Jessica Krug is a symptom of a bigger problem: the way blackness is appropriated | Arwa Mahdawi

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Behold the 2020 Rachel Dolezal

Jessica Krug has cancelled herself.

“You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself,” Krug wrote in a Medium post on Thursday after admitting she had spent the last decade pretending to be black. Krug is an associate professor at George Washington University (GWU); her self-described areas of expertise include Africa, African American History and colonialism. While she uses the name Krug to teach, she has also gone by Jess La Bombalera in activist circles, and described herself as “an unrepentant, unreformed child of the hood”. In reality she’s a white Jewish woman who was raised in the Kansas City suburbs.

While Krug’s Medium post is full of self-flagellation, it would appear that the only reason she ’fessed up is because she’d been found out and wanted to get ahead of the story. I’m not entirely sure that worked: her confession has made headlines around the world and drawn numerous comparisons to the infamous Rachel Dolezal. (Side note: if you’re wondering what Dolezal is up to, she’s currently selling “skin tone” face masks online.) There is, quite rightly, a lot of anger and incredulity that she passed herself off as a black woman – and an authority on blackness – for so long. GWU has now said it is investigating her blogpost.

Krug blames childhood trauma for her adulthood deceit. Whatever her reasons for lying about her identity, it’s worth noting that she and Dolezal are far from the only examples of this sort of behaviour. Last year a British theatre director called Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, whose parents and grandparents were white, was accused of “passing” as black and collecting grants and funds meant for people of colour. Earlier this year a neuroscientist, BethAnn McLaughlin, posed as a Native American professor on Twitter and tweeted frequently about sexual harassment. McLaughlin then killed off her alter ego, saying the professor had contracted Covid-19 and died.

And then, of course, there’s Elizabeth Warren. I think many white liberals have cut Warren far too much slack for insisting she was Native American for so long, particularly as Warren was used as an example of “diversity” by Harvard while she was working there. A 2012 Boston Globe article notes that “for at least six straight years during Warren’s tenure, Harvard University reported in federally mandated diversity statistics that it had a Native American woman in its senior ranks at the law school”. Warren, for her part, has said she didn’t know Harvard was promoting her like this. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but I can tell you that there is nothing institutions love more than being able to signal that they are diverse while not actually being diverse. This may or may not have been why GWU were so willing to take Krug at her word for so long.

Krug must be held accountable for her actions. However, I think we should be careful not to vilify her. To vilify Krug is to point at her and say: “She’s the issue.” In reality, however, Krug is a symptom of a far bigger problem: she’s an extreme example of the insidious way in which blackness is routinely consumed and appropriated. From Kim Kardashian to Selena Gomez to Ariana Grande, there are endless examples of celebrities “blackfishing”: changing their appearance to make it seem like they have black heritage. For years I assumed Rita Ora was mixed-race – it was only recently that I (and numerous others) discovered that her parents are both white Albanians. Instagram, meanwhile, is full of white female influencers passing themselves off as black. The western world loves black culture, just as long as the people profiting from it aren’t black.

247 women have been fatally shot by police in America since 2015

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Wear a mask while having sex, Canada’s chief medical officer says

“The lowest risk sexual activity during Covid-19 involves yourself alone,” Dr Theresa Tam added.

Brazil and England announce equal pay for men’s and women’s national soccer teams

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Street harassment should be taught in school, new campaign urges

“The majority of schoolchildren in the UK are not taught about street harassment, despite the fact that two in three girls will be subject to this violence,” the campaign group Our Schools Now notes.

Even masks are gendered now

A Canadian professor recently tweeted that her eight-year-old girl’s school was distributing “girls masks” and “boy masks”. I probably don’t need to tell you that the boys’ masks were plain blue and the girls’ masks were pink with hearts on them.

Comedian James Veitch accused of rape

The British comedian has been dropped by his agency, WME, following an exposé by the Hollywood Reporter. HBO has also pulled his comedy special from the network.

MacKenzie Scott has become the world’s richest woman

Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife has overtaken the L’Oréal heiress Françoise Bettencourt Meyers in Bloomberg’s Billionaire index. It should be noted that Scott didn’t get obscenely wealthy just because she divorced Bezos: she helped him build Amazon into the behemoth that it is today. Of course, just because she had a hand in Amazon’s growth doesn’t mean that it’s not a wildly exploitative company; nor does it mean she deserves billions. Nobody should be a billionaire.

The week in plane-foodarchy

Miss travelling? Not as much as the people who are actually paying money to eat airline meals at home. A few Asian airlines are selling their in-flight offerings as takeaway to the public and there appears to be a market for them. No accounting for taste, eh?