When I saw Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who was exposed a few years back for pretending to be a Black woman, trending on Twitter, I knew there was going to be nothing but more foolishness involved. This college professor was even the president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington. Instead of reading that Dolezal was being given more air time to explain what she did or who she believes she is (I’m glad that’s not the case), I learned that another white woman, Jessica Krug, decided to pretend she was Afro-Latina.
Krug, an associate professor at George Washington University who has written books and articles with a focus on Black and Latino people, had written an “apology” letter on Medium for pretending to be Black. An apology with no tangible actions of restitution means absolutely nothing. No one who has pretended to be Black for years is probably going to magically see the light and confess. What Krug wrote read more like damage control and an attempt to get in front of a story of someone else exposing her. Dr. Yomaira C. Figueroa, associate professor of Michigan State University shared on Twitter a claim that Krug was going to be exposed.
Whatever the reason for Krug’s confession, her actions outside of writing that piece on Medium does not suggest she is sorry. The fact that George Washington University’s History faculty had to issue a statement calling for her resignation suggests Krug thought she could use her white privilege to go about her business after her “apology.”
Furthermore, when I saw a video of Krug speaking as if she was Black, I was reminded of teachers who slip into a Black person cosplay in an attempt to relate to Black students or to fit in with the Black community.
In that video, at the end, Krug says, “To my white people … stop playing in our faces.” Yeah, she really said that. Lady was clearly committed to the lie. Non-Black teachers who slip into some made-up dialect or vernacular to try to be down with Black students should stop. Non-Black teachers who stay up all night, knowing their rhythm involves clapping on the one and three, and not the two and four, but who are convinced that learning the next dance move they think is popular with Black kids will help them connect with Black students should stop. They also need to not post videos of their awkward dancing; it’s painful to watch, and it is not cute. Non-Black teachers who are out here coming up with handshakes to greet each student that looks similar to the way some Black folks greet each other should stop. Non-Black teachers who are out here listening to rap music so they can rewrite the lyrics because they think Black students can only learn through rap songs should stop. Again, these teachers need to also stop videotaping themselves with their students singing their made-up song in some attempt to become another viral video. Last, non-Black teachers, if the only time they are yelling out, “What up, fam?” or God forbid, “Westside” with the finger symbol (and this one actually happened to my husband at work although he is not a teacher), or some other saying they believe represents Blackness is to their Black colleague, please, for the love of all that is good on this earth, they should really stop!
Black educators and Black students do not need non-Black educators slipping into moments where they pretend to be Black or parrot what they think Blackness is. That’s not how you act to connect to Black people or learn about their culture. They are embarrassing themselves. They are magnifying stereotypes about Black people that are just as bad as all those pictures of Krug with those big hoop earrings. Apparently, Black woman cosplay involves big hoops and slang. Black students don’t want a fraud. They want teachers to be themselves. Non-Black teachers can build relationships by learning about their Black students and being themselves; no awkward dancing or sad attempts at African American Vernacular English is necessary.
Before teachers take any actions I have mentioned above, they need to really contemplate the why behind it. They need to know that Black students are laughing at them and wish they would stop. They need to know that their Black colleague wishes to not cross paths with them in the hall and have another strange interaction. It is a privilege to slip in and out of Blackness. Being Black is beautiful, but I make Black beautiful because that is who I am authentically. Pretending to be Black is ugly and says the person has a problem. Look, I’m not a therapist, but those teachers, and Krug, need more help than my words can probably give.