Intersectionality's Natural Conclusion
Ronald Woan from Flickr | Duques Hall at GWU Foggy Bottom
On September 3rd, Jessica A. Krug, an associate professor at The George Washington University, released an article at The Medium, entitled The Truth, and the Anti-Black Violence of My Lies, an exposé revealing her own career-long artificial African American identity. The contents of the article are a chilling reminder of how far down the path of intersectional consequentialist thought our culture has fallen, especially at a time where race relations in The United States are at some of their lowest points in two decades.
Firstly, who is Jessica Krug? To her readers, Ms. Krug is a “North African” Black author sympathetic to the stories of African natives in her book Fugitive Modernities. To her students, she’s a focal point of academic diversity as an African American Professor at The George Washington University, and to some, she is a Caribbean woman with ties to “Bronx Blackness” operating under the pseudonym -- Jessica La Bombera. But in reality, Jessica Krug is a White Jewish woman from the suburbs of Kansas City who exploited Black identity to climb the diversity industrial complex disregarding those she had to tread on to do so.
Professor Krug’s apology begins with her admittance to “assum[ing] identities within a Blackness that [she] had no right to claim” proceeded by the list of aliases previously mentioned. This, in addition to a short apology and resignation, is where her piece should end. What follows instead is a complex series of ethical gymnastics and nods to social justice, that remain oblivious to the cultural damage her type of thinking does altogether. Her most absurd assertion is that “Intention never matters more than impact.” This consequentialist thought process seems virtually unchallenged in our society today, despite its clear anti-American and ethical flaws.
Consequentialism is the ethical framework that evaluates the morality of one’s actions purely by their consequences (impact), not intentions. The most common case for consequentialism is the trolley hypothetical: imagine you are a trolley cart driver and when coming to a stop you realize your brakes have failed. On the track ahead, you spot five workers who are oblivious to your trolley barreling toward them, but to your surprise, you spot a lever which when pulled will guide you on to an alternate track with only one worker who would be hit. Would you pull the lever to kill the one and save the five? Consequentialist and utilitarian thinking would say yes, change tracks and save the five at the cost of the one in the name of the greater good. Saving the five may seem like common sense but where this argument begins to fall apart is in the transplant hypothetical. Imagine you are a doctor with five patients all in dire need of organ transplants although you notice a completely healthy patient sleeping in the hospital room next door. Do you make the decision to harvest the healthy organs of the patient next door, assuming said patient will stay asleep and die peacefully, in order to save the lives of the other five patients? The premise remains the same as in the trolley example, do you take the life of one to save the lives of five? If consequentialism remained consistent across both scenarios then the answer is still the same, yes, harvest the healthy person’s organs. It becomes more clear how this ethical framework violates the rights of individuals in the name of a better world but how does this apply to Professor Krug’s case? Imagine you are a white woman from Kansas with a desire to make the world a better place by serving as an inspiration for black women in academia. You realize that the job you're applying to wants to hire a black woman for the diversity-centered position. Do you adopt a fake black identity to get a leg up in the hiring process, at the cost of the other black potential applicant(s), in order to serve as an inspiration for hundreds of other black students in the name of the “greater good”? It’s abundantly clear that some would say, yes.
When the impact is all that matters and individuals are liberated from their own moral intentions, Krug’s actions are justified because she is, in her own mind, spreading messages of diversity and inclusion for what can be summed up as the “greater good.” As long as no one finds out the truth behind her false identities, in the words of Sergey Nechayev (a Russian revolutionary and inspiration to Vladimir Lenin), “the ends justify the means.” But individual intentions matter; the fact that Professor Krug intended to steal Black Identity, is irrelevant to the amount of perceived good she would’ve used it for, and if one cannot realize that, no progress has actually been made. To be fair, one can never know the true intentions of others’ actions, so to act as if these concepts are grand explanations of Professor Krug’s conduct would be unfair. Yet it is still within reason to assume that because consequentialist thought is the thesis of her apology, it can also be applied to her past activity.
This situation also points to an alarming movement, not only within academia but also throughout the country as a whole. Professor Krug’s actions are the logical conclusion to a society that prioritizes inheritable, collective and intersecting identities over individual actions and character. Intersectionality, a concept defined by activist Kimberlé Crenshaw as the “lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects” is a key pillar of critical race theory and diversity training at schools, workplaces, and communities across the country. The theory assumes that, as humans, we are a product of complex intersecting identities that form our behavior and experiences throughout our lives. This belief, although on the surface seems to hold some truth, is exactly what props up the diversity industrial complex at institutions across the country and drives Americans to judge their neighbors by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. Intersectionality typically draws conclusions from one’s inherited traits: ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, gender, language, religion, ability, etc. and by doing so collectively stereotypes one’s life experience without any consideration for an individual’s story. Being Black or Gay or Transgender is not the end all be all of one’s identity. In fact, relative to one’s morals, individual actions, and character, those traits are only a fraction of one’s selfhood. Having said that, when we teach people that these collective, unchangeable, identities solely define them, it cannot be long before we expect someone will come along to change them for their own gain.
Please note, the expressed views are solely the author's and do not represent the official views of GWCRs.