By Roni Roseberg
By now, most of us have read your news on social media. That as a (what some would consider ‘white-passing’) Jewish woman in the US, you masqueraded for some years as an Afro-Latina in order to further you career. Yes, now we all know the name Jessica Krug.
You’re the second woman in recent years to be in the news for such a charade, the other being Rachel Dolezal – although Dolezal didn’t out herself like you did.
We’ve asked ourselves the same questions over and over again: why did you do it? What advantages did you think you’d get? And most importantly: who did you hurt?
You seem to have been able to convince people of this false identity quite convincingly. From photographs, you appeared to fit the picture and no one questioned you otherwise.
You also seemed to able to incorporate enough cultural cues to play the part, though according to some, your statements about your family’s place of origin changed a few times. Nonetheless, your students at the prestigious George Washington University gave positive reports on your teaching.
It’s quite telling that at the time you started your career, jobs for non-white employees in academia were opening up. Academic institutions were attempting to balance staffing to look more progressive instead of ‘all-white’.
Better yet, some schools also realised that diverse viewpoints make for better education. After all, a university should have a connection with ‘universe’, no? A well-educated graduate should come out of university with a broader perspective on life than when they first arrived. At least that’s what I’ve always believed.
Perhaps you felt you could offer this perspective? Even though it may not have been gained through direct experience… Likewise, this ‘new identity’ most likely meant more job opportunities opened up. Receiving a high-dollar fellowship in 2009 must have been a dream come true.
Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Perhaps you instead enjoyed the ruse which involved playing a part—a bit of drama, and a bit of fooling the masses? Since it seems to have been years-long, maybe you became so comfortable with it, that it seemed natural?
But, surely it must have gnawed at you? Given your recent confession, it’s a logical conclusion. The reasons behind your transformation must be interesting; after all you’re removing a mask. In one interview you said you’d actually been found out before…
Whatever the reason, you admitted your ruse. You knew the score. You knew you were taking jobs, betraying trust, living a lie, and, then by admitting your fakery, committing professional suicide.
As a fellow Jewish American woman, it pains me to ask: was there an element of self-disgust with yourself – who and how you were born? Or was this false identity merely about convenience and entertainment?
Only you know. Maybe one day you’ll share that with us. The topic of assimilation by people who can ‘pass’ for practical reasons (like escaping Nazis or other discrimination) or psychological reasons (not liking who they are) is a vast topic after all…
Whatever your ‘reasons’, the outcome is the same: deep, deep hurt. The several rightfully offended parties here are plentiful: your students, whose learning was linked to your credibility, your employers who likely feel duped and of course, fellow academics with authentic experiences who might have gotten jobs that you unfairly took.
And there’s another group — your Jewish family…
We’ve read how some of your family are outraged, alongside the broader community.
Given your sudden ‘self-outing’, I wonder if you suddenly realised just how long, complex and valid culture Jews have? A culture to which you will always belong?
Now the cat’s out of the bag, perhaps you’ll finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief. You can be who you are now. Yes, Jessica, we need you for who you really are.
All cultures are valid. We all, no matter our colour, culture, or history, need to accept ourselves for who we are. This is key to an authentic life.