A community activist who campaigned for racial justice has outed herself as a race faker after posing as a black person for years despite being white.
Satchuel Cole, born Jennifer Lynn Benton, admitted in a Facebook post to having ‘taken up space as a Black person while knowing I am white’.
The activist, from Indianapolis, was a member of the Indy10 Black Lives Matter group and in 2017 acted as a spokesperson for the family of Aaron Bailey, who was shot and killed by police following a traffic stop in June 2017.
Cole – who uses the pronouns they and them – is just the latest in a string of people who have admitted to lying about being black.
‘Friends, I need to take accountability for my actions and the harm that I have done,’ Cole wrote on a Facebook page with the name Satch Paige.
‘My deception and lies have hurt those I care most about. I have taken up space as a Black person while knowing I am white. I have used Blackness when it was not mine to use.
‘I have asked for support and energy as a Black person. I have caused harm to the city, friends and the work that I held so dear. I will do the work to take responsibility for my actions and try to reduce the harm that I have already caused.’
Satchuel Cole, born Jennifer Lynn Benton, admitted in a Facebook post to having ‘taken up space as a Black person while knowing I am white’
Aaron Bailey, pictured, who was shot and killed by police following a traffic stop in June 2017
The activist, from Indianapolis, was a member of the Indy10 Black Lives Matter group
Cole promised to work to repair the harm caused if possible.
‘If there are ways to repair the harm, I will do the work that is required to do so. I will continue to seek the help necessary to heal myself,’ the activist wrote.
‘I am sorry for the harm I have caused. I am sorry for the hurt and betrayal. I will do what I can to show that I want to be a better person.’
Followers were split in their reaction, with some venting their anger while others rushed to defend Cole in their comments.
‘What’s also sad is you could have done all the same work and never had to lie to get it done. You just chose to,’ wrote Kirei LynNenise.
‘You asked to meet with me last Thursday and despite already knowing I decided to because I genuinely cared about you. You played on my kindness and were nothing but manipulative while you attempted to maintain your lie,’ added Amber Chante.
‘I don’t believe s*** you have to say about doing the work to repair harm. ‘
Cole’s admission comes amid a string of people admitting they have lied about being black
However another friend Jennifer Lannclos added that she still supported Cole for the work they achieved.
‘Satch love white black whatever I love you to the moon and back and you are a beautiful soul don’t ever forget that! You fought harder than many and you damn sure looked out for me so know U will always be my friend and I got you!’ she wrote.
Cole was a highly visible community leader in Indianapolis who advocated for racial and social justice across Indiana, as well as being active in the LGBTQ community.
As well as being involved with DON’T SLEEP, a group that advocates for equity and justice in Indianapolis, Cole was the founder of No Questions Asked Food Pantry, which has operated in partnership with Indy10 Black Lives Matter, Indy Pride, Queering Indy and Indy Feminists.
IndyStar reports that this year, Cole was also one of Indy Pride Parade 2020 Grand Marshals.
Cole is no longer listed on the DON’T SLEEP website.
Indy10 Black Lives Matter, Indy Pride and Indy SURJ have not yet commented on the revelation.
The No Questions Asked Food Pantry run by Cole received $35,000 to continue feeding families in need during the coronavirus earlier this year.
However, the grant application did not ask about race or identity, Pamela Ross, vice president of opportunity, equity and inclusion at Central Indiana Community Foundation confirmed.
Ross added that Cole’s actions still remained unacceptable.
‘We were funding the work of No Questions Asked Food Pantry and this particular fund was not only vetted through CICF staff but it was also vetted through residents who said the organization added value to the community,’ Ross said.
‘We granted support to the work being done, which was validated by the community,’ she added.
‘But we are disappointed that we have another instance of a white woman claiming to be a Black woman and it continues to perpetuate issues that we see in the community and it creates divisiveness.’
The admission and apology only came after the website BlackIndyLIVE.com published an expose on the community organizer’s family and race which debunked Cole’s claim to having a black father.
Cole’s racial identity had long been questioned by other activist’s in the community, according to the IndyStar.
Cole’s name was legally changed from Jennifer Lynn Benton in Hamilton County Court in 2010.
Followers were split in their reaction, with some venting their anger while others rushed to defend Cole in their comments
Crystal Turner said that when she first met Cole at Black Lives Matter meeting, she questioned ‘Why is this Black Lives Matter meeting being ran by a white woman?’.
‘But she explained her lie of a story and she had enough other people betrayed that they vouched for her. And she would constantly acknowledge she was able to pass for white … and how she had to use that to help others,’ Turner said.
‘So I’m sure a lot of people, like I did, just thought she was really aware of her privilege as a biracial Black woman, not that she was a white woman just pretending for years.’
Turner also comments on Cole’s Facebook post to say that the same work could have been done as a white woman, telling the IndyStar that harm caused by the deception was massive ‘especially knowing the personal struggles of the Black women she got close to, still using us for her benefit.
‘She always wanted someone doing something for her,’ Turner added.
Cole is the latest of a string of white people who have been exposed for pretending to be black.
University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student CV Vitolo-Haddad this week resigned from a teaching role after admitting to lying about being black.
Vitolo-Haddad pretended on multiple occasions to be black or Latino although the teacher is actually Southern Italian and Sicilian.
They 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.
CV Vitolo-Haddad (pictured), a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student, has resigned from a teaching role after admitting to lying 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.
‘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.
Jessica Krug, 38, a white professor of African American studies confessed in a Medium post earlier this month that she had been faking being black for years.
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.
Krug resigned from her role at the university last week following a backlash over the deception.
Dr Jessica Krug resigned from George Washington University, it was confirmed Wednesday
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.
Experts on race claim that people may lie about their racial identity for a number of reasons including a need for attention or to run away from their past but that the effects are extremely detrimental to the communities they are pretending to be a part of.
‘The negative consequences and harm to the community are tremendous — a racial justice advocate who has portrayed herself as Black has taken up space, opportunity, voice, and attention from Black advocates and activists,’ Dina Okamoto, director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society at Indiana University, told IndyStar.
‘Her fraudulent racial identity was used to build her career in activism for the Black community. Every person who has come into contact with this advocate did so with the understanding that she had lived and experienced her life as a Black woman, and she has broken that trust with the community.’
Okamoto added to friends suggestions that there was no need to lie to become a good activist.
‘Race and racial identity are complex issues, but they need not be fraught; the situation here and situations like it are fraught and harmful because of the ways in which people construct false identities and pasts to make inroads and gains within and at the expense of Black communities,’ she said.
Michelle Moyd, the Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor in the Department of History at IU, said that the recent spike in the exposure of race fakers will have extremely negative effects on the black community.
‘Each time one of these frauds is exposed, the people around them are left to pick up the pieces,’ she said.
‘Those who understood (Cole) as a trustworthy member of the Indianapolis activist community now must repair the damage she has done, even as they also must continue their crucial social justice work. Nobody has extra time to do that kind of damage assessment, especially now.
‘And yet because they are committed to the work, they will do so, and they will continue. Because they must.’