my relative is lying about race to get a job in my department

A reader writes:

A relative I haven’t spoken to in years is fraudulently applying to my department at a large university. To put it simply, this is a potential Rachael Dolezal situation. “Connie” is applying for a research and teaching position in my department. Her mother was married to my uncle for about 15 years and for 15 years I spent most weekends and every holiday and summer with Connie. We were quite close as kids.

For full clarity: Connie is white. She is not an immigrant, she is not adopted, and both of her parents come from white, American multi-generational wealth. There is not a hospital, museum, or major university in our city without her family name on at least one building. Her mother and my uncle got divorced quite a while ago, but our mothers are still very good friends. Connie and I lost touch as we grew up but reconnected on social media a few years ago.

When we were introduced in the interview, she pretended not to know me. During her team interview with me, two department chairs, and four other faculty, Connie spoke passionately about being a white-passing woman of color who has to confront racism daily, and how her past struggles with an impoverished upbringing as an immigrant in the U.S. have shaped her teaching values. I was speechless the entire time. Her resume is impressive, which makes me concerned she’s been lying to get certain grants/opportunities or that her resume is false.

The two department chairs were very impressed with her, a few people are neutral, and the rest seemed uncomfortable during the interview and passed on notes saying such. How do I approach this? I’m struggling with ethics vs optics: it’s unethical to put Connie forward as a voice for an underrepresented student population and an expert on certain racial and social justice movements and issues. My mentor (an older white male) told me to stay out of it because the optics are poor. I’m white, and I have had a privileged life that allows me to live comfortably on an academic salary. It would look like I’m attacking a candidate based on race in a predominantly white department. Regardless of optics, I would be complicit in this unethical situation if I didn’t say anything and she’s offered the job. So far nobody else has been invited to interview.

First, I’m assuming that you know this is definitely the same Connie you grew up with. Assuming that’s the case, say something.

You can’t let someone you know to be white and privileged lie about her background when she’s applying for a job to be a voice for marginalized populations (and presumably taking that job from a candidate who isn’t lying about their background). You can’t ethically say nothing, and it’s likely to harm you professionally if it later comes out that you knew and didn’t speak up.

I’d approach the person on the hiring panel whose judgment you most respect and who’s reasonably senior/influential, and share what you know. Your framing should be, “I’m concerned this will hurt the department when it comes out.” (Not if — when.) That’s not attacking Connie based on race; it’s sharing info about significant misrepresentations she’s made, and the potential for real harm if those lies go unchallenged.

From there, it’s up to them but you’ll have sounded an alarm that you’re uniquely positioned to sound right now.

{ 716 comments… read them below }

    1. socks*

      Ok, more constructive: The mentor’s advice just comes off as “people are so sensitive these days” in a slightly more professional-looking coat. No reasonable person would have an issue with you pointing out she’s lying about her entire background.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Oh I really hope there’s a clear lie elsewhere in the resume, which there likely is given this situation, and you can point to that and make it a really bright line. “You claimed you were the Chair of your Department at Howard but in fact you didn’t hold that role, academic honestly is so important, you’re no longer a candidate, we’ll be informing anyone who asks us about this” etc.

        1. Mugs*

          I think what’s worse is, it sounds like she DID get those grants and such, but because of her false pretenses. That could also make all those groups look bad too! I think she needs to be ‘outed’ sooner than later.

        2. socks*

          I think if someone is claiming to be an impoverished immigrant and you know for a fact they’re a wealthy non-immigrant, you don’t need to be able to point to any other lies in the resume to be justified in bringing it up.

          Not to say the university should just take the LW’s word for it, but they should at least take it as a sign to VERY thoroughly vet Connie’s background if they want to move forward with her candidacy.

          1. Sloanicota*

            That’s a good point, if this person listed immigrant in their resume or more likely cover letter, that could be a smoking gun – but still seems more sensitive/harder to disprove that something more concrete like claiming to hold a position they never held.

            1. Anonymous for this one*

              I feel like “I know this person’s parents and they are white non-immigrants” is pretty conclusive.

              1. Caroline Bowman*

                Even more conclusive is ”this person is my cousin. Her mother’s name is X, her father’s name is Y and we have known each other from birth. All of her story about being white-passing is a flat, plain lie”.

                1. Nonny Mouse*

                  It sounds like LW is 100% sure this is the same Connie.
                  That being the case, I wonder how Connie thought this was going to go down. She must not have known LW was going to be in the interview. That she went through with her lies despite LW’s presence is remarkable.

              2. It Was Hell, Recalls Former Child*

                You’d think so, but I suspect that she could then say that her parents are also white-passing. (I think the “she’s my cousin” response would be more definitive.)

            2. Seconds*

              But “disproving” isn’t an issue here. The committee doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone, does it? They just need to know that this person is misrepresenting herself so they can make good decisions.

              If OP reports this and is not believed, that’s another issue—but OP will have done the right thing.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Even something like, “Connie and I are cousins and what she reported about her background is news to me. Her mom was married to my uncle for 15 years and we were close for 15 years. To my knowledge, she is white and not an immigrant. In fact, as far as I know, she’s one of the Warbleworth family whose name you see on buildings all over the place. I can put you in touch with other family members if you want to double check.”

                You aren’t accusing. You are stating what you know based in 15 years experience.

                1. Sloanicote*

                  This is a good script. I think this is perfect. You’re not stating more than you know but you’re making the issue clear.

              2. The Rules are Made Up*

                I agree, its not a court of law. They could choose not to move forward with her because they didn’t like the color shirt she wore that day. “This person is likely lying about their background” throws everything they’ve said under scrutiny and why go through some deep investigation rather than saying woah that sounds messy, lets keep looking for other candidates.

            3. Observer*

              but still seems more sensitive/harder to disprove that something more concrete like claiming to hold a position they never held.

              No. She made an explicit point to claim experience that she totally did not have. That’s enough – and more than enough. I don’t think that the school needs to worry about it.

              Of course, if the OP’s mentor is typical of the school, that’s going to present a problem. But the problem is not that Connie’s behavior is only questionably problematic, but that the school is stuck in a problematic version of the past.

            4. Catherine*

              I think challenging the “immigrant” thing is the way to go.

              I notice that the OP said that the cousin’s parents have since divorced, but don’t know why… and I personally have had to disabuse my legal father’s white “relatives” of the misconception that they were related to me, because my legal and biological fathers are different. Any infidelity on the cousin’s mother’s part could mean that the race angle is something the cousin found out later in life, but the immigrant part is solidly disprovable.

              1. Orora*

                It would be correct to say, “During my close relationship with her, she identified as white.” You’re not saying definitively that she’s not white; you’re saying that your knowledge of her was as a white person, which is factual and allows for another (implausible, but still possible) explanation.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            And you have pretty good evidence as you knew each other as kids and are family. If you need to show receipts, you have them

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              Right? The absolute nerve to come into an interview, see THE COUSIN YOU GREW UP WITH on the interview panel, and proceed to overtly lie about your race, your socioeconomic status, and your immigration status the whole way through. That is…gobsmackingly gutsy, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

              1. On Fire*

                I don’t think I could have kept my mouth shut during the interview. I completely understand that OP may have been too gobsmacked to think of a response, but on a lie this huge, I think it would completely appropriate to call her out on it right there.

                1. Jasper*

                  “Connie? Oh my god! It’s been so long since we saw each other! Remember those long weekends at the lake, in our family’s vacation house with the yacht?”

          3. Ellie*

            Yes, this is the way I’d approach it – speak up and tell them that you know the candidate quite well and believe they are misrepresenting their background, then suggest they have a full background check done to confirm. There is a tiny chance that there is something you’re unaware of about your childhood friend (I’m thinking that she might have been adopted or be the product of an affair or something – it is possible), but there’s no harm in checking and the risk to your reputation is very high.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I got the Mean Girls flashback, “omg, you can’t just ask someone if they’re white.”
        meaning, the message was heard, but the meaning was missed.
        I don’t understand mentor’s ultimate reason for recommending OP hide from this, but I think it’s terrible advice and OP needs to ignore it.

        1. The Original K.*

          When the Rachel Dolezal story broke, I and every other Black person I spoke to about it was like “she’s white” when we saw her, and reasoned that it went on for so long because it really isn’t something you can ask. If I recall correctly, her former NAACP colleagues said more or less the same thing – that they knew or at least suspected, but what were they going to say?

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Yes. Especially frustrating when I think of friends I have who are mixed race but white-passing and have struggled with how to identify and orient themselves in a world that values these things.

            It feels like Connie take advantage of this in a cruel way.

            1. AceyAceyAcey*

              Agreed, I’m white passing multiracial (white and Asian), and these stories make my blood boil, bc they’re always followed by things like “well *I* could tell they’re white” or “if you look white you *are* white”, without any acknowledgment that (1) appearance isn’t binary, and (2) culture is also important, not just appearance.

          2. Justin*

            Well right. And how could we prove she didn’t have a Black grandmother or some such without knowing her personally?

            It’s a really insidious thing to lie about.

            1. Harvey 6 3.5*

              Indeed, even if we know someone personally, like here, maybe there was something hidden in the past and the woman isn’t actually lying entirely. (Ie, great-grandma had a secret lover, etc.). I agree with Allison, but I would tread lightly and stick to your knowledge.

              1. Deborah*

                I was thinking the same thing – -some secret infidelity going back a ways – maybe even a 23-and-me report showing 1.7% African heritage – but she’s also lying about the impoverished immigrant thing as well.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  I mean, I’ve got an ancestor who falls into “well, it’s not unlikely, but at this point we’re probably never going to know outside of a genetic test” but I still wouldn’t consider myself white-passing. That person, if they really were, would have been white passing. Maybe their children were. Everyone after that, especially me? Nope. I don’t have the right to claim that. It would be intense, incredible hubris to claim that.

                2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  One of Mr. Gumptions friends just got her Kiowa tribal ID. Based on a great, great grandma they qualify. However, she does not identify as Kiowa, has never been identified by anyone as Kiowa, has never had to live in the world as a Kiowa woman, and did not grow up in Kiowa culture. She does not identify as Native and is not using her tribal enrollment to gain advantage. She got it to honor her great, great grandma’s stolen culture and history and did it at the recommendation of the family that she reconnected with as she learned about the family. You can have the heritage without having the identity.

                3. Caroline Bowman*

                  Sure, sure, but that’s disingenuous and I think most people would think that. She is the child of white, wealthy, moneyed, non-immigrant people, has zero connection to any sort of ”racism has affected me” experience and is lying blatantly about it.

                4. Petty Betty*

                  This kind of falls into the “my great-great-great was a [insert Indigenous tribe here] princess/chief who had an affair with my [insert notorious relative here]”. Anything for the family to be able to claim some sort of Indigenous identity without the oppression (my own paternal line pulled this BS, and they routinely forget which female relative was the one who stepped out on her husband, but it is generally agreed that it wasn’t the one who had 5 children by 5 different husbands). Yet they conveniently forget their own Jewish heritage because they converted to avoid suspicion during early WWII.

                5. anonagoose*

                  That’s not white passing, though. White passing describes the specific experience of being a minority culturally and in lived experience (your family, your friends, perhaps your name, etc) and having an appearance that belies that. It’s a term that has its roots in the experiences of Black people who were light-skinned enough to pass as white, and the experience required actively denying their identities as Black and usually needed them to cut all ties with their Black lives. In modern usage, it typically refers to the experience of being in cultural and some experiential ways non-white and yet outwardly looking white, and that disconnect is central to the concept of what it means to “pass as white.”

                  A distant ancestor with melanin that didn’t get passed on doesn’t make you white passing, it just means you have a distant ancestor with melanin. Calling oneself a white-passing woman of color when the closest connection you have to a community of color is that distant is actively dishonest.

                6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Yes, and further to Seconds’ “Even a secret infidelity wouldn’t explain how she ‘has to confront racism daily’.”… I’m 100% white, my partner is 100% middle eastern. Our children have skin that’s in between but which passes for white in most situations. They have exotically dark brown eyes, but their hair is the same colour as mine. They only ever look exotic at family reunions on my side of the family where literally everyone else is white as the driven snow. My son is slightly darker and can also pass for a native in his father’s homeland, my daughter can’t quite manage it, compounded by the fact that European fashions are very different to what women wear in the Middle East, and she has never quite mastered the art of wearing a Muslim veil.
                  They have never ever been a victim of racism, except that they’ve been considered to be privileged to have an English-speaking mother in a European country (and had English teachers marking their work more severely… although French teachers never showed more leniency despite neither parent being of French origin).
                  So this woman calling herself white passing and claiming to be a victim of racism… that’s just plain ridiculous.
                  OP you should very definitely say something to everyone involved, get the old photo albums out and show that Connie is definitely a Warbleworth.

              2. Yorick*

                If your great-grandma had a secret lover that was so secret you were raised white, you still don’t have any lived experience as a Black person, no matter what your dna results say.

                1. Ellie*

                  Well, you might if people found out about it. In your example, its possible great-granddad knew and made your life a living hell, but it was kept a secret from everyone else.

                  I’m stretching here but given the OP is white, they need to be very careful, because it could look pretty terrible. Hire an investigator, its the only way to be sure.

                2. Irish Teacher*

                  I honestly don’t think it matters in this case. All the LW has to say is “I am related to Connie. She is part of the x family, grew up in y neighbourhood and attended such a school (assuming she attended a private or otherwise privileged school, which it is likely she did).” I don’t think the LW needs to do a big investigation to find out if there is ANY truth in Connie’s story or whether she is downright lying or simply presenting information so as to give a false impression. All she needs to do is tell the truth and whoever is in charge of hiring can decide whether or not they want to go ahead with her application.

              3. anonagoose*

                Speaking as a mixed race and white passing person, even this scenario isn’t one that would generally qualify someone to claim an identity like that. She’s talking about experiencing racism daily, and that’s not something that happens when you’re white passing and your connection to a racial minority is tenuous and that far back.

                Not to put too fine a point on it because it’s a very personal and contextual experience, but the difference between a white-passing person and a white person is their connection to the community they’re claiming, and unless there’s compelling evidence that the connection Connie is claiming is more profound than a distant ancestor’s secret lover, then it’s safe to say she’s in all meaningful ways a white woman.

                1. BB Connor*

                  Right. Being a white-passing woman allows you to move through the world without experiencing racism so harshly and frequently. If this was her true identity, she would know that.
                  An unmistakably black woman

          3. Sloanicota*

            Slightly worse than this, in a white-dominated landscape (so, the Dolezal example isn’t really what I’m talking about, given that her organization was probably minority-majority) – *they may actually prefer a white person that “counts” as black for their stats.* It’s almost like everybody (white) wins. This is the ugly truth when organizations want to achieve quotas but don’t actually have interest in doing the work. This hire would probably not be challenging or disruptive to the systems already in place but they can still say they hired a diverse candidate.

              1. Observer*

                Good point.

                OP, if this is true, that’s yet another reason to really distance yourself from your mentor.

