CV Vitolo-Haddad UW-Madison white grad student turned teacher lied about being black resigns from post. Denies gaining advantage falsely projecting herself as black.
Is racial identity a social construct or something one is born with? A ‘white’ University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student has resigned from a teaching role after admitting she had lied about being black.
CV 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.
Vitolo-Haddad 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.
Vitolo-Haddad confessed to the deception in two Medium blog posts and apologized for ‘every ounce of heartbreak and betrayal’ caused by the false claims.
The admission led to the media studies grad leaving a teaching assistant job at the university as well as the role as co-president of the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA).
Deceptive about racial identity
The revelation comes weeks after white George Washington University associate professor Jessica Krug admitting pretending to be black her entire career.
Vitolo-Haddad published a blog on Medium on September 6 apologizing for taking some ‘very wrong turns’ and deceiving people over racial identity.
‘In trying to sort through parts of who I am, I’ve taken some very wrong turns. I never really owned up to them as they became apparent, nor recognized the trail of damage behind me,’ Vitolo-Haddad wrote.
The grad student said other people made assumptions on ancestry and were not corrected.
‘I have let guesses about my ancestry become answers I wanted but couldn’t prove. I have let people make assumptions when I should have corrected them,’ Vitolo-Haddad wrote.
Vitolo-Haddad vowed to make ‘amends for every ounce of heartbreak and betrayal’ caused by the false claims’.
In a second follow-up Medium post on September 8, the graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication gave specific examples where they had deceived others about their racial identity and went into detail about confusion over identity.
Why did she adopt black identity?
Vitolo-Haddad who is actually Southern Italian/Sicilian said she ‘went along with however people saw me’.
Vitolo-Haddad recounted three separate instances where others asked about being black and did not say no.
‘When asked if I identify as Black, my answer should have always been ‘No.’ There were three separate instances I said otherwise,’ Vitolo-Haddad wrote.
‘I should not have adopted any identity outside of what I know.’
Vitolo-Haddad stopped short of confessing to lying but admitted to the need to have ‘clarified my identity’ on these occasions.
Vitolo-Haddad admitted to being in ‘Black organizing spaces I didn’t belong in’ on multiple occasions.
‘That deception was parasitic and harmful. I want to identify those moments and state what I should have done differently,’ Vitolo-Haddad wrote.
In the second post, Vitolo-Haddad parents were blamed for ‘conflicting stories’ about the family’s heritage.
‘I want to apologize for ever taking lies about Cuban roots at face value, and for subsequently attaching myself to people’s perceptions of me as though it would provide answers where there are none,’ Vitolo-Haddad wrote according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Vitolo-Haddad admitted to latching onto ‘unreliable and unproven family history’ and did not question it as false.
‘What I know now is that perception is not reality. Race is not flat, it is a social construct rife with contradictions,’ Vitolo-Haddad wrote.
‘Fighting racism never required dissociating myself from whiteness. In fact, it derailed the cause by centering my experience.’
Vitolo-Haddad resigned from the university job and the role at the union saying ‘education is build on a foundation of trust and accountability, and until I repair that I should not be teaching’.
Vitolo-Haddad insisted on never having identified as non-white on paper or attempted to benefit from education scholarships or awards for people of color according to Inside Higher Ed.
Offered UW-Madison representative Meredith McGlone via the Daily Cardinal, ‘UW-Madison expects that people represent themselves authentically and accurately in all aspects of their academic work.’
It continued to remain unclear why the graduate student turned educator who denied advancing her career as a result of race, had continued to ‘play’ the part of being black.