If you’re Black and a genie poofed up and offered you the chance to become white would you take it? Being white would be easier. White people tend to make more money, they feel more centered in the world, they live longer, they feel no fear about police violence happening to them, they have their race working for them rather than against them. Yet despite all of that I bet over 99% of Black people would decline the offer to magically become white. Because we love being Black. We are proud of it and we get joy from it. How often do you see a Black person dancing or dressing or doing anything in a really beautiful, soulful, funky, innovative, unapologetic way and think I love us! We love Blackness and we know our problem isn’t Blackness, it’s racism, it’s the way white people oppress Blackness. We don’t need to escape Blackness, we need to destroy the racist system that degrades and devalues Blackness while overvaluing whiteness. We love Blackness even though we know the pain and trauma of dealing with racism and whiteness is part of Blackness. Indeed, that pain and trauma is part of what fuels the joy of Blackness—we party so hard because we are shaking off the pain. We bond as a community because of the joy and the shared experience of racial trauma. We know that Blackness is both the joy and the pain, they are symbiotic, they are two sides of a single coin, they speak to each other, you cannot have just one. Which, in part explains why racial pretenders like Jessica Krug, the new Rachel Dolezal, are so offensive.
Krug is a white woman who has pretended to be Black for over 15 years. She was an associate professor of history at George Washington University who wrote books and gave talks and made pronouncements about Blackness and also about what it means to be Latinx. She was a fake Afro-Latina. This week Krug resigned from her position because last week she unmasked herself in a Medium essay that she wrote because she was about to be outed. I will not link to her lame essay nor show her picture. I will not center her in this essay—I strive to not center whiteness nor to focus on their decisions and desires. I want, instead, to focus on Black feelings and talk about why Krug’s lies hurt and enrage Black people so much. I mean, what’s wrong with some white person changing teams and joining Blackness? Well, for one, Blackness isn’t a choice. It’s permanent. Knowing that you can opt out of it someday changes everything. As I said, Blackness is both joy and pain but if you know in the back of your mind that you can leave the tribe at any time then you don’t really have to wrestle with the pain. Blackness isn’t a costume that you can take it off when you’re done. The permanence forces you to grapple with the pain of the constant domestic terrorism we have to deal with, the microaggressions, the historic injustice. The permanence delivers you to the need for self-care which often looks like the ecstatic release in the club or the church or the juke joint or the park or the bed or wherever. To make this culture into a costume is to reduce it to nothing. Racial pretenders like Krug and Dolezal slide into Blackness knowing nothing of the heartbreak of Blackness, paying none of the price, and thinking they’re cool because they’ve read a bunch. But on top of being pretenders, they’re thieves. They take the benefits they can get from Blackness—Krug got hired as a professor. She wrote a book about the diaspora that was nominated for book prizes named for Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. She was paid to give speeches. She was allowed to speak in certain public spaces. She got opportunities that she would not have gotten had she been white, opportunities that would have gone to a person who is actually Black and/or Latina. A Medium essay by Lisa Betty, a PhD Candidate in History at Fordham University, posits that Krug should have to pay reparations for the teaching jobs, fellowships, scholarships, and research grants that she got because she stole them from actual Black and brown people. This is an important idea—it’s not enough that Krug has unmasked herself (thus saving herself the indignity of being called out by others). She must be responsible for all of the theft she has committed over the years. In another Medium essay about Krug (there are many) Vena Moore says “A white woman Blackfished her way into spaces that weren’t meant for her to assert her dominance. This Rachel Dolezal 2.0 proves that it’s more lucrative to pretend to be Black or brown than to actually be Black or brown.”
Part of what angers us about whiteness is the arrogance, the caucasian audacity—the caucasity—to think that the world revolves around them. We get mad at small instances of cultural appropriation, the white model who appears in Vogue in cornrows and a tan as if Blackness is a costume. The white blues singer who thinks just listening to the old records is enough when the epigenetic pain of anti-Black traumas from generations ago is sitting inside of great young Black singers and if he and his performance of the blues would get out of the way we could get down to a real experience of it. But Krug takes the caucasity of racial appropriation to a whole nother level—she decided she was gonna just dress up as a Black Latina every day. She would snatch a Black identity and perform it as she wished. Our humanity is not a costume. And her freedom to just take what’s not hers is bone deep. Vena Moore also wrote, “Just as the trauma of slavery is embedded in the DNA of every Black person in the diaspora, I’m convinced that arrogance and parasitic behavior is stamped in the DNA of white people.” The caucasity is real.
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