            1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              Exactly. When you’re lying about your experience, you can tailor it in such a way that will most appeal to whoever you’re talking to. I’m reminded a little of the Jess Krug scandle, where her claims about background shifted based on what would grant her the most legitimacy in a given discussion. I think some of the coverage pointed out that she mostly asserted stolen legitimacy to speak over POC (or occasionally young white students) — but she didn’t use her position to challenge anyone more powerful or privileged than she.

            2. Lily Rowan*

              Yes, I had a college friend who was white and from Puerto Rico (he was Puerto Rican, all of his ancestors were European), and he knew full well that the big company he worked for loved having a “minority” on the books, but a white man at the table.

              At least he was actually Latino!

            3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              If anyone wants to see this addressed in a comedic manner, check out the “Pretendian” episode in Rutherford Falls

            4. Ellie*

              This is why OP needs to mention reputation damage – maybe their mentor doesn’t care if the candidate is really black or not, but you can bet he’ll care when she’s exposed as a fraud. And someone who would do this, would likely do other unethical things as well.

              Besides, she’s taking a position away from someone who deserves it more than she does. I’m assuming OP cares about that, even if their mentor doesn’t.

            5. Eater of Hotdish (fka jitm)*

              Boom. This right here.

              I am white, and Latine. The side of my family that immigrated from a Spanish-speaking Caribbean country? Their DNA comes up as, like, 99% European. I have to push back against being identified as a “technical” person of color, because I am seriously not, but I know for a fact that I’ve been offered opportunities because I would tick a checkbox that lets people feel good about their DEI efforts, while still being pasty enough not to scare people.

              What Connie is doing is entirely beyond the pale. Heh. Pale.

          4. socks*

            So, I actually lived in the area at the time the Rachel Dolezal story broke. I’m white, and I didn’t know her personally, but I knew people who did — including a friend of mine who is Black and really looked up to Rachel before the news broke.

            Admittedly I get a little defensive over my friend, but I do think some important context is missing from discussions of the situation. Only about 2% of the population in that area is Black, and about 4% of the population identify as mixed race. From people I knew at the time, I gathered that some of the willingness to believe Dolezal came from the fact that relatively white-passing multiracial people aren’t tremendously uncommon in the area. And with such a tiny community, in a frankly really racist area, I don’t think there was much appetite for questioning whether anyone really “belonged.”

          5. MM*

            The absolute rash of racefaking white women in academia over the past few years may have made it easier to ask. OP, if your mentor continues to push back on you, you might want to look up some of these cases–and/or just mention them when you raise the truth with the hiring committee, since it proves that this is really a thing that happens. (It sucks, it sucks so much, for all the actual women of color trying to make it in these gatekeep-y institutions that these precedents exist, but curse it all they do exist.) There have been at least three I can think of off the top of my head: Jessica Krug, Carrie Bourassa, BethAnn McLaughlin.

        2. MBK*

          On an irrelevant but funny side note, the Mean Girls quote is even better than that: “Oh my god Karen, you can’t just ask someone *why* they’re white.” (emphasis mine)

      3. Les*

        I read it more as, “you stand a good chance of being injured in the inevitable explosion that results from the truth coming out.” Right or wrong, I get the logic. OP is going to face some stringent demands for proof and is wide open for accusations of acting in bad faith. What if OP – as unlikely as it seems – is wrong or Connie has a half-plausible story to back what she says? That’s not going to help a career.

        That said, I agree the fallout will be much worse if nothing is said, the truth comes out, and the family connection is revealed. OP has the benefit of growing up with Connie and the insight that provides, so hopefully the unpleasantness of doing the right thing will be short-lived.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          “I read it more as, “you stand a good chance of being injured in the inevitable explosion that results from the truth coming out.” Right or wrong, I get the logic.”
          Thank you. I see now. That explains it to me.

          1. jane's nemesis*

            Yes, this is really helpful! I couldn’t understand why the mentor would say that.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          But LW can literally stick just to what she knows, factually:

          – This candidate is a relative. LW & candidate spent lots of time together in their childhood.
          – LW found it odd that candidate pretended not to know LW when they met face to face, and wants to disclose their relationship prior to any hiring decisions.
          Candidate’s family includes xyz people, and those people are prominent people of (wealth? privilege? whatever is objectively apparent) which doesn’t match what candidate said in interview.

          Maybe LW doesn’t even officially assert that candidate is lying about their race, since it’s not like LW ever saw the candidate’s DNA profile, so who knows. Even just the “candidate is misrepresenting their background” will be enough to get the hiring committee to look closely at credentials or ask some questions.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            This is perfect. Speak up now, stick to the facts, and let the hiring committee take over from there.

            Good luck!

          2. Bananagram*

            Yes, as a fellow white female academic in a (guilty white male) department, this is the approach I’d take. Particularly if you don’t have tenure or another kind of secure employment, OP, it’s safer that way. What matters is that she doesn’t take the spot from a genuine BIPOC candidate, not that she gets publicly shamed.

          3. Big Bank*

            Agreed. For all we know Connie is adopted and the family just keeps that pretty private. The upbringing however is solid, unshakable ground.

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          Some childhood photos, yearbook pictures? ”Here is Connie, and she’s my cousin. We grew up together. She pretended not to know me at all in the interview, which was bizarre, but as far as I know, everyone in our family on both sides is white and no one is a recent immigrant. As far as I know, she went to X school and in fact her parents name is on Y library on ABC Street.

          Factual, straightforward, non-editorialised info.

        4. Observer*

          I read it more as, “you stand a good chance of being injured in the inevitable explosion that results from the truth coming out.” Right or wrong, I get the logic.

          If the mentor were thinking of the right thing to do, the way to avoid the problem would be to counsel the OP on how to present this, rather than blathering about “optics” and making it sound like Connie is being “attacked over her race”.

          1. MM*

            Not to mention, when it eventually comes out and LW didn’t say anything, they will DEFINITELY be injured in that explosion.

      4. A Reader*

        The mentor’s advice made me wonder how the Lettwe Writer presented the info. Was it “this candidate is my cousin, and I know she’s lying about her background” or “I suspect this candidate is lying about her background”?

        If it’s the second option, I can maybe understand the mentor’s caution.

      5. NerdyKris*

        Yeah I’m wondering why this was even able to happen. It’s LW’s cousin. Why wouldn’t they say “Oh hi Connie!” when they realized who it was? Why wouldn’t they clarify during the interview that this information was wrong? Did they just sit there stonefaced as their own cousin pretended not to know them?
        And then the mentor thinking this would still be “attacking a POC” and not “Hey, this is my cousin, and she pretended not to know me, this is super weird”.
        Honestly this letter is a little suspect.

        1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and out fell out*

          It’s just so brazen on “Connie’s” part that it seems likely that LW has mistaken her identity.

        2. Anona*

          Agree. I think the letter is real but wonder why OP said absolutely nothing about knowing the candidate.

          1. Anona*

            That being said, the Board may not care and unless LW can come up with a DNA test, there’s not much LW can do.

          2. JustaTech*

            The LW did say that she was ” speechless the entire time” – when someone brazenly breaks all the social rules it can be so outside your expectations that you genuinely don’t know how to react. And then there’s also the social expectations to not “cause a scene” that can hold people (especially women) back from speaking up.

            (Years ago there was a TV ad for A1 steak sauce where a woman is speaking quietly but intensely to a man at a fancy restaurant in what sounds like a serious marital argument, but then it turns out he’s a random stranger who sat down at her table and ate her husband’s steak while he was in the bathroom. The “joke” is that the social situation (fancy restaurant) prevents her from just saying “who are you, get out of my husband’s chair and stop eating his steak!”)

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              If one of my cousins I was close to for 15 years blanked me and then lied about the family in to interview panel I was on, there would be 1 of 2 outcomes, and only one professional, because my brain would legit vapor lock

              1. Speechless “WTF, I can’t believe this is happening!”
              2. Saying, “WTF Connie, your my cousin, we grew up together, you are a damned Warbleworth! Why are you lying???”

              1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

                I’d default to number 1, because the entire time I’d be going “is this a doppelganger? Was I wrong this whole time??” Because WHO DOES THAT?

                … and then I’d go talk to my mother afterwards to make sure I hadn’t slipped into an alternate dimension or radically misunderstood something. So I get it. Sometimes the really brazen liars get away with it precisely because they’re so brazen.

                1. Lab Boss*

                  Because if you’re right about who she is, you can always undo number 1 later by going to management. If you’re WRONG about who she is, there’s really no saving number 2.

                2. ferrina*

                  This. I’ve known some amazing liars in my time, and it’s not that they are good at lying, it’s that they lie so confidently about the most insane things that you slip into intense cognitive dissonance. “I know X is true, but they are so confident that it’s not true and it’s so disprovable that they wouldn’t do that if it weren’t really true. So I’m wrong, right?”

                3. Littorally*


                  It is easier to escalate later than to blow up and have to de-escalate afterward. Not saying anything in the moment, especially since it sounds like OP wasn’t leading the interview, and taking some time to do some homework (check in with mom, make sure that this really *is* cousin Connie and not a doppelganger, etc) in preparation to escalate later seems like a perfectly rational way to go about it.

              2. quill*

                If it were just not greeting me I might be like “oh, she’s trying to prevent this from looking nepotism-ish, this is awkward but OK,” but with everything else… I’m guessing social conditioning not to interrupt as Connie dug herself deeper and deeper into a hole of lies is what prevented OP from saying anything.

            2. just another bureaucrat*

              Thank you. I think it’s always extremely easy to sit back and say what we’d think we’d do in the moment and tsk at people for not doing enough. And maybe all of those people are able to do it perfectly in the moment, but it would be nice for a little compassion for those of us unable to zinger or even professionally say, “Aren’t you Connie, my cousin that I grew up with?” or whatever in the moment.

              (I am 100% in the would not have called someone out and would have been texting family later to see if I was losing my mind because that seems far more likely than this behavior.)

          3. Amaranth*

            From the outside, it seems to me they could have said ‘Hi Connie, I didn’t realize you were applying, hey everyone this is my cousin does that change our process?’ However, OP didn’t sound very self-confident, if Connie was very obviously acting like they’d never met, OP might not have known how to walk that back without destroying her chances and…froze.

            But it does make me wonder, if they’ve just reconnected on social media, how sure OP is this is their cousin.

      6. Starlike*

        It also makes a huge difference that this is a *family member* – not just some random person they’re pretty sure is lying. They know for absolutely certain, with a lifetime of receipts, that this person is not who they’re claiming to be.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              It wasn’t clear to me that OP’s uncle was Connie’s father, though – only that he was married to her mother for a time.

              I have relations like this, and it’s not uncommon to lose contact with them when your familial connection is broken (in OP’s case, by divorce).

              1. Michaela T*

                That’s how I read it, Connie’s Mom was married OP’s uncle for 15 years. Doesn’t read like he is Connie’s father. I am assuming OP knows or has met Connie’s father, tilhough, since she says both sides of her family are white.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          HOw is she sitting there right in front of her cousin, who knows who she is, and not crumble underneath the lie she knows she’s telling?!

      7. Observer*

        Ok, more constructive: The mentor’s advice just comes off as “people are so sensitive these days” in a slightly more professional-looking coat.

        That stood out to me, too.

        1. Zee*

          If she’s hired and it comes out later, the story is going to be, “LW is her cousin and was in on the whole thing.”

          You’ll be painted as an accomplice due to the family connection. Speak up, speak up, speak up!

      1. Mariposa*

        Just wanted to say thank you for posting that article, this was always one of those “obviously it’s different but I can’t articulate why” things.

  1. Hills to Die on*

    1. All the ethics.
    2. Absolutely spot on – you have to CYA. Maybe some old photos and screen shots etc in case you need proof?
    3. I just…unbelievable.

    1. 3DogNight*

      YES! OP–This is your cousin. Not some girl you went to school with in 1st grade and think you remember. You absolutely have standing to let your hiring team know what you know, and ethically, you need to be telling them this information.
      And, I really need an update on this! Add to the call for updates pile!

  2. Wisteria*

    “ First, I’m assuming that you know this is definitely the same Connie you grew up with.”

    Have you called your mom and basically asked, “the hell is Connie’s deal right now?”

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      it sounds like Connie’s mom was, but is no longer, married to LW’s uncle? In which case, LW’s mom probably has no idea what nonsense Connie is up to.

      1. Lacey*

        “Her mother and my uncle got divorced quite a while ago, but our mothers are still very good friends.”

      2. Wisteria*

        our mothers are still very good friends.

        Of course, LW’s mom might not know what the what Connie is doing! But along the lines of being sure it’s the same Connie, finding out whether anything new came up for that family might be worthwhile.

        1. I-Away 8*

          Agreed. As wild as it would be, mistaken identity is no less plausible than the other possiblity. At least call your mother to rule that out before doing anything else.

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            Yup. This was what I was going to say. If you’re gonna open a can of worms, make very sure you’re right. But once you’re sure, you kinda have to open this can. Even without the ethical considerations, it’s too likely to blow up on your face if your don’t.

        2. Sarah*

          I don’t understand why this OP didn’t recuse themselves from the hiring process when their cousin entered the room? That is a clear conflict of interest.

          This letter seems really odd to me.

          Which isn’t to say that a Connie couldn’t be real – of course they could – but, this letter seems off.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Right! If the OP got the resume before the interview, she would not have expected it to be her cousin, since it was just the same name. But as soon as she saw it WAS her cousin, she should have spoken up. Not because she was in shock of what the cousin was saying, but because she needed to point out the conflict of interest.

          2. WellRed*

            Right! Did she not know Connie was interviewing? When she did, why go along with the charade of not knowing her? I have so many questions.

          3. TakeStock*

            It is likely that OP isn’t on the hiring committee, but rather was invited to meet with the candidate in a group with others in the department or area. This commonly happens in academia (and I’d assume other places) where candidates meet with different groups of folks who can then pass comments on to the hiring committee, but have no official capacity in the process.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              Concurring that I have participated in something like this, have no hiring capacity myself, and am definitely not in academia :)

            2. BethDH*

              This was my read too. And those situations often involve a dozen or so people and a more formal situation, so speaking up is the equivalent of commenting at a lecture or something, not really a conversational setting.

            3. Not Putting Myself on Blast*

              I can concur as someone who is working in academia, that I’ve sat in on an interview for a person being hired in my division at that time, and also asked the interviewee questions, but our input as a department was considered in addition to the information and interviews done by the actual hiring committee.
              Said interviewee did get hired, which is a damned good thing she meshed with our group right from the start! That said, yeah, LW should say something to a higher up, even if it’s just “FYI Connie is my cousin through marriage, I was unaware of this about her history, but I wanted to let someone know just in case it gets out that we’re related” and leave it at that.

          4. fhqwhgads*

            My reading of it was: based on resume alone, candidate appeared to be a same-name different person than step-cousin. Candidate walked in the room and sure as hell looked and sounded like step-cousin, but acted like they didn’t know LW at all. LW was stunned silent unsure what the hell was happening and didn’t think to recuse. Plus or minus the whole time possibly thinking “but you’re – or…maybe you’re not? no…you are? What is happening.”

