By Sarah Nicell || Contributing Writer
It is an undeniable and unfortunate reality that white people are considered the standard in the United States. In a country that lacks a set language or culture (besides maybe hamburgers and illegal fireworks), we still have one group dominate what is portrayed in the media, in conversation, and in classrooms. It is never a surprise when a rom com features two straight white abled Americans (entirely lacking character development or originality), and it is a disservice to our country that this is our reality. While the majority of the U.S. is white, it does not give our society an excuse to continue the generations-old tradition of white-washing the melting pot that is meant to be America.
White people dominating positions they have always had is a problem within itself, and marginalized communities deserve the opportunity to fill those spots in an effort to finally overcome racial barriers. Black CEOs, transgender lawyers, native representatives, and female engineers are just the beginning of diversifying America’s career pool. However, in the age of Black Lives Matter, racial justice movements, and equal rights campaigns, you would think that this process would become common practice.
It has not.
Recently, news has broken that George Washington University professor Jessica Krug has lived a life of manipulation and falsehoods, claiming to be a black woman when she is in fact white. She created a persona that led to her employment as a historian specializing in African, Latin American, and African American studies, electing herself to a position of power that should have been held by a person of color. As a white woman, she assumed the role of the ultimate cultural appropriator, and I must say that I do not understand why she found this act to be the best use of her degree.
This situation is not an example of white people claiming positions that are typical of any race, as it would be if Krug had feigned her identity while acting as an accountant (still wrong). Instead, she stole the seat of a teaching job that should have belonged to a minoritized person, using her privilege, still present though she was falsely depicting her background, to gain power. This act goes deeper than blackfishing, deeper than appropriation, deeper than dishonesty. Krug actively profited off of her racism, made a career out of it, and continued to speak over black voices for years until her lies caught up to her.
She took a seat at a table where she didn’t belong, and white administration at GWU did not notice. Krug checked a minority box that the school likely needed, and that was that. She was allowed to spread her ideologies to POC students that trusted her, who perhaps found a sense of belonging with a professor who claimed to be just like them. Krug was just another white voice speaking to marginalized peoples about their own struggles.
Schools need to ensure that their students have the representation in staff and faculty that they deserve. Minority subjects should be presented by those that can truly relate to the topic. How can one teach on something without experience? In the same way that it is difficult for a doctor to perform a surgery without having ever practiced, it is impossible for the majority to lecture on the experiences and feelings of the minority.
Franklin & Marshall’s Black Student Union, Mi Gente Latina, and other multicultural groups on campus deserve the utmost respect for the work and the awareness they are spreading in order to battle America’s poisons. Black voices are amplifying black voices, and others are encouraged to support, aid, and participate in solidarity. They hold the megaphone and demand a seat at the table, and it seems to me that they have worked for more than just a chair. Events like the March in Honor of Black Lives gave students the opportunity to see their peers fighting for justice with the support of their faculty, a demonstration that provided energy, hope, and determination to continue the endless work that must be done.
Though this act provided a sense of change for F&M, it is imperative that the college continue to take steps to guarantee diversity on this campus. Whether it be within the student body, faculty, or staff, marginalized people deserve the right to have a seat.
And when the situation at hand deals with a system of oppression, marginalized experiences, or voices of color, give them the whole dang table.
First Year Sarah Nicell is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.