In a scenario reminiscent of the Rachel Dolezal scandal, an African history professor at George Washington University has admitted to pretending to be a Black woman throughout her career.
“I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness,” Jessica A. Krug confessed in a post on Medium.
“I am not a culture vulture. I am a culture leech,” Krug wrote, saying she’s been battling “unaddressed mental health demons” for her entire life. Krug said mental health issues could never “explain nor justify, neither condone nor excuse” her false identity.
“I should absolutely be cancelled,” she added. “No. I don’t write in passive voice, ever, because I believe we must name power. So. You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself.”
Writer Robert Jones Jr. tweeted about the post early Thursday afternoon, saying he’s “in a state of complete and utter shock and sadness.” He also referred to Krug as Jess La Bombera, calling her an activist he had often “deferred to and stepped aside” for online.
George Washington University confirmed they are aware of Krug’s post. Her faculty page says she is a specialist in African American history and Latin America. Although the biography has since changed, Business Insider reporter Graham Starr surfaced a cached version describing Krug as “an unrepentant and unreformed child of the hood.”
A video hosted by New York-based creative company Cell Laboratories shows Krug using a Caribbean accent as she speaks before the New York City Council. In the video, she identifies herself by the moniker Jess La Bombelera.
“You posin’ like you opposin’ them for your sound bites, your social media, your re-election campaigns, [get the] fuck outta here!” Bombalera says in the video. Over the course of the nearly four-minute video, she refers to her “Black and brown siblings,” calling out white New Yorkers who waited “with us” to make public comments, but then failed to yield time to Black, brown, and indigenous speakers. "Bombalera" goes on to identify herself as a member of New York’s Black community, saying that the last time the city had a curfew, it was “because Black people were standing up for one of our own.”
Yarimar Bonilla, a political anthropology professor associated with Hunter College and CUNY’s Graduate Center, confirmed the woman in the video is Krug. In a Twitter thread, Bonilla said that while they were scholars at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Krug dressed and acting “inappropriately,” showing up to a morning seminar dressed for a salsa club, and acting “woker-than-though [sic].”
“In that sense, she did gaslight us. Not only into thinking she was a WOC but also into thinking we were somehow both politically and intellectually inferior,” she tweeted.
Bonilla also said Krug claimed to be the daughter of “addicts from the hood” while questioning “the work of real WOC doing transformative interdisciplinary work that she PANNED.”
Krug recently published a story for Essence named “On Puerto Rico, Blackness, and Being When Nations Aren’t Enough,” which was reposted by Caribbean news and culture site Repeating Islands on Aug. 29. According to Duke University Press’ official Twitter account, Krug’s book Fugitive Modernities was a 2019 finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize. However, as of Thursday morning, the link was scrubbed. A cached version reveals the full article published Aug. 27.
In her Medium post, Krug admitted she’d “built my life on a violent anti-Black lie, and I have lied in every breath I have taken.”
“There are no words in any language to express the depth of my remorse, but then again: there shouldn’t be. Words are never the point,” she wrote.
“The wrath of all whom I’ve harmed, individually and collectively, will never erase the harm I’ve done. Pain and trauma, injustice and violence, aren’t algebra, and there’s nothing to put on the other side of this equals sign but a big, bold void.”
Krug’s confession is astonishingly similar to the 2015 Washington State story of Rachel Dolezal, the white Spokane NAACP chapter head who pretended to be Black. Unlike Dolezal, who has repeatedly insisted she’s a “transracial” Black woman, Krug admits to having perpetuated lies about her race and ethnicity.
When reached for response, Krug and Jones did not return requests for comment prior to publication.
In a statement, a spokesperson for George Washington University said the school is “aware of the post and are looking into the situation. We cannot comment further on personnel matters.”