          5. Observer*

            I don’t understand why this OP didn’t recuse themselves from the hiring process when their cousin entered the room?

            The OP SAYS why – they were in shock.

            I’m not sure why that’s so “odd”.

          6. Claire*

            Or why didn’t they even say, “Ohmigosh, cousin Connie, hi!” when Connie entered the room? It doesn’t add up.

            1. kiki*

              My thought was that LW may have tried to say hi extra warmly ( like you’d greet a friend or family member) and then was confused an uncertain how to proceed when Connie didn’t acknowledge them. It’d be kind of odd to do a long, drawn-out, “Connie! Connie! It’s me! Your cousin? Do you not recognize me?” in an interview. And that’s what Connie was banking on.

      3. NerdyKris*

        LW says they’re connected on Facebook, so maybe they should reach out and ask “Was that you? Why did you pretend not to know me?”, although that still doesn’t explain why LW didn’t say anything like “Oh hi Connie!” in the interview.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          I was imagining that LW did say “oh hi, Connie!” and Connie responded with something like “hi there! So nice to meet you!” and that kind of short-circuited LW’s brain.

    2. Pippa K*

      This, and also When we were introduced in the interview, she pretended not to know me.

      I’m not sure I could have stopped myself from saying “Connie, what’s going on, we grew up together, of course you know me!” Probably with a laugh because I’d have had to assume she was kidding; what else could it be? But then to realize she’s actually seriously trying to pull off a racial-identity scam…wow. OF COURSE you need to tell people. And it’s odd that after seeing you in the interview, she’s apparently carrying on with the pretence, assuming you won’t say anything to others? So weird.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I had the same thought. I wondered if OP was sort of in a ‘sitting in’ place in the interview, with others leading?

        Maybe Connie had a panic response and just plowed forward? It seems crazy to me that she would go forward with this.

        1. NeedRain47*

          If this is in fact Connie pretending to be someone she’s not, in a way that’s abusive of immigrants and people of color, her use of logic and critical thinking went out the window way before the interview. Connie doesn’t have a plan besides going forward.

          I would absolutely have been too flabbergasted to say anything during the meeting. But someone needs to point out to OPs old white man boss that this will explode if you ignore it.

        1. Umpire*

          If OP has gone as far as to speak to their boss and message Alison, I think it’s fair to say they’ve done the obvious, hm?

      2. feathersflight*

        Shock, I think. If I was confronted with someone baldfaced lying to me in a professional setting like that, I think I’d be taken so aback that I couldn’t really respond. It makes you feel like you’re going mad. And if you’re non-confrontational, you’re not going to call someone out on a lie in front of other people. I could see a younger-me being paralyzed in that situation and, like LW seems to be, remaining in a “WTF do I do about this??” paralysis even afterwards.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Yep, same. I totally freeze up in stressful or confusing situations, so I totally get why OP would as well. And probably the other interviewers didn’t notice, and just carried on with the conversation – at which point it would have felt too late for OP to interject and go “hey, can we just backtrack to the introductions for a second?”

        2. NeedRain47*

          Not only that, but if you are an observer during a panel interview, and you burst out and make a scene, it’s going to make things terribly awkward for every single person in that room. Is the interviewer supposed to carry on with the interview? Just take your word for it? It’d be disruptive in a way that isn’t helpful and knowing academia, probably get blamed on OP.

          1. Littorally*

            Yup. I don’t fault the OP for their non-reaction in the moment one little bit.

            If you’re going to make a scene, you had better be on very firm ground. At that moment, they weren’t — by their own admission, they were shocked and confused.

          2. Avril Ludgateau*

            Who says she has to make a scene? She could be sly about it, like, “Cousin Connie, is that you? Connie Chesterfield, of the Cleveland Chesterfields? Of the Chesterfield Wing of the Cleveland Clinic?”

            I’m not sure why people are framing it as if there are only two options: full-on freeze or full-on fight.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          I wouldn’t even call it shock. If presented with an incongruous situation in a larger context where there is a lot of scrutiny and social capital riding on it, staying in the background and assessing every detail is a very common approach. And also a fine one as long as there is nothing going on that needs intervention here and now. (Someone carrying out a racist, antisemitic, sexist attack for example.)

          1. Irish Teacher*

            TV Tropes refers to these situations as “Refuge in Audacity,” doing something so outrageous that there is a good chance you won’t be challenged because it will take everybody too long to get their heads around what you’ve just one to react in time.

      3. Ann O'Nemity*

        I’m with Pippa – I would have wanted to say something to Connie right there and then. And short of that, I’d be tempted to reach out to Connie now through those social media connections.

      4. Yorick*

        If my former step-cousin that I hadn’t seen in a long time didn’t seem to recognize me when we were introduced, I might not say anything. Maybe I’d think right away that it’s impossible they didn’t recognize me and they must have been pretending, but probably not and even then I don’t think I’d say anything.

        Then, during the interview, she finds out this person is claiming a different racial background. I’d be pretty confused in the moment and probably wouldn’t just say, “what on earth are you talking about??”

        1. Siege*

          Most people, caught off guard in that situation, would hesitate to say anything (maybe there’s a reasonable explanation coming up! Maybe I missed the part where she said she was going to portray a character for a roleplay question! Is it possible that Connie meant after we lost touch when I didn’t know she’d emigrated to another country where she was a minority and she’s speaking about that experience?) because when people present the unreasonable as totally matter-of-fact, we tend to question whether what we know is right rather than whether the other person is bald-faced lying.

      5. The Rules are Made Up*

        Maybe but human brains are weird and plus its super jarring and embarrassing for someone who you definitely know to pretend not to know you so I get why the LW might have been too confused and thrown off to react another way. Plus if Connie doubled down on pretending not to know her, LW would probably look like the odd one to everyone who doesn’t know the situation.

    3. Heidi*

      I’m wondering what Connie thinks the OP is going to do. Did she not know that OP was working there?

    4. Engineer Woman*

      My first thought as well, to call up the Connie you know and be like: what’s going on, cuz?

      My second thought – could this be a doppelgänger and not the OP’a relative?

      1. ThatGirl*

        LW saw Connie’s resume, it sounds like — I think we should assume LW knows for sure it’s the same Connie.

      2. Three Flowers*

        Or is there any possibility that Connie is, in fact, mixed race? Maybe I read too much Reddit drama, but it is not impossible that she has a bio parent who isn’t who you thought they were, and even possible that *she* didn’t find that out until after you lost touch. (Finding out as an adult that she had one Black great-great-great grandparent from 23andme doesn’t count.)

        Ask mom. Be very direct.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          That doesn’t explain the rest of the claims such as immigrant, poor upbringing, etc…

          1. Three Flowers*

            True. I read the post too fast, so thanks for the correction!

            With that in mind, I have trouble seeing this as anything other than a Dolezal. They’re unfortunately not that uncommon in academia. If you really want something bizarre, read the saga of sciencing_bi, an Indigeous queer woman scholar and activist on Twitter who died of COVID after being forced to teach in person…only she didn’t, because she was the invention of a White woman scholar, and the whole thing was a scoop of bad hallucinogenic sprinkles on the sh*t sundae of summer 2020.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              Yeah, it’s very hard to square. I’d suggest the LW takes one round of making sure there is no chance of a confusion (same name, or a family secret the LW isn’t privy to). Then find something in either her CV or her public writing that definitely doesn’t square with what you know for a fact first hand and then go to the hiring committee with the concern, saying what you said here – that she’s your cousin and you knew her throughout your childhoods.

              I imagine that she must be working in a different field, because it was a surprise to you to see her there. (That is, you didn’t keep up with the academic career of your childhood companion & cousin.) I guess I’d start with a call to your mother, followed maybe by hers. Depending.

        2. Clobberin' Time*

          This doesn’t explain why Connie would pretend not to know the OP, or why she would go on and on about having experienced oppression.

        3. Sweet 'N Lower*

          That was my thought at first, but LW also mentions that Connie is claiming she’s an immigrant. That one is much easier to definitively disprove.

        4. Bagpuss*

          Yes, I wondered about that until I saw the rest about the impoverished background etc.

          I have to assume that OP is 100% sure that the woman she met at the interview is her cousin Connie, since I sassume that if she was remotely unsure she owould have said so.
          OP – do you have any recent photos of Connie, on social media 9or from your Mom) that you could screenshot so you can show the person you speak to that it is definitely the same person that they met?

          It just seems so bizarre that she would make this up.

          I would also do as others have suggested and double check with your mom that there hasn’t been any unexpected family development – even of it were only ythr mixed drace part which was true it might be reasonable to let the hiring team know the full picture

        5. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

          She still isn’t facing racism every day of her life like she claimed.

    5. Shhhh*

      I’d have been on the phone with my mom the second I could. I mean, I saw on LinkedIn a few weeks ago that an acquaintance of mine from college had just been hired by the law firm my mom works for and I screenshotted that immediately and sent it to her. And that was without any concerns about the acquaintance’s professionalism, ethics, representation of himself on his resume, etc…it was just a “huh, small world” kind of thing.

      To be fair, my family is pretty gossipy and I know not everyone is, but that would’ve been my first step.

      This is so incredibly bizarre though I realize not remotely impossible. LW, if there is any chance that it could be a different Connie, please look into that.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        How fantastic would it have been to call mom during the interview? have the conversation on speaker. lol.

        1. Shhhh*

          Haha. “Hey Mom, what’s up? I was just wondering what’s going on with [step?] cousin Connie? Yeah, she’s here at work interviewing and she’s claiming that she grew up as an impoverished immigrant POC – did I miss something?”

          Not the most professional but definitely the stuff of fantasy.

    6. This is Artemesia*

      As I read this, Connie is her cousin. If that is so, I’d lead with that ‘she is my cousin, we grew up together; her parents, my Uncle Ray and his wife Aunt Tilda were wealthy white people — she is not adopted. I am really uncomfortable with her claiming she is black.’

      1. Cee*

        Since she said that her mother was married to her uncle (rather than calling the uncle connie’s father) I’d assumed this was a step-cousin situation in which connie has a biological father who is not the uncle. Since the OP seems so sure that she is in fact white, I’m assuming LW knows the heritage of the biological father, otherwise it would be absurd to say you know for a fact she isn’t a POC since she could very well have a father of a different race.

        1. Siege*

          That read to me as explaining which parent OP’s family is blood related to. The uncle is OP’s mother’s brother, which is further expanded on by saying that the two mothers (OP’s and Connie’s) stayed close after the divorce, which would be unlikely to be necessary as a statement if they were sisters. We have zero reason to assume that Connie’s parents are not her biological parents, mostly because if there was any chance Connie’s parents were not her bio parents, an OP writing in about this concern would probably have either noted it or considered it as dismissing any need to reach out to an advice blog.

          In any case, the racial issue isn’t actually the most relevant, because a) Connie pretended not to know OP, which is a lie; b) Connie lied about being an immigrant; c) Connie lied about growing up poor. The provable lies are relevant. And in some ways, a is the most important, because Connie should have guessed right then and there that her house of cards was about to come down, and she still went ahead with her crap.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Yes, and it’s also possible that she was adopted – I belive that step-parent adoptions are muchmore common in the US than in my country, and if OP and Connie are of a simialr age then it’s also possible that she could have been adopted and OP might not know – some people do still keep adoption secret .
          Obviously none of that addresses the claims about growing up impoverished and it may be that OP does know for sure who Connie’s bio dad was , but I think because it is sucgh a signicifant allegation, OP should be careful to be scrupulously exact when she speaks to her boss.

      2. Storm in a teacup*

        It sounds like she is a step cousin to me, which may make broaching this a little trickier unless OP knows her bio dad and can attest to that.
        However as others have said, the poor immigrant background false claims are unethical enough to raise in and of themselves.
        I can understand how OP may have not been able to say anything whilst on the panel. My understanding is a lot of academic interview panels can be quite large and so she may not have had an opportunity to say anything.
        I am also stunned the Connie hasn’t reached out to OP since the interview to say anything.
        Op – ethically you need to report the facts as you know them, without any postulations or suggestions. Then it is up to the lead interviewer to decide how to handle

      3. kiki*

        I didn’t realize this until I was an adult, but one of my cousins who I was close to was actually not my uncle’s biological daughter (though he adopted her and raised her as his own). It’s very possible Connie is just wildin’ out Dolezal style, but I think it’s worthwhile for LW to investigate a bit and make sure they’re absolutely certain they’re not missing some info. This is very much a “if you fire, you cannot miss” sort of scenario.

        1. EPLawyer*

          like her growing up a poor immigrant?

          OP does not have to disprove every single sentence uttered by Connie to raise her concerns.

          1. kiki*

            I wasn’t recommending LW do a full background check on Connie, but I think if you’re about to make any serious accusation, it’s prudent to make sure there isn’t some information you’re missing. I think LW calling their mom and asking, “Hey, Cousin Connie said X and Y in a work interview– that seemed off to me. Is there more to Connie’s backstory than I’m aware of?” is pretty easy to do before bringing their concerns to the board.

            1. Observer*

              The thing is that it’s not really relevant if step-dad adopted her or not. What is relevant is that she’s not just “white passing”, and she is definitely NOT a poor immigrant who faces racism every day.

              When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras.

              The OP doesn’t need to make a huge fuss. All they need to do it to present the facts as they were presented above – Her mom was married to Uncle, Mom and Uncle are of families that have been in the US for multiple generations, they definitely had money while she was growing up.

              Those are things that the OP knows, and it’s enough.

              1. kiki*

                In my experience with people who lie like this, they are able to twist uncertainty to their benefit. So if the board were to approach Connie with the accusations and there was any sliver of truth in Connie’s story, there’s room for Connie to work with. She could jump to accusing LW of having it out for her or say LW doesn’t know what they’re talking about and making it into a whole mess at work. I just feel like a quick check-in with LW’s mom is easy enough and could help prevent some messiness.

                When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras… but if you’re near the window you may as well double-check.

                1. Observer*

                  In my experience with people who lie like this, they are able to twist uncertainty to their benefit. So if the board were to approach Connie with the accusations and there was any sliver of truth in Connie’s story, there’s room for Connie to work with.

                  Not at all. There really is not any “uncertainty” in the plain facts that the OP should be presenting. Keep in mind that even if Connie can prove that she has some Black ancestry, there is just no way to spin “impoverished immigrant childhood” out of that.

              2. tamarack and fireweed*

                Well, the fact is that if it *is* a zebra, the LW would be doing a lot of harm. So a round of due diligence – is there something going on with my cousin/step-cousin that I didn’t know about? Did I just extrapolate my childish understanding and not see something – is definitely called for, even when the situation as described is overwhelmingly likely.

          2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

            No, but given that LW can prove the poor immigrant part, if she’s not sure about the racial identity LW may just want to skip it. Why give Connie an unnecessary gotcha that she could use to try and undermine LW’s larger point?

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I think LW should just tell what she knows for a fact, that Connie is her cousin and grew up in such a family in such a neighbourhood and her parents worked at whatever their jobs were. I don’t think she needs to bring up the question of whether Connie may have other aspects to her background, because…well, it seems pretty clear she did NOT grow up in poverty, facing racism every day, so even if all the rest is true, there’s enough there to shed some doubt.

