I spent last Thursday and Friday reading and processing the many stories shared on Twitter about Jessica A. Krug’s decades-long fraudulent and hurtful appropriation of a Black and Latinx identity. I have been sickened, angered, and saddened by the many years that she deployed gross racial stereotypes to build her fake identity, and the way that she coupled her lies with a self-righteous policing of racial politics within the Black and Latinx circles that she intruded upon.
My interactions with Krug, who authored a book with Duke University Press, were limited. The first time she lied to me was in an email exchange in 2017. I had asked her how to pronounce her name. She answered, “Thanks for asking about my last name. It’s actually ‘Cruz’ and is pronounced as such. Long story, and when we meet up in person, I’ll tell you.” As an acquisition editor, I often present information about our authors and our books to colleagues across our departments, and, as someone whose name is often mispronounced, I work hard to get names right. From that point forward, everyone across our Press dutifully pronounced her name as “Cruz.” When I met her in person for the first time the following year, shortly after her book was published, she told me the fictitious story of how her grandparents came to this country from the Caribbean and how immigration officials made a transcription mistake on their last name. She also repeated other details that I now know to be false about her identity and her past.
Those of us who are connected to Krug and her scholarship, and especially those of us who are people of color, are grappling with several layers of anger and hurt. There is the personal pain of having someone impersonate your own identity in the most racist way possible, through caricatures and stereotypes. There’s also the shameful sense that, as someone who labored to support her work as her acquisition editor, I helped publish the work of someone who, early in her career, took funding and other opportunities that were earmarked for non-white scholars.
Many of us who promoted her work in one way or another have also struggled in trying to consider the relationship between Krug’s scholarship and her wrongdoing. There are times when a scholar does harm that can be seen as unrelated to their scholarship. In this case, Krug leveraged her deception to enable and promote her work, in ways that are not quantifiable or always specific. As others have pointed out, Krug’s scholarship may not have ever existed without the funding that was inseparable from her two decades of lies.
What are we then to do with her scholarship, which, as it happens, has been widely praised and recognized as important? Many scholars and scholar-activists have continued to push for a focus not just on content of scholarship, but also on context, methods, ethics, and politics—often promoting decolonial approaches. These are the conversations and movements that can lead us forward. I hope that we can all muster the strength to lean into these conversations, even though they will challenge us all.
Almost everyone I’ve spoken to about Krug’s book has asked about profits from her book. The truth is that the book, like many monographic scholarly works, did not generate a profit—its expenses were more than its revenues. Despite that, Duke University Press is committed to moving all proceeds from the book to a fund that will support the work of Black and Latinx scholars. Our conversations and deliberations about other actions will continue.