Alicia Kennedy on Fired Juggernaut Editor’s Accusations: ‘I Embody Complexity’
Beejoli Shah, an editor at The Juggernaut, was fired on Thursday, February 19 after tweeting on Wednesday that she believed food writer Alicia Kennedy was falsely representing herself as nonwhite. In a now-deleted Twitter thread, Shah posted pictures of Kennedy and referred to her as “sociopathic” for, Shah alleged, altering her appearance and misleading readers about her racial identity. Kennedy immediately debunked the claims, and many of her readers and other writers quickly rushed to her defense. Shah apologized hours later, but The Juggernaut tweeted on Thursday that they “parted ways with [Shah], effective immediately.” Shah also deactivated her Twitter account yesterday.
I direct messaged with Kennedy on Twitter after The Juggernaut’s announcement. “I think people are confused that I identify as white because, as Beejoli mentioned in her rant, identifying as a person of color is seen as a sort of currency in media because of how steeped it’s been in white supremacy and capitalism,” she tells me. “People also find my socialist politics concerning for someone who identifies as white because they don’t understand someone who’s willing to give up privilege out of solidarity. They want to say I’m a person of color to somehow ‘justify’ my politics. I have been consistent in not letting that happen.”
Shah posted her accusations on Wednesday afternoon, and deleted them when she issued her apology that night, writing, “I had initially left them up this evening so as not to sanitize my actions, but as many of you have taken the time to explain to me, leaving that language—and those unacceptable critiques—up on the internet may do more harm than good.”
In the first tweet from the deleted thread, Shah wrote: “I’m just going to tweet this publicly since no one else will: I cannot be the only person working tangentially in food media who had no idea @aliciakennedy was white, because of the way she chooses to represent herself (and what she specifically does NOT choose to dispel).”
In reality Kennedy, who identifies as white but is of mixed Nuyorican descent, has repeatedly and publicly clarified her whiteness, including in a newsletter published in summer 2020.
“I, as a person who’s racially mixed by U.S. standards but is white, am consistently put on lists of people or women of color in food media who do ‘political’ food writing,” she wrote. “This is uncomfortable for me because I then have to tell the person, ‘Hey, I appreciate this, but I don’t like to take up this kind of space.’”
The Juggernaut issued a statement on Wednesday saying they had “spoken” to Shah, then revealed on Thursday evening that she had been terminated.
“We do not tolerate ad hominem attacks against specific individuals or others, and do not believe these actions to be in line with our values as a journalistic organization that supports writers, artists, and diverse readers,” the statement read.
“I don’t feel good about someone losing their job, but from my DMs it seems it was this person’s modus operandi to attack people without any merit,” Kennedy wrote in a quote-tweet of the statement. “It’ll take a while to process the violation of strangers picking apart my appearance, but as always, it’s something to write about.”
In her messages to me, Kennedy steps back for a philosophical view of the experience: “My lineage has given me insight into how complex the world is, because I embody complexity. This is how who I am manifests in my writing."