Earlier this week the Black and Brown community watched an ally it had never heard of — crash and burn. Jessica Krug, a previous associate professor of history at the George Washington University and self-proclaimed ‘unrepentant and unreformed child of the hood’, posted an essay on Medium revealing the unexpected news that she had faked her backstory as a Black woman, and later on as an Afro-Boricua from the Bronx, throughout her entire career. The choice to post such an essay came after she received wind of a group of Latinx scholars who planned on outing her themselves. Krug brings back whisps of memories of Rachel Dolezal; another white “ally” who felt the need to pose as a Black woman to be part of the movement. It baffles me that people of this caliber exist, but more than that, I’m left to wonder if they understand the impact they have in our community. Furthermore, if they fully grasped the impact they could have fulfilled if they lived in their authentic truth.
To understand her perspective, I sought out a glimpse into her world, or really, her version of the fabric of the universe she thought existed. Looking through her public articles, such as the now archived piece in Essence titled Somos Más Y No Tenemos Miedo or the also archived article in RaceBaitr titled We’ll never create a freer future by role-playing the past, I couldn’t help but feel the same level of nuanced frustration that scholars, Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez and Yarimar Bonilla, express in their op-ed in The Guardian on the matter.
On a personal level, reading an article rooted in the Puerto Rican Uprising of 2019 without the voices of those that were a part of the protests felt flat, monotone, and staged. I myself took part in the diaspora’s support of the uprising, but because I understand my role in the movement, I would never try to speak for those that were on the ground fighting for the removal of Rosello. So when I read Krug’s words surrounding my people’s fight and the fight of other BIPOC individuals, it felt forced; almost caricature-like. But I digress, hindsight is 20/20, and back then, no one had any reasoning to doubt her involvement.
Krug’s impersonation of ‘Jess La Bombonera’ is a cringe trope of the type of ‘Puerto Rican’ white people conjured up in their heads, and it causes immeasurable harm. The Puerto Rican diaspora is rich and diverse, nuanced to the point that a member of the diaspora from the 50s-60s looks worlds apart from those from the early recession years of 2006-2008. In turn, post-Maria migration is another layer of diversity from even that of my subgroup of diaspora from the 2013 era; and that’s not even touching upon the variance that exists on the island! I could write pages upon pages of how irresponsible her impersonation of my identity was and is. But more than denounce her I just want her and those like her to heal, and understand that it’s okay not to be the main character. It’s okay to say you don’t live the experience of a culture and to speak on it; just know your place. There’s a beauty to those that love BIPOC communities; even when they’re not a part of it, they can still open doors that we didn’t even know existed and hold it open for us.
Krug upheld a part of the “Woke” community that seemed genuine. That is until Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez and Yarimar Bonilla came onto the scene. They rightfully called out Krug for the dire consequences her actions have on the authenticity of our voices, but also for unjustly taking up space that wasn’t hers in the first place. My research days are somewhat behind me but I can still remember the unwelcoming stench of the ivy towers. For her to take up limited room in the few spaces designated for our growth was irresponsible. She took scholarships, panels and collaborations meant for those that, for better or worse, are the things she wanted to be. In the same breath, I think about what her life would have looked like if she didn’t, as she said, impose her unresolved trauma unto an umbrella of a community dealing with its own trauma.
Imagine the relationship she could have had without impersonating a BIPOC identity. I don’t know what ally needs to hear this but; it’s okay to not be of the group you support. It’s okay to love a culture, learn about its history, customs, language, trials, and tribulations without renouncing your own identity. I don’t know where we learned that we have to self-flog at every corner or assimilate entirely to have a seat at the table. Mind you, I’m not saying lead the fight or grab the megaphone from someone else without permission. What I am saying is, if you’re down for the movement, if you’re down for change and progress, and the well being of all; come to the table, as you are. If you start by understanding your own history and what has led you to this point; you’re already pretty far along and I promise you we want you here with us. Krug reminds me of the slither of white protesters in Portland that have taken up the BLM movement as their own, and acted out in ways against the same Black lives they’re trying to support.
If there’s anything I learned from this dive into Krug’s world is that, when you don’t heal from your own wounds; everything you do comes out crooked. I see the love she has for the movement, I see her excellent scholarly work, I see the intent and desire and I see how it all goes to shambles when the inner person is broken. If anything, I hope society at large learns from Krug’s mistakes. I hope being an ally becomes less of a performance piece and more of an internal and external reflection of how we wish the world to be.
I weirdly want to thank her, without her audacity to deceive I would have lagged and possibly never come across the wonderful work of Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez and Yarimar Bonilla. If any good comes from this krikal, it is the amplification of their voices, and oh boy, are they worth listening to. Jessica Krug exercised the ‘what not to do when you want to be woke’ to a ‘T’. Figueroa-Vásquez and Bonilla show us the importance of listening to Black women and how varied Black women can be. If we can take away anything from Krug’s misfortune, let it be a roadmap of what allyship does not look like. Be your authentic self, I promise you, at the end of the day, we will all love you more for it.
Listening to ‘Si Te Dejas Llevar’ by Ozuna y Juanka while writing this.