Opinion: On Activists and Academics Pretending to Be Black

By Jakob Stein and Nélida Tello

Earlier this month, disgraced professor of African American and Latin Studies, Jessica Krug, announced her resignation from George Washington University after admitting that she had been lying throughout most of her adult life about being Black. For years, she was celebrated among postmodernist academics and activists, however the revelation that she has been lying throughout her career demonstrates how farcical and deceptive the role of identity politics and ‘wokeness’ truly are.

Jessica Krug, aka Jess La Bombera, who claimed to be of Black Puerto Rican descent.

On September 3, Krug, a white Jewish woman raised in Kansas City, published an article on Medium titled, “The Truth, and the Anti-Black Violence of My Lies” in which she admits that she had been lying for years about being Black, first claiming that she was of North African descent and later claiming to be a Black Puerto Rican from the Bronx. She also mentions that her actions were “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…”

In the article, Krug reproduces the same kind of bankrupt analysis indicative of postmodernist academics, conflating her own opportunism and disrespect for Black and Latino people with violence and colonialism. This opportunism is also seen in the way she claimed different ethnic identities in order to increase her influence among identity opportunists, whose ultimate currency is the number of ‘oppressed identities’ a person can declare.

Krug, whose activist pseudonym was Jess la Bombera, also had a tendency to claim affiliation with various ‘left’ organizations including Revolutionary Fitness, Harlem Copwatch, and the broader anti-gentrification movement in New York City. She routinely used her assumed identity to gain legitimacy within this movement as well as a platform for her opportunistic politics. Since the public revelation, there have been a deluge of accounts from former students, colleagues, and other acquaintances on social media recounting numerous examples of a “woker-than-thou” attitude, which manifested in the use of her fake identity in order to demand money from her supporters online and silence people she disagreed with, including real Black people, in political arguments.

While Krug’s self-flagellating confession may appear to be a sincere moment of contrition, the truth is that it was yet another opportunist act to save face, as she only came forward once others at her university started to put together the pieces of her true identity.

While the case of Krug could be treated as an isolated incident, the truth is that her actions have been seen and replicated widely, by Rachael Dolezal before her and most recently CV Vitolo-Haddad and Satcheul Cole.

In the week following the exposure of Krug, Vitolo-Haddad, and Cole were both exposed as white after claiming to be Black, and both organized in academic and activist spaces, respectively. In a similar manner as Krug, Vitolo-Haddad claimed various and distinct racial identities such as Black Cuban, Asian, Arab, and Ethiopian. Vitolo-Haddad even went so far as to call Krug a “Kansas Kracker” who got a PhD by “performing blackface” on Twitter days before being exposed. Cole, on the other hand, claimed to have a Black father.

Satcheul Cole at the head of a BLM protest

Vitolo-Haddad was a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication Arts at University of Washington Madison and was outed as white through an anonymous Medium post. Cole, a prominent Indiana activist associated with Indy10 Black Lives Matter, Indy Showing Up for Racial Justice, and Don’t Sleep, was exposed in a Black Indy Live article.

Postmodernist ideology, the driver of their opportunism, is rooted in French thinkers of the 1960s and was developed as a counter to classical liberalism, as well as to distort Marxism’s conclusions. It became popularized in the US with CIA backing in universities, as its general conception of ‘diffused power’ serves the imperialist bourgeoisie in drawing the focus off of their real class power and oppression of the people in class society, and incorrectly putting the focus on individual actions and interpersonal conflict among the people as the source of societal oppression.

The trend of claiming to be Black permeates academic and activist circles because the politics used in these spaces grant authority and legitimacy to people solely based on their ‘lived experiences’ and identities. People with the most marginalized and oppressed identities then become the sole bearers of truth, despite how divorced they may be from reality. By framing authority and knowledge as rooted in someone’s identity, it is hard to question, and in the instance that an identity opportunist is criticized, they double down on their oppression and use others’ identities to invalidate their criticisms. This is done by white academics as well as those from oppressed groups who are in service to imperialist agendas, particularly among the low-level counterinsurgency carried out by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Their approach lacks any scientific basis, and the followers of these trends as well as the charlatans pretending to be something they are not only further demonstrates the utter uselessness of identity politics common among the so-called left.

Marxism, the scientific basis for making revolution, is not predicated on one’s identity but on one’s commitment and activity in combating exploitation and oppression. Marxism, unlike various postmodern trends, is reliant on the unity of the working class internationally, across all racial lines. Revolutionaries do not seek profit or celebrity in activist and academic circles, and hence have no use for this type of deception to gain status.

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