          And yes, Connie COULD explain it away but that’s really between the board and Connie. At least the LW has then ensured that when the whole thing inevitably comes out, nobody can accuse her of having been part of the fraud.

          Heck, just the fact that Connie and the LW are relatives and that Connie neither informed the LW she was attending for interview, so that the LW could recuse herself if she deemed it wise or admitted to their relationship when she saw her there is enough that the LW would want to mention it. Simply being party to hiring a relative without admitting to the relationship could cause trouble for both parties. With everything else involved here, I think it would look extremely bad for the LW if she DIDN’T say something.

          Again, that doesn’t mean she has to announce that “Connie is a lying liar who lies.” She can simply say, “I found it very odd that Connie didn’t acknowledge me at her interview. We’re cousins. I’ve known her since she was a child. And some of what she said was extremely surprising to me. To the best of my knowledge, she had a pretty privileged upbringing. She’s part of such a family and grew up in such a privileged area of the city.”

      4. Ann O'Nemity*

        How about something like:

        “I feel obligated to share some background about Connie that I know from personal experience. Her mom was married to my uncle for 15 years, during which time she was white and wealthy. I was shocked to hear the way she described herself and her background in the interview, as it was so different from what I remember. The narrative she told was incomplete at best, and may even be a complete misrepresentation. This is problematic on a number of levels, and I hope the hiring committee will do some additional research on Connie before hiring her.”

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Edit to add:

          “… Because of my personal connection and the potential conflict of interest, I think it’s best that I step out of the hiring process where Connie is concerned.”

    7. MissM*

      Also since they’re friends on social media, I’d be scouring it right now. Because some of this has to be on there if this is something Connie has been doing for a while (assuming that this isn’t some sort of Project Veritas stunt, that they’re trying to prove that universities are so “woke” that they’ll believe anything if someone claims to be an immigrant/not white)

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Wait – what’s a Project Veritas stunt? This has been done before?

        1. Don P.*

          Project Veritas is a right-wing organization that, to put it in the least objectionable terms I can manage, specializes in anti-left sting operations, generally secretly recorded and then edited deceptively. They are the reason that ACORN, the organization that used to work on registering (largely) POC voters, no longer exists.

          1. Canadian Librarin #72*

            (Off topic, but ACORN does still exist in Canada. It concentrates on tenants rights advocacy and poverty alleviation, since we don’t have the kind of problems with voter suppression here as the US does.)

          2. pancakes*

            To clarify, its targets aren’t just organizations on the left (which there aren’t many of in the US), it also targets mass market media organizations in the center, and organizations perceived as having a left-of-center bias. It’s a problem in itself that what passes for “left” keeps shifting among people on the right, to be so inclusive as to be meaningless. It’s been a years-long strategy on the right to collapse the differences between, say, the Washington Post or The NY Times and actual socialist organizations and activists.

  3. MI Dawn*

    Agreed. I would go to the senior person, stating this is a family member you have known since childhood, know her parents, and that she is not a person of color, not from poverty and is misrepresenting herself. Advise that they take a long, hard look at her CV also.

    1. LTR FTW*

      Yeah. This seems pretty cut and dried. It’s not like OP is looking at a stranger and making a judgment about their race. OP KNOWS this person. Not in passing. Grew up with her. IS RELATED TO HER.

      I don’t get how this is even vaguely a question, honestly.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I don’t get how this is even vaguely a question, honestly.

        I agree, but I’m sympathetic to OP asking because it’s just so brazen. Sometimes when I see someone do something that shamelessly it causes me to second-guess my normal impulses.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          That’s always it, isn’t it? We are caught off guard when people lie to this extent and we don’t react the way we think we would from the outside. This is pathological. Someone who has this kind of composure — in the face of a relative! — and commitment to the lie would throw me off too. It’s bizarre enough to make you second guess reality.

          1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

            True. I mean, rationally, Connie would see LW and withdraw her name cuz she’d know she wouldn’t get away with this here. But if she is just that brazen/delusional a con artist, it’s very discombobulating. She exhales gaslight.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        Well, she’s only kind of related to the OP.

        I have a similar cousin: her mom was pregnant by another man when she married my uncle. After the divorce, she has been estranged, on and off, from my uncle, but has remained close with my uncle’s mother (my maternal grandmother). Technically, she’s an ex-stepcousin. But really, she’s a cousin, about as close to me as most of my other cousins are (which is not very). However, I know completely nothing about my own cousin’s biological family except that she got her mother’s blond hair and blue eyes, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable making assumptions about her father’s race or ethnicity.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Agreed. I was just problematizing “related to her.” My cousin and I aren’t currently related in any way, biologically or by marriage. I think claiming that relation might put OP in hot water (she might not be privy to all of the issues surrounding Connie’s conception) and she should stick to the facts of, “I grew up with Connie and know her childhood was like X and she did not experience life as an immigrant or as a person of color for 15 years of her childhood.”

        1. LTR FTW*

          From the OP: “Connie spoke passionately about being a white-passing woman of color who has to confront racism daily, and how her past *struggles with an impoverished upbringing* as an immigrant in the U.S. have shaped her teaching values.”

          I mean, that’s just lies.

          1. Amaranth*

            I was trying to figure a way any of this could be true and I suppose during the many years they lost touch that Connie could have learned she was actually adopted from poor immigrants, but if she was honestly trying to claim that experience for herself it is dishonest, or she needs some professional help dealing with her circumstances.

        2. Yorick*

          I have a former step-cousin too. I guess I never met her father or knew much about him, so it would be possible she’s mixed race and very white-passing. But I would still speak up, with the caveat that I don’t know everything about her, but I do know x, y, and z.

      3. NervousNellie*

        I think the reason it’s a question is because OP is bearing the burden of proof, and let’s face it, it’s going to look pretty crazy to say “uhm, she’s pretending to be black.” That’s a BOLD truth. Look at it from the other side, management is suddenly being told a pretty big story that they need to believe. (Not saying OP is lying, but that management may very well initially believe that.)

        1. Seconds*

          It seems strange to me to disbelieve someone who says, “I grew up with this person for 15 years, and this is what happened.” If people I worked with didn’t believe me when I said that, I’d say that my cousin was the least of my troubles.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          OP doesn’t have to prove anything. All they have to do is share the facts that they know.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          I don’t think the OP has to say “she’s pretending to be black.” Just something like, “I found that whole situation very odd. Connie is a cousin of mine. We grew up together. I was about to greet her and ask why she hadn’t told me she was applying for the job, when she completely blanked me and acted like we were meeting for the first time. I didn’t know how to react but figured I’d let it go. But she said some things that really confused me. She talked as if she’d grown up in poverty when to the best of my knowledge, she had a pretty privileged upbringing. She’s related to x family, attended y school, living in z neighbourhood.” The final things are easy to verify and if she attended a private school or lived in an expensive neighbourhood, the latter would almost certainly be the case, it pretty much disproves what she is saying straight off.

          Nor do I think the OP bears the burden of proof. She tells what she knows, then it’s up to the board to hire Connie or not.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Yeah I do NOT get the mentor’s position on optics. Like it will look bad if OP calls out someone for not being black. Yeah it would be bad if OP DID NOT KNOW THE PERSON. Like if she said “oh hey, Consuela is not really hispanic, I can tell from the way she pronounces certain words.” That would be bad. BUT SHE KNOWS CONNIE. She knows CONNIE is as whitebread as you get. She knows she is not an immigrant.

      The OPTICS of allowing this to happen would be really really really bad for the university. Like really really really. You need to talk to someone about this and explain HOW you know. So they know its not just a “hey something doesn’t feel right” situation.

      1. Elenna*

        Yes, and you know what also looks bad, optics-wise? Having this come out and and having people realize you know her and you didn’t say anything!

      2. pbnj*

        And it will look bad for OP too when it comes out. It’s going to look like OP covered for Connie, even though that’s not true.

      3. Wintermute*

        by the third or fourth re-reporting of the story that personal connection is really easy for someone to leave out, and that’s why she was advised to leave it. there’s only a few ways this goes well and a lot of ways it goes poorly, if the story gets wider traction with details omitted or wrong, if someone decides to call the LW out publicly and context is missed, if it goes viral and starts a big to-do…

        Too many ways it could go wrong, not many it can go right.

        1. Radical Edward*

          Which is exactly why this should be an email, not a conversation. An email that CCs more than one person, if at all possible. OP needs to carefully word and document their raising of this issue, in order to protect themselves if nothing else.

        2. socks*

          As far as negative consequences go, I think “Connie is exposed at some point and LW’s academic colleagues doubt their integrity because they covered for their lying cousin” is both more likely and more career-ruining than “this goes viral on Twitter with the LW’s name associated but not the fact that they’re cousins.”

          1. Irish Teacher*

            To be honest, I’d say it would be more than that. And it WOULD almost certainly come out. This would be hard to hide. It’s not somebody lying about ONE little detail that could be glossed over; virtually EVERYTHING appears to be a lie.

            And honestly, while I can’t see “woman turned down for a job” going viral, let alone “woman turned down for a job because this specific interviewer had a private conversation with her boss in which she expressed doubts as to whether or not woman really grew up poor,” I think it HIGHLY likely that “woman gets job under false pretences from interviewing panel which includes her cousin who pretended not to know her and did not recuse herself from the panel.” I know “pretended not to know her” isn’t what happened, but that is definitely how it would look if she doesn’t say anything and Connie gets the job. The assumption will likely be that the LW and Connie plotted this together. There might even be suggestions that the LW SUGGESTED Connie make these claims in order to gain an unfair advantage.

            I cannot imagine why anybody would (or how anybody COULD) call the LW out publicly because the board choose not to employ Connie. It wouldn’t even be her decision. And even if they DID, the twitter mob would be limited in what they could do. Contact LW’s employers? They would know the truth.

            On the other hand, if Connie is hired, this WILL come out and is very likely to go viral and the LW, as her cousin and part of the hiring process, is likely to be at the centre of it.

            Whatever about ways that letting people know could go badly, I find it hard to imagine any way in which remaining silent could go any way OTHER than end badly. I would think best case scenario would be it doesn’t make the papers (or LW is kept out of it) and her employers, while possibly suspicious, can’t prove she was involved (because she wasn’t) and all she has to deal with is criticism and perhaps lack of trust from her employers. Worst case scenario is she loses her job along with Connie and it goes viral and she is seen as being involved in the fraud.

      4. Lily Rowan*

        I wonder if calling her out for not being an immigrant would be less fraught. “I grew up with Connie, and she and her parents are all from here.”

      5. Ellis Bell*

        It’s almost more alarming than Connie’s brazen claims in front of her own relative. It’s like both Connie and the mentor both subscribe to a very funny standard of what people should be allowed to get away with.

      6. NeedRain47*

        The mentor… is an older white male. Whatever “optics” (aka consequences) happen are unlikely to land on him. The University, sure, the department, maybe, the OP, yes let’s blame her. But this guy is less likely to suffer consequences simply due to demographics.
        I hope I’m wrong and he just didn’t have time to think it through yet.

    3. JB*

      If she’s spun such a story to appeal on a human interest angle who knows how much of her CV isn’t quite true. Some verification on her references couldn’t hurt either.

    4. Sandgroper*


      “Hi Director, I just wanted to touch base with you about Connie’s application. I didn’t realise before her interview that it was my cousin Connie, and then, when the interview started I was so surprised I didn’t say anything in moment. I really have to speak up now though. Connie is my cousin, but we’ve not seen each other in many years due to her parent’s divorce. I also know her family history, and she’s had the same history as mine – white, wealthy, and well educated. I’m not sure what the deal is with saying she’s black, or that she’s come from an impoverished background, hell the Connie Centre at the local hospital, and our own Connie Library are named after our families! I wanted to raise this with you because I cannot see this ending well for the university, I’d hate for this to turn into something problematic. I’ve asked my mother if there were “Things I Don’t Know that Cannot Be Talked About” but she has said that no, Connie is the same young woman I grew up with. So I’m going to just leave this with you, but my vote, right now, is to say “this candidate raises questions, and I’m not sure how I want to handle that into the future, if we have other very strong candidates I’d feel more comfortable proceeding with them”. As for Connie? Eh. With that sort of resume she obviously won’t have issues finding work in the current environment, and if I get a chance informally to ask her what’s up I will, but for now, it feels very odd to follow up with her after she pretended not to know me in the interview.”

  4. Sloanicota*

    Whoof, this one is tough. I agree the best thing would be for the department to just pick another qualified candidate without making this situation the centerfold of a larger debate, because I think it’s likely to be ugly, and I agree that it’s weird for OP to wade in without looking like she’s the one with the problem. OP is in a great position to ensure this person doesn’t get this role at this university with a few quiet words to the right people, but I also wouldn’t want them to start acting as the “race police” who gets to decide who is “ethnic enough” to do what under what circumstances, which is why I’d leave it well enough alone after ensuring their family member doesn’t get this job.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Connie is a white lady from a family with multi-generational wealth.

      Pointing out that she’s not a “white-passing woman of color who has to confront racism daily” isn’t being the race police. It’s merely stating a fact and pointing out an intentional deception that does a disservice to disenfranchised populations.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this. You’re not calling out a white-appearing POC for not being, uh, POC enough? Somehow? You’re calling out a genuinely, legitimately, white person for lying her ass off.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THANK YOU. I was looking for the right words. This right here:
          ” You’re calling out a genuinely, legitimately, white person for lying her ass off.”

      2. Beth*

        Yep yep yep.

        One particularly offensive aspect of wealthy white privilege is the way in which the privileged consider themselves justified in lying when the truth is in the way of something they want, and the blithe assumption that not only is the lie justified, but there will be no consequences even if the lie is discovered. ( How we ended up in the current political situation . . .)

        Letting this go is supporting the horrible behaviour. For pity’s sake, speak up!!

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          It’s this is that it’s okay if I do it because I have good intentions, and I want to help.


        2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          The reason you don’t hire Connie in these circumstances isn’t that she’s not X race enough, it’s that she misrepresented herself to the hiring committee and lied in her interview about a substantial portion of her background, and did it in a way that would tend to actually disadvantage a group she claimed to represent. You don’t hire someone with proven poor judgment and ethics.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Exactly, this isn’t about Connie’s race–it’s about the fact that she walked into that room and outright lied.

          2. Observer*

            Exactly. The problem is not her race. It’s her (lack of) ethics, judgement and integrity.

    2. Watermelon*

      I don’t think it is, though. “Connie is my cousin and she’s 1) rich and 2) white” is not difficult. A little awkward, maybe.

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah. I’m honestly baffled that anyone would question the necessity or validity of the OP just saying this.
        This isn’t an acquaintance whose genetic heritage she could be confused about. It’s her cousin.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I am willing to admit that I doubt my own initial response here, but I just – I would feel weird, as a white person, challenging anyone else’s racial situation. Is OP absolutely positive that Connie’s genetic parents are who she thinks they are? The immigration thing and the poverty thing are a little easier to disprove, but still weird to wade into, other than just stating honestly that you believe this is untrue and why. I agree in this case when OP knows Connie from infancy it’s far more slam-dunk than usual, and I definitely agree she should say something to the hiring manager here.

