She had done so as “a teenager fleeing trauma”, she wrote. “I could just run away to a new place and become a new person.” She had not been living a double life, she said. “I have lived this lie fully, completely, with no exit plan or strategy.”
A spokeswoman for the university said: “We are aware of the post and are looking into the situation.”
Her fellow writers and scholars were less reticent. Professor Krug “is someone I called a friend up until this morning when she gave me a call admitting to everything written (in her blog post),” said the author Hari Zizad, in a thread on Twitter. He said she had made the confession because she had been found out.
For years he had defended her from those who felt that “she wasn’t Black enough even if they could accept that she was Black”, he wrote. He apologised “to all the Black people I allowed her to say and do wild shit to because they weren’t from New York or from ‘the hood’ as she claimed to be”.
He had often thought there was something “off” about her, he wrote. There was “her clearly inexpert salsa dancing” and “her awful New York accent”. He put that down to her childhood growing up “in a bunch of different foster homes” where “she was never exposed to one way of speaking consistently”.
Akissi Britton, a professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University, tweeted that Ms Krug had said “her father was Tuareg from N Africa”. Her husband of the time, who had travelled extensively there, asked questions which she appeared unable to answer, Dr Britton said. Later “the story of a Puerto Rican grandfather began to come out” and she “started claiming more and more that she was Black”.
Dr Britton “felt weird questioning it”, she wrote. “So many times she accused me of not being Black enough in terms of my politics. She would point to her difficult childhood to question my middle-class Black upbringing.” She had also asked if Dr Britton needed to be escorted to the station “in case I didn’t feel comfortable walking in Spanish Harlem”.
“One time she said, ‘When my hair is wet I look like any other light skin mulatta’ to which I cackled and said, ‘no you don’t. You look like a white woman with wet hair.’ This was before she died her hair dark. Before it was a dusty blonde.”
Yomaira Figueroa, a professor at Michigan State University, said that Professor Krug’s claims about her background had recently been subjected to scrutiny by several black Latina scholars.
“There was no witch hunt, but there was a need to draw the line,” she said on Twitter. “Krug got ahead of the story because she was caught.”
Ms Figueroa added: “She made a living and a whole life out of parroting Black Rican trauma and survival… The other thing is that, let historians tell it, her work is actually good, chick is smart- so why lie?”
In Kansas City, relatives of Professor Krug told the television station KCTV that they were not aware of any trauma she had suffered. She had attended a Jewish school and then an elite private high school in the city, they said.
They said she had stopped communicating with her family years ago.
In Harlem, she was sometimes known by her “salsa name”, Jess La Bombalera. At a city council meeting earlier this summer, Jess La Bombalera spoke out about police brutality, speaking in an accent that regularly seemed to veer off course. The New York Post described it as a mix of “Kansas Caucasian, Caribbean patois and a decidedly Bronx honk”.
She saluted “my black and brown siblings” and called on white New Yorkers to yield their time to those who had actually experienced discrimination. “We talking about decades this taking place,” she said. “Come on, man.”
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