Jessica Krug and 21st Century Liberalism
It feels like an anomaly that occurred that we all cast shame and persecution against, far in the past and will never happen again: a white professor making themselves appear black to infiltrate certain circles and catalyze their career. Yet as of September ninth, now former George Washington University professor, Jessica Krug, has stepped down after being exposed for lying about her race, upbringing, and experience as an afro-latina in America. Krug however was a white woman, raised in a Salt Lake City suburb. This call back to Rachel Dolezal is almost surreal, for an event such as this to occur, and yet does not feel too far a cry from how many white liberals treat race and identity politics.
Liberals love to fetishize hardship. In post-Reagan America, the partisan left has been represented by white politicians that while applauding and advocating for racial equality, will reap the benefits of the innumerable privileges that come with being white in this day and age without doing much to counteract their unjustly accrued means. White liberals are aware of this irony and a guilt crops up, one in which they believe they would have virtue to their actions and words if they suffered the same hardship minorities do. This is why many white women who benefit from many of the same privileges as white men do, will pretend as if their experience as women are comparable to the plight of black and brown Americans and/or LGBT people. This romanticization of marginalization that stems from the left is what I believe to be part of the reason Krug did what she did.
This irony infects our discourse. There are videos online of Krug at panels as a speaker posing as a black woman where she speaks on the history of colonialism and the many manifestations of racism in america, and a more awkward video in which Krug expresses her frustration about an anti-gentrification meeting in her supposed home, New York City. She talks about how white speakers refused to yield their time to black and brown speakers, and how they acted as poor allies by tangentially silencing the voices they were attempting to amplify. She makes this claim while being a white woman doing the exact same thing as the people she criticizes, but the difference is that she made her career out of it. This outrageous example is sickening but is also a hyperbolic example of discourse that occurs in our classrooms, town halls, and public squares.
A less intense example of the white liberal’s enamoration for hardship and ethnicity is how much they love to talk about their heritage. I do not mean in the sense of a Nazi talking point about Western Heritage, but one in which a narrative of white oppression and allyship, and thereby a sense of entitlement, has appeared. I am talking of course about the Irish.
White Americans love to mention their Irish heritage and the role their ancestors played in the underground railroad, or their ancestors’ scrutiny in the United States and Britain. Once again, this example serves as a lens into the inner workings of the American liberal’s mindset. I am sure we have met at least one white person who loves to mention their heritage in some capacity. This mention is not a subtle reference to their identity, but an adjunct plea for approval from minorities and other white allies: “woke points” if you will.
Combined with this virtue signalling by white “allies” is what many people hold as being the essence of blackness: education. The civil rights movement is a subject that my peers and I feel very acquainted with. We grew up with the first black president in office and now are living in an age where police reform and systemic racism are the forefront of many conversations regarding American policy. With this in mind, it is easy to understand the significance as well as the parallels of the civil rights movement to modern day. However consequently, there is a steep lack in our country’s and my state’s curriculum in exploring the strife black Americans faced and still face today, causing the essence of blackness feeling as though it is the sentiment of oppression. We hear so much about Jim Crow, the bus boycotts and sit-ins, and the march on Washington, but a distinct lack of material revolving around black culture other than their one unit and one month of history. It feels as though our country’s history treats a significant portion of our population as an afterthought in our entire history. This leads to the idea that the lives of black americans are defined by their battle against a society they were forced to assimilate to after the first africans were brought to foreign soil.
I mention our education system because among white progressives there is a fervent rage against black conservatives or right-wingers who happen to be black. Take Joe Biden’s now infamous “You ain’t black” comment, or South Carolina’s republican senator, Tim Scott being called “token,” by fellow senator, Dick Durbin (who later apologized but nevertheless was clearly an inappropriate comment) and even having “Uncle Tom” trend on twitter the night Scott and other black speakers were scheduled to speak during the RNC. These disgusting words that infect liberal and progressive circles likely stem from a flaw in America’s education and a sentiment that white liberals, because they vote a certain way or hold a belief, know better than the people they are voting or fighting to protect. It feels that it is even a revoke of a person's identity simply because of the position they hold. Black Americans, just as much as any other person in our democracy, have every right to hold a supposedly wrong position without facing racial scrutiny such as this; and the idea that because of their race they are racist for voting for another political party ignores other factors that lead to anomalies, such as a black republicans, and even suggests that voters only vote according to their race.
We can all accept on the surface how unethical it is to pretend to be another race for positions of power that could go to less privileged people. However the action and the thought behind it does not differ too far from the current neoliberal climate we live in. The only cure however, is a better education and defetishization of identities that white Americans find themselves alienated from while simultaneously being surrounded by.
Image credit: https://nypost.com/2020/09/10/jessica-krug-exposes-the-fallacy-of-identity-politics/