Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Jessica Krug Performed "Blackness", Just Not As Well Or As Usefully As Obama Or Kamala...,


jacobinmag |  Simply put, Jessica Krug was a minstrel act, a racist caricature. But while Krug’s persona was certainly offensive, what’s far more offensive is that there is a demand for this kind of performance in liberal academic circles.

I don’t know George Washington University history professor Jessica Krug. I have no special insights into either her motives or personal struggles, nor do I have any reason to feel personally betrayed by the recent revelations that she had been passing for black for many years.

But while the court of public opinion has already found her guilty of at least one, perpetual count of “cultural appropriation,” in my view this conclusion misses the mark. To be clear, if I did not find “Jess La Bombalera” offensive, I wouldn’t have bothered writing this essay. Still, if one considers, first, that culture — the folk’s shared sensibilities informed by common experiences — exists, on some level, to be appropriated, second, the variety of black experiences precludes the existence of a singular black culture, and third, the implications for mass culture of thirty-years of mainstream hip hop, then calling Krug’s performance “appropriation of black culture” only compounds the problem Krug personifies.

If Krug is not guilty of appropriating “black culture,” she is guilty of attempting to establish her bona fides as a scholar of black people through a persona that both pandered to and reinforced commonplace stereotypes about black and brown people. Simply put, Krug was a minstrel act, a racist caricature.

But while Krug’s persona was certainly offensive, what’s far more offensive is that there is a demand for this kind of performance in some liberal academic circles.

Because I’ve lived most of my life either on the near periphery or within academia, I’ve had nearly four decades of experience with the creepy essentialist language of “racial authenticity” that lives and thrives in more than one corner of putatively liberal academia. As a result, I learned a long time ago that some white liberals expect black and brown people to “perform” in ways that comport with their well-meaning, usually underclass-informed, and fundamentally racist expectations of black people.