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Professor of African American studies ‘posing as a Chicana’ resigns from a South Carolina university

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An assistant professor of African American studies at a South Carolina university resigned this week after she was called out for posing as Chicana despite having no apparent Mexican heritage. 

Kelly Kean Sharp, from Encinitas, a wealthy white suburb of San Diego, was criticized in a Medium post this week by an anonymous user who claimed to have ‘distantly known’ her while she was a PhD student in the University of California.  

The user named producingwhiteness alleged they had been asked by others who had known Sharp at the time to highlight how she was now identifying herself as Chicana, an American woman of Mexican descent. 

Sharp resigned from Furman University on Wednesday after an investigation was launched into the Medium post published the previous day, the school confirmed to the Greenville News.    

Kelly Kean Sharp, from Encinitas, a wealthy white suburb of San Diego, was allegedly falsely claiming to be Chicana, an American woman of Mexican heritage, it was revealed this week

Sharp resigned on Wednesday from her role as Assistant Professor of African American studies at Furman University in South Carolina. She is pictured left with co-workers

Sharp claimed in her Twitter bio that she is Chicana, but a Medium post accused her of lying

‘All I can say is that we are disappointed to have learned of these allegations,’ Tom Evelyn, a spokesperson for the college, said. 

‘We expect members of our community to be honest in the way they represent themselves to others.’ 

Sharp joined the university on August 1 after two years in Luther College in Iowa, where she was the faculty advisor for the student club, Latines Unides, and was highly involved in many Latinx-oriented events, the post claimed. 

While an adviser at the college, she also moderated a panel on ‘how Latinx faculty members’ and students’ identities affect their experiences on campus’, according to the student newspaper. 

‘I have watched the unmasking of CV Vitolo and Jessica Krug from afar,’ the post began, referencing some of the women exposed earlier this year as race fakers. 

‘But when an old friend pointed me to the twitter bio of Dr. Kelly Kean Sharp, currently an Assistant Professor at Furman University, I now had a similar example on the edges of my own circles.’

They said that they were ‘more than surprised to find out that she was now describing herself as Chicana’ since she left the University of California.

‘This discovery led to multiple conversations and a flurry of research on the part of people who had known Kelly at UC Davis,’ the writer said. ‘They approached me to help publicize her fabrication and strategic use of a Chicana identity.’ 

The professor’s social media accounts and bio at Furman University have since been deleted but the article includes alleged screenshots of some of Sharp’s posts in which she called herself a Chicana and claimed that her ‘abuela’ moved to the U.S. from Mexico during the Second World War. 

 Kelly Kean Sharp had claimed in a tweet that her grandmother moved to the U.S. from Mexico during the Second World War. The post said research showed this was false

Sharp made the claim about her grandmother in a tweet in July 2019

She had repeated the alleged lie this year, calling her grandmother ‘abuela’ 

Sharp’s professional bios do not reference her claims that she is Chicana

Her Twitter bio initially referred to herself as a ‘#Chicana Asst Professor’ before ‘#Chicana’ was moved to the end. The account was eventually deleted once the claims of Sharp’s lies spread. 

The Medium blogger said that they had also researched Sharp’s claims about her grandmother but found that all of her grandparents were born in the U.S. and none had Mexican last names.  

The post added that they wanted to call attention to Sharp’s claims that she ‘chose to research foodways of the antebellum US South because the region was a majority-minority population, much like her own hometown.’ 

Yet census records show that Encinitas was always a majority white city while Sharp would have lived there. 

‘In many aspects of Kelly’s professional life, such as on her personal website or on the websites of professional organizations she is a part of, there doesn’t seem to be any claims to Hispanic or Chicana identity,’ the post states. 

‘Yet through these other clues we are left wondering, how far has Dr. Kean Sharp exploited this identity? Perhaps hiding behind a vague Mexican heritage helped her feel more secure as she entered her new academic field of African American history.

Kelly Kean Sharp is pictured right. She has not publicly commented on the allegations

While working at Luther College in Iowa, Sharp was the faculty advisor for the student club, Latines Unides, and was highly involved in many Latinx-oriented events

Sharp later changed her bio to place #Chicana at the end before her account was deleted

‘Overall, as someone who claims to be interested in racial justice and making disadvantaged students more comfortable on college campuses, she should have known better than to claim a Chicana identity in any way,’ it adds. 

‘Dr. Kelly Kean Sharp, you owe your communities an apology.’

The writer also questioned how so many academic institutions are fooled by these women. 

‘Why are so many departments and hiring committees falling prey to this sort of manipulation? Why, we must ask, are privileged upper middle-class white women so successful in taking advantage of diversity programs?’ it asked. 

‘I call on the broader academic community to learn from these repeated stories instead of treating them as unusual peculiarities’.’

Furman University, pictured, confirmed she resigned on Wednesday

According to the Greenville News, Sharp graduated from Williamette University before getting her masters and doctorate from UC Davis. 

Her previous employers at Luther College have not commented on the allegations but said that she left the school in good standing.  

Sharp’s is the latest of a string of white people who have been exposed for pretending to be black or Hispanic.

Earlier in October, white, male University of New Hampshire chemistry professor Craig Chapman was accused of posing as an immigrant woman of color on Twitter.

He allegedly used the account to make racist and sexist comments and attack users who supported racial justice and other progressive causes. 

In September, University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student CV Vitolo-Haddad resigned from a teaching role after admitting to lying about being black.  

Vitolo-Haddad, who identifies as non-binary and goes by ‘they’ or ‘them’ pronouns, pretended on multiple occasions to be black or Latino although the teacher is actually Southern Italian and Sicilian. 

Jessica Krug (pictured left), a white African American studies professor confessed earlier this year that she had been faking being black. CV Vitolo-Haddad (right), resigned from a teaching role at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after admitting to lying about being black

One of the most notorious examples of race faking was Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP leader from Washington state who was exposed as a white woman pretending to be black in 2015

The graduate student failed to correct peoples’ assumptions about racial identity, ‘entered Black organizing spaces’ and on three occasions, didn’t say no when others asked about being black. 

It came just days after Jessica Krug, 38, a white professor of African American studies confessed in a Medium post that she had been faking being black.

The professor at George Washington University admitted she had deceived colleagues and students for years. 

Krug grew up as a white Jewish child in Kansas City but assumed a series of different black identities throughout her career, she confessed in a Medium blog post on September 3.

She resigned from her role at the university following a backlash over the deception.

And later that month, Satchuel Cole, born Jennifer Lynn Benton, outed herself as a race faker after posing as a black person for years. 

The community activist admitted in a Facebook post to having ‘taken up space as a Black person while knowing I am white’.

One of the most notorious examples of race faking was Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP leader from Washington state who was exposed as a white woman pretending to be black in 2015.

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