          1. Umpire*

            I understand why it makes you feel weird; unfortunately, that’s the exact thing people like Connie rely on to continue their fraudulent behaviour.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yeah, reading these comments I’m thinking you are right. I am going to try to learn and think more on this. I guess this is also a form of racism and I know we all live in a messed-up racial dynamic.

              I just don’t initially see how OP can “prove” that Connie isn’t a minority or isn’t an immigrant (beyond just privately sharing her own direct experiences with a decision maker) without setting up a harmful precedent for the next person who has to prove themselves.

              1. Anon all day*

                I don’t see any risks of precedent setting here. As long as the next POC applicant doesn’t have a family member in the department who knows they are lying about their race and childhood, it’s not like everyone will have to pass some new gauntlet.

                1. tamarack and fireweed*

                  Well, one aspect of the whole thing is the risk that *even though this is a legit white person lying about her background* it might raise scrutiny of genuine POC. Which is why the “how” does need some thinking thorough.

                  As usual, sticking to facts, ie what the LW knows first-hand (“this is my relative who I spent 15 years of my childhood with, and I know her family situation first-hand”), and going right to the people that can make decisions most effectively is going to be better than long drawn-out situations with lots of people in the know.

              2. EPLawyer*

                But its not setting up a harmful precedent for the next person anymore than reporting to the hiring commiteee that you know the person was fired from their last job for embezzling when they said they left on good terms. Doesn’t mean the all other candidates are going to be asked if they embezzled.

                If you have relevant information the hiring commitee needs you need to pass it on. ESPECIALLY when it has this much potential to explode in their faces.

              3. NeedRain47*

                I am strongly suspicious that a closer check of Connie’s CV or resume will also reveal lies, and it’s a lot easier to check than running a DNA sample.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Even then, though, you still have the absolutely completely unambiguous facts that:
            – Connie is *not* an immigrant
            – Connie did *not* grow up poor

            OP could go the route of “I was so surprised to see her in the interview that I wasn’t able to say anything, but Connie Liesalot is my cousin — we grew up together. Both of Connie’s parents are from wealthy families that have been in the states for many generations. She did not grow up poor and certainly did not grow up an immigrant. I would strongly urge the committee to disregard her application since she blatantly lied about these facts.”

            Because while mayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyybe Connie’s other parent (the one not a sibling of OP’s parent) has since discovered they are a minority — and I realize that’s pretty unlikely — OP knows for certain those facts.

            1. Lacey*

              This is a good point. A lot of us (self included) are focusing on the race bit, but she absolutely knows her cousin isn’t an immigrant and did not grow up poor. Which is enough even without the race bit (though that’s worst, imo)

            2. Another freelancer*

              Agreed on this point of action. Op also mentioned the building names in the city. Maybe that could illustrate op’s point? “The Smith wing of XYZ museum and the Smith hospital are named after Connie’s grandparents” for example.

            3. Ozzav*

              Exactly. The race thing is a red herring. Connie is not an immigrant, she was born in the States and is not poor, she came from the Richalot family that owns half the city.
              It’s like claiming to have a PHD in alpaca grooming from Harvard when you have never even been in Massachusetts.

          3. Yorick*

            But if OP grew up with Connie, OP at least knows that Connie didn’t experience daily racism, that she wasn’t impoverished, and that neither she nor her parents are immigrants.

            Sure, it could be POSSBLE that her bio dad is half black and she’s a quarter black but no one would ever guess that because of how light skinned she is. But honestly, OP would probably know if they were close growing up.

            1. Another freelancer*

              I also think if the scenario Yorick shares above applies to Connie, wouldn’t op have heard about any discrimination that Connie had faced by now? Ops mom is close to Connie’s mom. Wouldn’t someone have said something by now especially since op knew Connie from way back? At the very least, ops mom should be contacted to see what she knows.

            2. Big Bank*

              Eh, I have never seen the racism that my POC friends have discussed. I was not there, and it was not directed at me. I trust their experiences. So no, I don’t think it necessarily holds that she would have seen any racism. If she’s so white passing that her cousin still believes she’s 100% white, then it’s dubious that others see her as a POC and treated her badly because of it. But I still would just tread far away from her potential DNA and stick to her rich non-immigrant background, which is something the LW has first hand knowledge of.

        2. Wintermute*

          The problem is just how radioactive these issues are right now. You don’t want to set yourself up to be center stage of a debate, and there WOULD be a debate if it went widely public. If a version of this ends up on twitter stripped of context you could ruin your entire life.

          1. Lizzy May*

            Having to step off of twitter for a couple of weeks to stop Connie from stealing opportunities and grants from actual Black people seems worth it to me.

            1. Lab Boss*

              If I’m reading Wintermute correctly, they’re not referring to “people are mean to you and you need to stay away from twitter.” They’re referring to the very real risk that the OP gets to be the lucky one to turn into that day’s Internet Bad Guy ™. OP could be absolutely correct and Connie could be absolutely a fraud, but if Twitter gets ahold of the story and concludes that OP is a racist who torpedoed a POC’s chance at a job then OP risks being made radioactive on the job market. People get doxxed, employers get swarmed to demand the Internet Bad Guy get fired or not hired, all that fun stuff.

              1. Wintermute*

                This is exactly what I mean, not that you have some people say mean things but that this gets picked up by a major news organization or a context-free version is thrown before a twitter mob and you’re subject to actual threats to your life and livelihood.

              2. Irish Teacher*

                I think the risk of that is WAY higher if Connie is hired and it then comes out that she lied and that one of the interview panel that gave her the job was her cousin than if LW has a quiet word with somebody in authority and they simply tell Connie, “we went with another candidate.” In the first case, there is a very real risk that the LW will be assumed to be in on the fraud.

                1. Observer*

                  Do you REALLY want to risk being the Bad Guy – off and on the internet, twitter etc? Keep quiet. And then the OP will REALLY feel the heat for knowing and not saying anything.

              3. Amaranth*

                I think the best approach is to avoid comments about race — OP *can* speak to the fact that she was puzzled that Connie pretended not to know them but they haven’t seen each other in years. However, they also spent their childhood growing up in a wealthy family that is well known in x township and she never heard any rumor she is adopted. The committee can go from there.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            If her background became public knowledge I think quite a few people would ask OP why tf she never said anything. That is *more* reason to report. It will look very, very weird if their relationship comes out later. Would maybe even look like OP was in on the fraud!

      2. Miss Muffet*

        exactly. It’s not even just “i know this person from before” — you’re actually related. You spent your childhoods together. Your information on this person is highly credible.

    3. Kanye West*

      “it’s weird for OP to wade in without looking like she’s the one with the problem”

      There is nothing weird about it.

      “but I also wouldn’t want them to start acting as the “race police” who gets to decide who is “ethnic enough” to do what under what circumstances”

      I also don’t see anything in OP’s post that indicates they want to police anything regarding race. The issue here are the obvious and numerous lies. Not race.

    4. Umpire*

      This is not a question of being “ethnic enough” when this is a completely white woman blatantly lying. That doesn’t factor here at all.

    5. BethRA*

      I honestly don’t understand the “optics” piece here – this isn’t gatekeeping and this isn’t OP playing “race police”, this is OP having firsthand knowledge that Connie lied, repeatedly and egregiously, during her interview.

      1. Nysee*

        Do universities not vet their potential hires? If you have Connie’s SS number, you can easily find out where she was born. Wouldn’t you also have to prove you’re able to work in the US, as in proof of citizenship?

        Also, the OP said she spent 15 years growing up around Connie. That is not an insignificant amount of time to see someone’s lifestyle.

    6. Oxford Comma*

      Weird? It would be weird if the OP didn’t say something. OP is literally related to Connie and knows she is lying about her background.

      If you want to ignore the ethics of the situation and really I don’t know how you can because this is extremely troubling, OP is at a large university. If it gets out that said large university has hired Connie who is claiming to be a POC and she is not, there will be a lot of fall out and bad press.

      It also now calls into question everything on Connie’s resume which is yet another reason why it should be brought to someone’s attention. Immediately.

      1. Ozzav*

        Not only that. When it comes out that OP knew because they are cousins it’s going to look really bad for them, since like others pointed out, it will look like they were in on the scam.

    7. LawBee*

      I’m not sure what is “race police” about saying “this is my family member, she is lying about not being white, and lying about not being privileged, please take note.”

      If anyone in my family claimed to be a POC, it would be an absolute lie because we are not in any way anything other than white. I trust that OP knows this about her own family.

      Connie is lying in a really gross way.

    8. Hawkward...*

      I was in a similar position myself but it was a coworker who was already on staff when I was hired. She kept saying she was from Mexico and had grown up in Mexico, but blonde and blue eyed (yes, I know about the conquistadors), spoke no Spanish which was weird because half of her job was working with our clients who didn’t speak English. Her husband came to a company picnic and we all overheard a fight with him blowing up at her “you’re not doing that thing where you tell people you’re Mexican again, are you? You’re from Connecticut!”

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Did you work with Alec Baldwin? (oh, wait, I think Hilaria pretends she’s from Spain, not New England)
        Why are there so many people who make up elaborate fictions about their backgrounds?

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I know someone who is blonde and blue eyed and did spend a lot of her youth in Mexico, but not because she’s Mexican! Her family lived there for years, but she knows she’s not Mexican. (And she does speak Spanish.)

      3. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Because being from Connecticut is “boring.”

        People can fetishize belonging to another country/culture.

    9. Liva*

      Honestly I think there needs to be more consideration given to how many white passing people are given roles earmarked for racialized people, and how this opens up the doors for white people to pass themselves off as BIPOC.

      The degree, content, and extent of the racism people experience is not a monolith and a white passing person simply doesn’t face the same barriers as (e.g.) a dark skinned Black person. In many circumstances, giving a role that’s earmarked for a Black person to a white passing person truly isn’t appropriate – and that’s not ‘policing if they’re ethnic enough’, it’s acknowledging that a person who is read as Black will face greater barriers and therefore have greater insight in to anti-Black racism.

      1. Observer*

        All of this is true, and I don’t want to dismiss it. But it’s also not even relevant. Because the question here is NOT if someone is “white passing vs not “white passing. It’s whether any part of their entire history of “marginalization” is true. And the OP *knows* for sure that a significant portion of it is not true – it’s pure fiction. So, no one needs to get into who is “enough”.

      2. Claire*

        I don’t think in the United States roles can be earmarked for someone of a particular race.

        1. anonagoose*

          They can’t, but there are practices like affirmative action that specifically try to leave space for non-white (or low income, or first generation college students, or disabled, etc) people, provided they are qualified. The problem is that there is a tendency for organizations to fill those spots with (very) light-skinned people of color and consider themselves diverse orgs, when in reality they’re just upholding white supremacy by preferentially hiring the closest proximity to whiteness they can while still getting diversity points.

    10. Nanani*

      Yeah no

      OP knows the family. There is no “is she white or just passing” here – its 100% a Dolezal situation that needs to be called out.

    11. SereneScientist*

      This situation is not about policing someone’s race or ethnic. LW wrote in about her cousin *deliberately misrepresenting information about her background* to increase the chance she’ll get this job. As a POC who recently learned a White friend lied in the same way, not only is it hurtful to communities of color, it also denies others a fair shot at the role. This is about accountability and transparency.

    12. Observer*

      This is one of the weirdest responses I could think of.

      I also wouldn’t want them to start acting as the “race police” who gets to decide who is “ethnic enough” to do what under what circumstances,

      This is pure nonsense. This doesn’t come close to be about “policing” anything. Nor is it about anyone being ANYTHING “enough”. It’s about calling out someone who made up a whole fairy-tale about themself. And did it in a way that is intended to give them unwarranted access to something, while doing damage to a large group that has already suffered a good deal.

  5. Legal Rugby*

    What did I just read? Please approach the department. As a recovering higher ed attorney who specialized in discrimination cases – for the love of god, tell someone. As for the advice you received, thats BS – you are not attacking anyone on the basis of race, you are clarifying with additional information that you were made aware of. The chair of the search committee can ask for clarifying guidance from the general counsel office.

    It might help if you have photos of yourself with the candidate in the past to prove your level of familiarity. Has this person not reached out to your since the interview? I’m not recommending this, because I’ve spent so much time beating it into department chairs that they should not search out a candidate’s social media, but does what she put on paper jive with how she represents herself elsewhere? This is one of the rare situations where a panel member’s external personal experience with a candidate needs to be brought up.

    I’ve had more than one candidate we’ve had to ask to explain their resume – you say you are an adjunct for this department, but you aren’t listed for the years you stated your taught? You stated that you had extensive experience with X project at your school, but nothing that is published out of that project has your name on it. Can you help us understand that?

    1. anonymous73*

      While I agree with your comments, OP would not be clarifying with additional information that she was “made aware of”, she would be clarifying based on what she knows as fact, being a member of Connie’s family. That’s why it’s important that she tell. She knows first hand, not from rumor or speculation, or something she heard from others, that Connie is lying.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I took the “additional information you were made aware of” to be that Connie as a candidate is lying about who she is and what her childhood background is.

    2. nom de plume*

      Yes, OP, I’m not sure where you get this “attacking somebody based on race” interpretation — that is not at all pertinent here! First, it’s not attacking: you are sharing your knowledge that this person is not a minority. Where’s the attack? Pretending to be a minority when you’re white is the attack here — on ethics, on minority candidates, on truth, all of it.

      Second, two words: Jessica Krug, GWU. If you don’t know about this infamous case, dig in. Staying silent would be an odious thing to do, and a massive betrayal of your department’s trust. You must speak up.

  6. The Bimmer Guy*

    I agree. You’ve got to say something, to mitigate damage to the organization. And I wouldn’t have anything to do with someone who thinks this is okay, now that you know her character.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You may want to add that one of the reasons this embarrassing trend keeps happening is because the white people who are passing are still, you know, white and have white experiences. The way they talk about being a minority gives comfort to the white university employees who are in charge of hiring because it sounds familiar and comfortable rather than the realities of what life is truly like for a minority in America. (Just look at how your mentor responded.) Those in charge get to tick the box of hiring someone they *think* is different but who won’t end up changing anything because how could they? They’re not poor nor a minority. They’re clueless on those matters because of how they grew up.

    The point you want to get across is that not only is it embarrassing for the fraudulent person but also THE UNIVERSITY WHO HIRED THEM because what does it say about that?

    P.S. Get a new mentor.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I think the passing experience depends on which generation started passing. If raised in an otherwise Black household, this would be part of one’s lived experience. If it was two generations back and you discovered it on a genealogy dive? Not so much.

      1. Migraine Month*

        Yeah, putting aside people who took a gene test, the experiences of a white-passing POC are going to be different than other POC, but they’re also going to be different than a white person. Unlike most white people, they are probably acutely aware of their privilege, but they also know they’ll lose that privilege if they stop hiding who they are.

    2. Cataclysm*

      I don’t think it’s fully fair to say that people who are white passing have white experiences. They certainly don’t experience as much immediate discrimination, but they’re not going to have all the privileges of a white-white person either. Many of them will still be dealing with structural inequalities, cultural clashes, the personal pain of listening to people denigrate their heritage, fears for family who aren’t white passing, pressure to become more white-passing (ex: straightening their hair) and more. They may not have the same experience as a POC who is not white-passing, but they do have a valid experience as a POC.

      The problem with Connie is not that she presents a white-passing POC experience as a POC experience. It’s that she’s lying.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I’m not buying that Connie is ethically ambiguous at all.

        I suspect she’s doing what the Kardashians, Rachel Dolezal, Lea Michele, and Pink do: she’s a white lady with white lady experiences and white lady privileges. She only claims or insinuates otherwise, not that she’s actually have faced any race -based struggles.

        1. Cataclysm*

          I never said that Connie was ethnically ambiguous at all or had the experiences of a POC. In fact, I said I believe Connie is lying. My reply was a counter to the broad notion that white-passing people have white experiences and “don’t count” as POC.
          Upon my fifth-ish read-through of your comment, I think what you were trying to say is the white people pretending to be white-passing POC have white experiences, which I agree with, but I think that was phrased kind of poorly and most of us in this thread have misread that as white-passing POC have white experiences. You might want to clarify that.

        2. Canadian Librarin #72*

          It doesn’t matter one bit whether she’s “ambiguous”-looking or not. If she’s lying, she’s lying.

          Also, Kim Kardashian is half Armenian, and was never particularly white-looking, even before all of her cosmetic interventions. Armenians have not always been considered unambiguously white, nor do many of them pass for white today. People call Kardashian white because she’s a culture vulture, but you don’t have to be white to be one. And Lea Michele’s father is a Sephardic Jew; her whiteness is likewise in a kind of grey area. Putting them in the same category as Rachel Dolezal, a white WASP who pretended to be Black, specifically African-American and the descendent of enslaved people, is pretty outrageous, no matter how much you don’t like them.

          But again: none of this is germane to OP’s cousin, who is a lying liar who lies, and should be called out.

          1. The Mansplainer*

            I think it’s about time someone said some defensive words about Rachel Dolezal. Guess no-one else will so I will take it upon me. From the documentary ‘The Rachel Divide’ (which can be seen on Netflix) I learned that her (indeed) white parents adopted/took into foster care a number of black kids. Rachel, being quite some years older than those kids acted as a second mom for them from an early age. This contributed somehow to her self-identifying as black. Indeed a bit strange, but it does not warrant the level of demonisation this woman has endured. It’s not like she has killed someone or anything like that. Also in an age where questioning some-ones self-identification on gender is almost considered a hate-crime in some circles, why not give people some leeway in self-identifying their own racial identity as well. Strange as their choice on this matter might seem to you.

            To return to the topic at hand. I think lying about not knowing the LW, being raised in poverty and encountering discrimination are far worse than the strange self-identification of her racial identity.

            1. anonagoose*

              We don’t give them leeway in racial identification because, while gender is mostly an internal process, race is a social construct and in a very real way something that was and is imposed from the outside for reasons of discrimination (hence why there is often the language of “racialized” features, rather than features that belong to a race). That people identify with those assigned racial categories, or that some people like myself exist in grey areas between them, doesn’t mean that they are meaningfully the same as gender–you can’t identify into race because it isn’t an identity you choose, it’s an identity that happens to you and carries real consequences in society. So when someone who is part of a race that gives them real privileges decides they want to join a racial community that exists as what we consider a “race” in the first place because of oppression by that privileged group, and they do it to gain professional and personal benefits, it’s offensive in a way that gender transition isn’t. Especially when they do so by appropriating the language of passing, which is rooted in the necessity of Black people to reject their Blackness entirely to access the full social benefits of American society, and was a dangerous and incredibly stressful experience.

              Mind you, you can google all of this. I appreciate that you want to be empathetic to Dolezal but “why not give people some leeway in self-identifying their own racial identity as well” goes beyond doing that to being unsympathetic to actual people of color.

              1. Big Bank*

                Gender is a social construct.

                I don’t agree with Rachel, but I do think she legitimately thinks that she can self identify as black, and she does compare trans people to her own “struggle” to be properly identified. And frankly there are a lot of criticisms against her that are also levied at trans women who don’t have the “right” female struggles to “earn” the title.

                This case though seems clear cut lying to get advancement. I think the Rachel case is a bit more complex, at least in how she rationalizes what happened.

            2. Observer*

              To return to the topic at hand. I think lying about not knowing the LW, being raised in poverty and encountering discrimination are far worse than the strange self-identification of her racial identity.

              All that says is that you clearly have absolutely no idea what it means to live with discrimination. Her lie about being a POC is as much a lie as her about growing a poor immigrant.

              I learned that her (indeed) white parents adopted/took into foster care a number of black kids. Rachel, being quite some years older than those kids acted as a second mom for them from an early age. This contributed somehow to her self-identifying as black.

              Even assuming that she actually took on so much emotional work with these kids that you can say “second mother” with a straight face, how does that in any way provide the least justification for LYING about her race. This was not just about “self identification”. She lied about it, and took a role that really should have gone to an ACTUALLY Black person.

              And she got busted when she upped the ante on her lies and claimed to have been the victim of racial violence.

            3. Boof*

              I don’t pretend to know much about Rachel Dolezal except what i just picked up on a brief search, but at the end of the day it sounds like she lied. She lied a lot and about several things, including welfare fraud? If she had said she identified as poc because she had adopted black family and (whatever reasons) she would have been controversial, sure, but the lying for either secondary or primary gain is a problem no matter what.

            4. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

              I am exactly 0% surprised that someone going by the alias of “mansplainer” has showed up in these comments to post an extremely crappy cold take. “Good” job on showing you also don’t understand how gender identity actually works, and try to equate embracing it with being more “accepting” of racial and cultural appropriation.

              What is this, a trolling attempt? If so, it’s not even a good one, since you couldn’t do a decent enough job of pushing your agenda to drive a ton of furious traffic towards the replies to your comment.

      2. Mac*

        Cataclysm, thank you so much for spelling this out so perfectly. I’m a light-skinned POC, with the added complication of having been adopted by a white family. Yes, the privilege of colorism is real, but still fails to compensate for all the other long-term damaging experiences one can have when occupying that very murky and conditional space of “passing”. For me it’s a constant tension of not knowing who has (even subconsciously) clocked me and will that affect how they treat me; a constant state of not-belonging anywhere; a legacy of generational trauma coded right down to the DNA; a lifetime of keeping quiet and overhearing the truly terrible sorts of things white people say when they think they’re alone, or revealing your heritage and then getting the kind of “compliments” that cut you to ribbons. It is a *safer* existence than being unmistakably non-white, but not a safe one.

      3. Willow*

        The comment wasn’t talking about white-passing POCs, it was talking about actual white people who are pretending to be white-passing POCs, like Rachel Dolezal.

      4. Ellis Bell*

        One of my cousin’s best friends, let’s call her Cara, back in high school was white passing, and she lived in one of the poorest homes in our town with a black single mother. Everything you’ve just said reminds me of her. Our high school was incredibly racist, and whenever she overheard anything racist she was instantly furious and would stand up to argue the toss. She was amazing but it must have been exhausting. The stuff wasn’t directly aimed at her, sure, but it hurt her. She definitely had some slight white-passing privilege but she was no Connie.

    3. Canterlot*

      Wish we could like comments here. This is really important. And very true.
      Academia is the worst for “We want to hire more diverse candidates.”
      “But not that one. Or that one. Or that one.”

  8. Prospect Gone Bad*

    Do you think the panel didn’t see through the charade? You yourself said two of them were uncomfortable. That’s becuase they realized what was happening. Especially likely given that the family seems to be well known locally. I feel like the internet will try to be overly sensitive to this, so I’ll just say it: if someone comes in looking Paris Hilton white and talks about constant racial discrimination, I’m going to think they’ve lost their marbles.

    I am not sure though what you’re trying to say about the impressive resume. Can’t she just have an impressive resume? Or isn’t it because of family connections?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think they probably suspect her but are uncomfortable about calling her out and maybe being wrong (meaning calling her out and then finding out that she is a POC, after all). But the LW has known her for years and has information that the hiring committee doesn’t.

    2. The Original K.*

      LW is saying that Connie may have been lying about a poor white-passing immigrant of color throughout her entire career in order to get the opportunities on her resume.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      “Impressive resume”: there are certain grants, awards, and positions that are only given to people of color–it sounds like the LW saw that type of thing on the resume.

    4. Nicosloani*

      Minor derail, In this specific case where OP knows this person from childhood, it’s a different situation – but in general I am uncomfortable assuming someone who is “Paris Hilton white” might not have authentic minority experience – or at least I as a privileged white person am not going to be the one to lead the pushback. The issues around this are manifest. I work in publishing; a person I knew as white woman for many years publishing white-woman-cozy-mysteries has now reconnected with their racial identity as native and is now publishing native fiction as an out-and-proud native writer, on lists intended to boost native writing. Is this my business? I don’t know “how” native she is, and I don’t think I should get into it. Another writer I know has a Hispanic last name by marriage but is actually German-Italian with dark hair, and toes the line a bit with their fiction but is unlikely to be called out for it, while a good friend of mine is half-Hispanic, half-white but has a white name and wasn’t raised by her Spanish-speaking mother, and her stepfather is white. She wants to write stories informed by her Spanish-speaking cultural side but agonizes that she’ll be excluded because she doesn’t fit. At the root of all this is that racial identity is complicated, and race is a construct. How someone looks or what their name is are fallible ways to tell who has what experiences. What I know for sure is that I, a white person, should not get myself elected to the committee planning to address any of these issues.

      1. Liva*

        In regards to native identity, different nations and tribes have different standards for being considered native but often even if you have a proven ancestor you are not considered to be native unless you reconnect and establish relationships with the nation.

        Something that is often missing when white people talk about native identity is that “native people” are actually many distinct *nations* that set their own citizenship requirements, and don’t adhere to white/Western ideas of “blood automatically = identity”.

        Even for nations that do subscribe to the idea that anyone with a proven ancestor is part of their nation it’s a commonly held belief that you shouldn’t *profit* off of an identity that you’re reconnecting with and take opportunities away from people who have grown up connected to their nation.

        In Canada, employers are starting to establish policies for identity verification for opportunities that are earmarked for Indigenous people. This kind of fraud harms community and takes away $ and resources from the people they are intended for (e.g. the Michelle Latimer case where a white Canadian took tens of thousands of dollars in grants and awards that were for Indigenous filmmakers)

      2. Pink Marbles*

        Agree. I think that’s why it’s important that the LW approaches a member of the panel whose judgement she respects, as Alison noted. While straight out lying about race is one thing, I think it’s important for these sometimes complex situations to be led/guided/informed by the people who are directly affected, rather than more white people deciding how things should go.

        Similarly, I knew a white woman in college who married into a Hispanic family and began making & selling Hispanic desserts with her husband’s relatives. She was often the face of the business, and she ended up getting a lot of hate from people who didn’t know her personal background. That’s one of the many reasons I err on the side of caution in situations like that; we don’t always see the complexities.

      3. But what to call me?*

        As for “Paris Hilton white”, that mostly brings to mind for me a kid I taught in a village in Alaska, blond and blue-eyed as can be, could plop him down in the middle of any group of the whitest white kids in the country and he’d fit right in, but he was 50/50 white and Alaskan native, grew up in the same mostly indigenous community as the rest of the kids in his village living the same lifestyle as they did, and identified fully with his indigenous heritage to the point that he actually forgot about his white heritage once during a class discussion. Being able to pass for clearly, unambiguously white could certainly afford him some privileges that some of his more traditionally native-looking peers might not have, but it would be incorrect to say he doesn’t have authentic minority experience. However, no one would know that just by looking at him.

        Which is entirely different from Connie, of course, since OP knows perfectly well where and how she lived growing up and that it directly contradicts what Connie said during the interview. Outright lying about your background is outright lying.

    5. Umpire*

      You’ll find the types that do this sort of deception usually go after all the opportunities the “identity” affords them and are successful at obtaining them. Oftentimes more so than the real people. So having an impressive resume while operating like this, there’s a great likelihood that much of it was gained under false pretences as well.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Right, they have the “insider” knowledge to navigate white systems – they say the right things, they have the right instincts – but get to compete with largely people who don’t have those advantages. So it makes sense they’d often be successful.

    6. Lab Boss*

      You’re also assuming Connie is extremely White looking. A family friend of ours is profoundly White. Like, can trace both sides of his family tree directly to Scotland, WHITE. And yet he spends so much time outdoors that he’s got a permanent tan so deep he could easily pass for being mixed-race, and one of his daughters admits that when she was very small she thought he was Black.

      The panel may have clocked some weirdness but there’s no reason to assume that Connie is visually so clearly White that her lie was obvious.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Yes, this can definitely happen. My partner identifies as white. Her family background is entirely northern european. They’re as WASP-y as you can get. However, people often think she’s mixed-race or black because of her hair texture and tan.

        There’s no reason to think the hiring committee is turning a blind eye to an obvious lie. You really can’t tell race just by looking at someone… That’s why it’s important for LW to say something.

    7. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      My past experience has been that betting on an academic hiring panel to pay attention to niggling feelings of discomfort, do any kind of follow-up research, or clock an imposter on their own, is a long shot.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think “Paris Hilton white” is kind of a funny choice because I still mostly associate her with Nicole Richie and they had basically the exact same look for a while–but Nicole Richie is in fact not white.

      It would be wrong for someone to say “Connie looks too white, she must be lying.”

      BUT that is not what is happening here, and it would not be wrong to say “I have known Connie almost my entire life and I know her parents and I know that her background is very different than what she presented.”

      I don’t think there is any reason to be, but if for some reason OP still feels uncomfortable bringing up race it should be enough to say that she is not an immigrant and did not grow up in poverty!

  9. Marine*

    If her family name is on a lot of buildings, wouldn’t that be a dead giveaway? She’d be easily searchable?

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Might be a common name? For example, in Ireland, the name “Collins” is associated with a national hero, but is also an extremely common name and nobody would assume that a specific “Collins” was a member of his family. If she has a common first and last name, there would be no reason for anybody to think…say this Mary McCarthy is the same Mary McCarthy whose family own half the city.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely unless it’s a very unusual name I probably wouldn’t associate it with the person. I mean I’ve a friend with an hereditary title and a road near me has the same name. It took me a while after getting to know him to realise the road was named that because his family had it built. It’s not a hugely common name but it’s not unique.

        Unless someone tells you, it may not occur to you that they’re part of the family with name on buildings.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I’m more impressed that she pulled this crap in an interview, knowing that the OP knows who she is.

      What was she thinking? Just sticking to her plan no matter what???

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I suspect that she wasn’t expecting to find her relative on the interview committee and couldn’t not talk how being a white passing person of color, an immigrant, and raised poor since that’s key to her being “a voice for an underrepresented student population and an expert on certain racial and social justice movements and issues.” Especially if she mentioned these in her cover letter and earlier interviews. It also sounds like her academice area might be in those certain racial and social justice movements since she’s claiming expertise in them.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Maybe she didn’t recognise OP?
          People do have wildly varying degrees of facial recognition skills and if they haven’t seen each other in preson recently Connie may not have recognised her – less likely if O has lots of photos on social media of herselfand/or if her name is unusual, but it’s possible. (and I suppsoe more likely of the ontroductions were first name and role only)

          Or that Connie wasn’t sure so kept her mouth shut and was hoping it w someone else with the same / simialr name.

          1. Bryce*

            I’ve walked right past a close friend’s mother in the supermarket despite seeing her regularly because it wasn’t the context I was used to and my focus was on my own shopping rather than looking to identify people.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Entitled. She really believes no one will call her out. Look at how the mentor reacted when OP raised it. Connie is counting on people being uncomfortable discussing race in order to get away with it. She also thinks OP will NEVER ruin this chance for her RIGHT? After all she DESERVES IT.

        What always got me about the Rachel D situation was the NAACP flat out said “if she had told us she was white and still did all the things she did, we would have welcomed her with open arms. She could have still been president of the chapter.”

        1. This is Artemesia*

          yeah they said that but would they really have? How many people have you heard say ‘he didn’t have to steal that bread, if he had only said he was hungry the store would have given it to him.’ A total myth.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Well at the time they pointed out another Chapter President who was white. So yeah it does happen.

          2. Kit*

            Um, there is an enormous and irreconcilable difference between a food-insecure person acquiring food through questionable means, and a person from privilege misrepresenting their identity as underprivileged. Both are nominally unethical, but their motivations and impacts are so disparate that conflating the two is really inappropriate.

            Never mind that we, as a society, really do moralize very strongly about the poor being forced into unethical behavior in order to survive, but see no issue with those who have power making sure that they get every possible advantage. I just… I have a lot of four-letter thoughts about exactly how inapt this comparison is.

      2. Lizzy May*

        I’m guessing she figured she was committed since they already had her resume filled with her work history and education.

      3. The OTHER Other*

        It’s remarkable, isn’t it? But psychopaths are often like this, they absolutely will not back down on their nonsense, no matter what. It’s often part of their basic MO to make outrageous claims, and be shameless. Either they believe their own BS, or they figure sticking with their lies gives them the best chance to get what they want, which is all they care about.

        That the LW was rendered speechless during the interview (which presumably went on for 15 minutes or longer, probably much longer) and is still second-guessing whether to say anything shows that the strategy can work. This applicant is basically saying “who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes!?” and by “own eyes” I don’t mean how race is a social construct.

        LW, you need to raise this. Your cousin would be an absolute nightmare to work with, and hiring her could do tremendous damage to your organization. If you are really worried about “optics” then verify that she told a proven lie on her resume, and focus on that.

    3. Sylvan*

      It could be a relatively common name. If I were sitting in on this without knowing this person, I would be horrifically uncomfortable accusing someone of pretending to be a person of color. What if I’m wrong, you know?

    4. SwampWitch85*

      I’ve worked with janitors who had the last name Versace. I’ve waited tables with people with the last name Hilton, Walton, and I’m not kidding, Rockefeller. People may not care enough to check or maybe she’s using a married name or changed her name to fly under the radar. Or maybe she’s just that proud of her con she thinks nobody will notice. That happens a lot.

      1. Siege*

        The Robert Downey I know is not a famous actor. (Nor a jr, but that’s not the point.)

        1. Goody*

          I would absolutely talk to the hiring committee.

          You didn’t disclose your relationship when you were introduced in the interview because you didn’t want that relationship to color her chances in any way. You were further silenced by shock at her claims. But now that the shock has worn off and you’re thinking clearly, you realize you have to share what you know.

          And please, an update when the dust settles?

      2. Nanani*

        That last one especially.
        People who make up big lies to get advantages are not generally lacking in confidence to plow ahead.

    1. fueled by coffee*

      And I’m always so confused by people who think minorities have a leg up in hiring decisions. Like, Connie, LW’s department didn’t end up being all white by accident!

      As others have pointed out, the reason the hiring committee likes Connie is because she (allegedly) comes from a marginalized background (POC, poor, immigrant) without — I’m assuming — holding any opinions that would threaten the department’s status quo or seem unpalatable to a group of white upper middle class folks.

  10. EtTuBananas*

    OP – you are this woman’s cousin. You grew up together. You, more than anyone (except perhaps her own parents) are the MOST qualified person to speak up and stop her unethical career. As Alison pointed out, not only would you be allowing her to outright lie to the other staff, she’d be teaching students of color, and she’d be taking the position from a well-deserving candidate – who *actually* has the background Connie claims to have.

    You said some of those who sat in on her interview expressed discomfort. They know something’s up. She can’t lie forever – and when they found out you’re her cousin, there will be a LOT of egg on your face, too. If your mentor pushes back on your decision, you can always frame it as protecting your own professional reputation by refusing to be associated (even by omission) with such egregiously unethical behavior.

    Side note: as a woman coming from multi-generational family wealth, Connie could easily use her family name and privilege (even if she doesn’t have direct access to funds) to fight systemic racism, and instead she does…this.

    1. NewJobGuy*

      And when she’s found out and they realize you are her cousin and knew all along, it won’t be good for you.

      1. This is Artemesia*

        This. It would be different if it were just a childhood friend or acquaintance — you don’t necessarily know everything about someone’s heritage. But this is the COUSIN you grew up with. You are not going to be able to pretend you didn’t know.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            I think the important thing here is that the OP should be absolutely accurate about everything she knows, including the nature of the familial relationship, with all its complications and gaps. The problem here is that anyone looking to get the OP in trouble will seize upon a minor detail and try to punish her for “lying.” So absolute accuracy, being careful to communicate as much as possible by email, so that nothing can be “verbally misunderstood,” and pointing anyone who’s got verbal questions back to email, which they should constantly refer to as “the written record.”

            And I think the emphasis should not be on “applicant was lying” so much as “I was told something different about the applicant’s background throughout my childhood, and I think her background should be checked very carefully.”

        1. JustaTech*

          “Cousin” is a broad term that covers several degrees of relations. Your cousins might be as close as siblings, or be an entire generation older or younger, or people you’ve never met in another country.

          In this case Connie and the LW were related by marriage for 15 years, grew up together, and their mothers are still friends. That’s pretty firmly in the “cousin” camp to me, even if there isn’t shared DNA.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          It still sounds like they are close enough that when this comes out, people may well assume the LW was in on the fraud if she doesn’t say anything. If a cousin or step-cousin or even 2nd or 3rd cousin she grew up with is given a job by a panel she is part of, based on information she knew to be false…well, I think the optics of that are far worse than whatever optics the mentor is worrying about. I think the assumption might well be that the LW was involved in the whole thing from the start and helped the cousin to get a job under false pretences.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          Step-cousins are still cousins. My family is full of “steps.” I’m closer to my step-sister than my half-sister, but I just call them both my sisters.

  11. Annie*

    I would want to be triple-sure that you know what her mother’s race and background (immigrant?) are (and maybe her father’s? The wording doesn’t make clear that your uncle is her father) before proceeding here, but yeah, you have to say something if you do know.

    1. EPLawyer*

      OP says Connie claimed she grew up an immigrant. Not her parents. OP would know this is not true because, THEY HUNG OUT TOGETHER as kids.

      1. Harvey 6 3.5*

        I agree with Annie. What if the cousin immigrated to the US when she was 1, has some POC ancestor and had parents who always argued over money and felt poor (however inaccurately). OP could probably check with her mother on the immigrant part, at least, but as to the rest, OP can’t be sure. But, OP can certainly tell the committee chair that she grew up with the cousin and here is a picture of them together on her uncle’s yacht.

        1. Umpire*

          Read it again. OP says Connie is from a well-known multi-generational wealth on both sides. Given that OP grew up with her and her family is so famous they apparently own half the area, she would know. The story you’ve created to support Connie here is still not accurate to what she told the committee. “Some POC ancestor” is not “I grew up experiencing racism”.

        2. EPLawyer*

          This is what I mean about twisting ourselves into pretzels to justify the actions of Connie.

          Connie said she grew up a poor minority immigrant. OP WHO GREW UP WITH HER knew she grew up wealthy WHITE and privileged.

          Also feeling poor is definitely not the same as BEING poor.

          let’s stop writing fiction and look at what OP actually says Connie said versus what OP actually knows about Connie.

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            I don’t care about justifying Connie. It’s more about telling the OP to be careful and CYA.

            I don’t think the OP can be 100% confident that there isn’t a grain of truth to Connie’s narrative. However, the OP can absolutely say that she knew Connie for 15 years of her childhood, in which Connie was white and wealthy.

          2. anonymath*

            I agree with you. But how will this play out to the committee?

            OP: “she’s my rich white cousin!”

            truly skilled Connie: “This is an example of the erasure of my ethnicity and experience: even people in my family refuse to acknowledge the pain I have felt dealing with the history of my biological father, who came to the US as a result of upheaval in (country) and then tragically committed suicide when I was 3, unable to assimilate given the realities of discrimination in America. Even my own family participates in whitewashing my heritage, ignoring the generational trauma embedded in my DNA.”

            If she’s gotten a lot of grants, she knows the words to say, the spin to put, if there is any shred of truth to this (ie non-white immigrant-ish bio father). As other commenters have said more eloquently, there can be a real competitive benefit to having white experiences of navigating power & generational wealth while presenting oneself as a minoritized person.

            I’m saying this as an ex-academic white child of immigrants who now works with multigenerational American rich white people. They’ll love Connie’s explanation, it’ll make them feel good & virtuous.

    2. Tin Cormorant*

      It sounded like she was trying to tell people she herself was an immigrant, and her “disadvantaged childhood” is something that the OP would have seen firsthand if true, since they grew up together.

      It is possible that maybe there’s something in her genealogy on the other side that she’s exaggerating, but it’s hardly her own lived experience.

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I thought about that, is there even a possibility that her parents were passing and hiding it, but regardless of that she is also claiming to have grown up impoverished as an immigrant. Those two things are pretty verifiable without getting into the optics of “are you Black enough”

      1. Lab Boss*

        Right. OP should still probably tell the hiring committee the full story to the best of her knowledge, but there’s much more solid ground between “privileged multigenerational wealth” and “impoverished immigrant” than there is between definitive racial categories.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I find it hard to imagine the LW not knowing if her cousin (step-cousin?) is an immigrant or whether she grew up in poverty. Especially if they played together as kids. I could imagine a scenario where somebody might not know their cousin had a grandparent who was a POC, but I can’t imagine believing she is wealthy when she’s actually living in extreme poverty. Even little kids know the difference between the kid who has all the latest toys and lives in a near mansion and the kid who has to sleep in the living room because there is only one bedroom in the apartment and whose parents never offer you any sweets when you go around to play because they can’t afford anything beyond the necessities. I find it hard to see how the LW could be mistaken here. Sure Connie could be adopted and one of her birth parents a POC and the LW might not have been told, but the poverty? That’s not so credible.

      1. Yorick*

        Especially in hindsight – as kids you might not have realized someone you knew well was poor or rich, but looking back you can tell

        1. Ann*

          Yes. As a child I was convinced one of my grandmothers was quite wealthy, because she had all kinds of fancy knickknacks at her place, did not do child care unless she felt like it, and was always giving her other granddaughter presents (I knew because I would get some of them second-hand).
          Not sure how long it took me to work out – probably not till I was a young adult – but the poor woman was anything but wealthy. She was renting a room for heaven’s sake, she was a single mom without extended family, and the “gifts” were homemade clothes. Very nice, but still homemade.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This. I have a friend I met in second grade who grew up dirt poor (divorced mom, three kids). Her brothers shared a room and she had her own bedroom, but it was teeny. If it hadn’t had a window, you would have sworn it was a closet. The differences between her living situation and mine were BLATANTLY obvious even when we were children. I mean, I didn’t care, but it wasn’t hard to figure out.

      2. Boof*

        I mean, there’s always some torturous explanation one could come up with; maybe poverty came later after the divorce and lw lost touch! Maybe there was some extreme faking! Why scripts where lw just states they were surprised as their impression of their childhood together was very different than the current description and leave the rest to the hiring committee

    5. ecnaseener*

      I had that thought too, only because it’s SO weird to flat-out lie about it, but if Connie isn’t lying then she wouldn’t pretend not to know LW. If anything she’d get out in front of it with “I know this is really surprising for you to hear but it’s all true, my family hid it very well but it’s always affected me, I’m so glad you know now.”

  12. Peridot*

    Think about how this would sound 1) if she was hired 2) her deception was uncovered, 3) people found out you knew about it all along.

    1. nom de plume*

      Yes, and this situation has already happened: At GW, two years ago, with Jessica Krug. It was awful for all involved. There’s no ambiguity here, OP. It would be negligent of you to stay silent.

  13. The Original K.*

    There have been a number of stories about white people who have done this and it never goes well for them once they’re discovered. Speak up. (Also is she not using her family name that’s all over buildings, or is it common enough that no one is making the connection?) When it comes out, your department will suffer from the backlash.

    (As a Black woman, I am really tired of white people who want to co-opt the struggles of people of color but don’t want to lift a finger to actually help alleviate that struggle.)

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      Secrets and lies like this have a way of coming out.

      Plus, if your university did hire her and it came out (and it would eventually), this would be a public relations nightmare. I also wonder why cousin isn’t counting on the fact that this will follow her on social media the rest of her life. I recently read that Rachel Dolezal still can’t get jobs, even fast food and retail.

    2. EPLawyer*

      (As a Black woman, I am really tired of white people who want to co-opt the struggles of people of color but don’t want to lift a finger to actually help alleviate that struggle.)

      Or you know really experience the struggle. I am so white I am translucent. I know that if a cop pulls me over I have a good chance of getting a ticket at worst and then going on my own way. I most likely WILL NOT have the same concerns a black person would have in the same situation. I can know that situation. I can empathize, but I don’t experience it the same way.

      So to co-opt the struggle without actually experiencing it is pretty disgusting.

    3. CowWhisperer*

      I live in an area with a few wealthy white families who have named so many buildings after themselves that it’s a local joke. The issue is the three names are common enough in the larger pool of white people that I’ve never met one of the wealthy relatives but know quite a few non-relatives w/ the same last name.

      If I didn’t know the person, I’d think it a coincidence, but I’d be pissed if I knew them.

      Personally, I’d ask my sister to find as many family pictures of us and Connie as possible while asking my mom what Connie is up to. Pictures tend to tell a story of their own…..

  14. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, I think your mentor doesn’t understand the situation fully. I don’t how they could say “stay out of it” if you plainly state that (a) Connie is your cousin, (b) You know Connie’s parents and her situation growing up quite well, and (c) Connie is lying about her background.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      The mentor’s response confused me as well. Either the full situation was not presented to them, or… I don’t know what else. I can’t really come up with an alternative explanation. If they think the optics of “attacking” a blatant liar are bad, what about the optics when all this comes to light and it turns out someone on the committee was Connie’s cousin and should have put a stop to it? That’s not going to be a great look either.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      The problem, from the mentor’s POV, is likely that if OP is wrong than the backlash could ruin OP’s career. So, there has to be a very careful calculation here. Uni politics are the worst. However, I think OP needs to say something.

    3. Olivia*

      I don’t think there’s any reason to think the mentor doesn’t fully understand the situation. I don’t find the mentor’s response surprising at all–because I live in America in 2022 and I am not surprised by the racism–including complicit apathy–of random white men, especially older white men in a position of power in a company or institution.

      Riot Grrrl said, “Either the full situation was not presented to them, or… I don’t know what else.” I do know what else! The mentor cares more about not ruffling feathers or taking any risk at all than they do about racism. He also sounds pretty clueless about how this all works, the way someone would be if they never really thought about this too much because they don’t care to change a status quo that they benefit from. He talks about it like a bogeyman–don’t do that or you’ll get attacked by the mob that goes after people whenever they talk about race!

      Really, the only optics that are bad here are on you if you don’t say anything and on the university if they hire this person. Get a new mentor.

  15. Pam Adams*

    Als0, have you disclosed to the hiring committee that you are essentially a family member of this person? Perhaps starting with that part of the conversation will make the ‘but she says she’s a minority’ part easier to discuss.

    1. cubone*

      Yeah this whole thing is a can of worms, but I mean …..just for the sake of argument let’s pretend for a second Connie was not pretending to be Black and just interviewing like you know, a normal person. Wouldn’t this still be a humongous conflict of interest and something OP needs to tell the department about?!

      I would be stunned if I found out later I sat on a hiring panel with the family member (or close friend) of the interviewee and they didn’t say anything, and my perception of that persons judgment would be impacted pretty significantly.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yes, I think even if there is some torturous explantion where Connie had a secret father who was a poor immigrant of colour and she spent every summer with him, but the LW was not informed because Connie’s mother was ashamed to ever have been married to a poor man, well, Connie is at BEST, still exaggerating because I spend part of my time, living in poverty, but with all the items my mum and stepdad bought for me, and all the opportunities that come from a good education, networking, etc, is NOT the impression given by “I grew up as a poor immigrant, facing racism every day,” but even apart from that, her connection with the LW and the fact that she seems to be trying to hide it, is enough to raise questions anyway.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I LOVE this idea. The OP has a personal background with Connie, and it’s a conflict of interest to be on the hiring committee. This gives the OP the perfect opportunity to share what she knows – and get out of being a decision maker on this case.

  16. Peeklay*

    Is there a diversity and inclusion dean for the school or some sort of department that oversees diversity efforts (but one with political pull, not a figurehead)? You could go to the person/department and ask for their advice. Explain your ethical concerns and come to them asking for their advice on what you should do. If they are as horrified as you are they may step in and speak to the hiring team. Or they may have an idea on what to do that you haven’t thought of. I would also pick one person on the hiring panel who you think is reasonable and voice your concerns to that person as well.

    Hopefully those two conversations will create momentum to not hire Connie without you coming across as trying as attacking her.

    1. CoveredinBees*

      You should tell the most senior person on the hiring committee. As some of the comments here reflect, many people are willing to twist themselves into pretzels with various hypotheticals around whether Connie is “really” white. Since you might encounter this as well, I focus as much as you can on the more straightforward questions. I’d also google around and see if you can’t find a photo of the family grinning in front of some ceremony for a hospital wing being named for them. Include it in the context of the upbringing you witnessed, “She’s a Hollingsworth as in the Hollingsworths this hospital was named after.”

      And YES please update us.

  17. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m more impressed that she pulled this crap in an interview, knowing that the OP knows who she is.

    What was she thinking? Just sticking to her plan no matter what???

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Thought same!!!! How the hell could she still go through with all that lying with OP right there?

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      If her CV is full of race-based positions, grants, and awards, she probably felt she had to stick to the plan, hence swerving the LW, but NO sympathy here for her.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Eh, at the very least Connie should have expanded the narrative to include “except for one stint of childhood where I would enjoy the privilege of whiteness and wealth.”

    3. soontoberetired*

      and there is all sorts of ethical issues with that – she pretends not to know her cousin, the cousin who shouldn’t be in the interview because she’s her cousin? this woman has serious issues.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I mean, if people like this had any scruples, they wouldn’t be doing this in the first place.

    5. Storm in a teacup*

      I cannot get my head around the chutzpah of blithely carrying on with the interview as if OP won’t know they’re lies. It’s nuts and like a Reddit thread

    6. Heidi*

      People can get really entrenched in the fictional life they create for themselves and may actually believe them on some level. Just look at how many people in the commentary have been saying that maybe the OP is in some sort of Total Recall scenario and Connie is secretly an impoverished immigrant POC and not actually the wealthy white person OP knows her to be. If complete strangers can make up this kind of story and convince themselves that it’s plausible, it doesn’t surprise me that Connie could do this on her own if she really wanted to.

  18. Sassenach*

    The facts of this situation, and I do not doubt a single thing you have written, make me wonder if there are more facts that you are not aware of….family secrets perhaps? I would love to know if she recognized you and was a really good actress the entire time; if she avoided making eye contact, if her mannerisms demonstrated any awkwardness. This does not excuse certain behaviors of hers or the outright lying. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that she went through with the entire interview with you sitting right there! Again, I do not doubt anything you have written. I do question her mental well being…among a lot of other things. I’m astounded. I really really want to believe that you mixed her up with your cousin. I know that is not the case….it is just so astounding. I hope you do speak up. YOUR reputation is on the line here.

    1. squirreltooth*

      I guess if I was going to drop some family secrets in front of a relative, I’d a) not pretend I didn’t know them; and b) let them know either before or after that what I said was the truth instead of letting me think I was lying about my background and heritage.

      That said, the wording of the letter made me wonder if OP knows the interviewee relative as well as it’s implied—knowing someone for 15 years, as children, doesn’t say to me that you’re privy to all aspects of their life and identity as adults.

      1. EPLawyer*

        she said Connie said she GREW UP AS AN IMMIGRANT. Pretty sure OP would know that.

        Can we stop trying to twist ourselves into pretzels to justify someone’s LYING to gain an advantage. (oh you notice they will claim minority status if it helps them but they don’t want to actually LIVE that way.)

        1. squirreltooth*

          Am I twisting myself into pretzels here? The opening half of my comment is about how odd it’d be for Connie to not approach the OP if she was disclosing stuff the OP doesn’t know. I’m just saying OP isn’t necessarily a Connie expert.

          1. Ferret*

            It’s more about the second half… given that OP states that she hung out with Connie most weekends as children and that Connie’s claims about growing up as a poor immigrant directly relate to that preiod I’m not sure how relevant it is that OP may not be “privy to all aspects of their life and identity as adults”

      2. Ann*

        Well, OP would probably know if Connie grew up in a poor immigrant family… although who knows, my family was very poor for a few years, and by my teens you really wouldn’t know unless I talked about it.

        1. squirreltooth*

          I definitely lean toward Connie being a liar, but I also lived under drastically different circumstances at various parts of my childhood, including homelessness, and my cousins had no idea.

          1. AD*

            I think the fact that Connie immediately pretended to not know the OP makes this highly unlikely. She had something to hide, and she knew it.

          2. doreen*

            I grew up poor – and my cousins would have had no idea, even though we were together all the time. But they also wouldn’t have thought we were wealthy.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, but you would know whether they were born in this country. And what race(s) the family identifies as.

    2. Yvette*

      Family secrets is a good point. Not that I do not totally believe the OP, I totally believe the OP. But could Connie have been the result of an affair, or artificial insemination, or could Connie’s mom have been pregnant with someone else’s child at the time of the marriage? Those are all things that the OP would not necessarily been privy to.
      Even, if one of those situations is true, Connie apparently grew up in an atmosphere of “white, American multi-generational wealth” and for her to pretend otherwise is just disingenuous.
      Again, I totally believe the OP

      1. Sassenach*

        I do believe the OP too and I don’t think anyone questioning the OP really doesn’t believe the OP it’s just that it is so bizarre that it is HARD to believe….but I don’t disbelieve the OP at all. I think some of us are trying to make sense of a situation that is so far outside of what most of us could even imagine. That is why it seems like we might be trying to excuse Connie as another commenter stated…but that is not the case at all. We just can’t relate to someone actually doing this and following through with it.

      2. Karath*

        “But could Connie have been the result of an affair, or artificial insemination, or could Connie’s mom have been pregnant with someone else’s child at the time of the marriage? Those are all things that the OP would not necessarily been privy to.”

        And all irrelevant needless speculation if you believe the OP, as you say you do.

      3. Ann*

        This is really getting into soap opera territory. Because the only way it could be true is some soap opera-level stuff. Most likely though, Connie is just lying. She wouldn’t be the first person to invent an identity and then get away with it for years…

      4. urguncle*

        Even if she was the child of less-than-marital circumstances, she still is not an immigrant and did not grow up in poverty. So of the three main points of oppression that Connie is claiming, maybe, possibly one of them is true.
        “I totally believe the OP” and “what if her mom was artificially inseminated in some sort of Jane the Virgin-esque fertility clinic mishap” are two very different statements.

    3. Observer*

      ? I would love to know if she recognized you and was a really good actress the entire time;

      Well, she’s clearly a good actress. The OP says that “spoke passionately about being a white-passing woman of color who has to confront racism daily, and how her past struggles with an impoverished upbringing as an immigrant in the U.S. have shaped her teaching values”

      She sounds like a world class actress, to be honest!

      YOUR reputation is on the line here.

      Indeed it is!

  19. Aphra*

    As always, Alison is spot on. Your professional integrity is at risk here, and if you don’t speak up, it may never recover. People like Rachel Dolezal get away with their lies because people are too afraid of the backlash if they question someone’s claimed race. That can be done sensitively. There’s no getting away from the fact that empathy is no substitute for lived experience. I can empathise all day long with someone from a different background, heritage, physical or mental ability but unless theirs is similar to mine, I can’t advocate for them with any authentic authority. Your employer will be doing its students a grave disservice if they don’t have all the relevant information about your relative’s actual background and when (not if, especially in a high-profile role) it comes out later, the damage to the institution could also be irreparable.

  20. learnedthehardway*

    Okay, on the very slim off-chance that you DON’T know everything there is to know about your cousin, perhaps do some digging into your family, before saying anything.

    I mean, it’s possible that your aunt had another life before she married your uncle – does Connie’s birth date from before that time period? Perhaps you really don’t know the background. Families have secrets – if Connie really was white passing, perhaps she was white passing with you.

    Have you talked with Connie about this – it might be worth doing that.

    1. LawLady*

      Yes, I agree. I know OP knew her well, but I do think there can sometimes be family secrets that aren’t told to kids. If there’s any chance Connie was adopted by aunt’s ex husband but not fathered by him. Or that Connie’s father’s background is less white than OP has always thought. Definitely need to be absolutely sure.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        So you do not focus on the race/ethnicity aspect. OP needs to say that she knows Connie, that Connie is her cousin, and that even though they have not spoken recently, they grew up together as kids, and that OP knows for a fact that Connie’s parents, OP’s aunt and uncle, were not immigrants and were actually very affluent and that they were the ones to raise her. That far from having an impoverished life as an immigrant/child of immigrants, she had a very comfortable and privileged life, just like OP. She can then add in that to the best of her knowledge, Connie and her parents are white and not POCs, but admittedly OP has not reviewed any ancestry tests. Regardless, Connie did misrepresent her experience by discussing her struggles due to her “impoverished upbringing as an immigrant in the U.S. “

    2. Zephy*

      I mean, even if Connie’s heritage IS what she says it is…OP grew up with her, OP knows what her childhood was actually like and knows that she did not grow up an impoverished immigrant.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Exactly this. Putting race aside, OP definitely knows there are other pieces that aren’t factually correct. If her interview was full of “when I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks/mean streets of wherever” but OP knows she lived in a house on the hill and they went to polo camp together, that should start to cast some doubt on her statements. I guess if she qualifies it and says she didn’t have the best polo pony so she understands the plight of impoverished people, that tells y’all an entirely different set of information.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Exactly! There are layers to this and LW should share what she factually knows with at least someone on the hiring committee.

          First: She personally knows this candidate, and therefore probably should not be involved in the hiring process . As an aside, it’s strange that Connie pretended not to know LW.

          Secondly: They grew up together, spent time together for years … and from what LW knows, the way Connie characterized her childhood does not match what LW observed, experienced. While there *may* be some explanation for the disconnect, there IS a disconnect between what LW knows and what Connie said about her childhood. There was no “poor child of immigrants” and lots of “child of wealthy people who have been established and thriving in the area for generations in what LW observed of Connie’s childhood. Photos would be helpful.

          Thirdly: This part is trickier, because technically LW is not privy to Connie’s entire ancestry and DNA profile. In LW’s experience of Connie during their shared childhood, there was no indication that Connie was a POC or experienced any hardships, discrimination etc during that time. LW can bring it up in such a way to acknowledge she’s not omniscient about all aspects of Connie’s experience, while still sharing that what Connie described does not track with LW’s experience, observations.

          The rest is up to the hiring committee and the university – looking into and trying to verify Connie’s credentials, asking Connie to explain her characterization of her background and childhood experience given information that she grew up quite privileged , etc.

    3. Heidi*

      So, her whole family pretended to be wealthy while they were actually impoverished immigrants?

    4. EPLawyer*

      Not on OP to verify that Connie is not a lying liar who lies. OP raises her concerns to the committee who can then question Connie.

      Why should OP have to do all the work? She already knows Connie is lying about growing up a poor immigrant.

      1. starsaphire*

        This, exactly.

        She doesn’t even have to say she’s sure it’s the same Connie. She can point out that the Connie in the interview didn’t seem to know her, and hey, everyone has a doppelganger, BUT…

        The burden of proof is not on the OP, it’s only on her to raise her concerns.

    5. Becca*

      I agree, but I’m having a hard time reconciling the growing up in poverty part. Mayybe the wealth wasn’t all that it looked from the outside, but calling it poverty is likely still a stretch. Even if there was a period from before marrying the uncle (and even then OP says that both sides of the family were from multi-generational wealth, which I don’t think would be as inaccurate as it would need to be to make this possible) where she was in poverty, how much of that could Connie actually remember if OP spent 15 years as a kid spending weekends and holidays at her house? That’s not to say it wouldn’t have affected her life, but if she spent the first 3 years of her life in poverty then had a wealthy childhood it’s a bit disingenuous to frame that as growing up in poverty.
      I can buy there’s some buried racial past, but I’m highly doubtful there’s some family secret that would give her standing to claim she grew up in poverty.

      1. just passing through*

        The danger is that if Connie is lying about A, B, and D, and then OP says that Connie is lying about A, B, C, and D, Connie’s whole response will be “how DARE you accuse me of lying about C.” And OP needs to be prepared for that. People are writing a lot of fanfiction about Connie’s possible childhood circumstances, but I think this is what they’re trying to get at. Not that OP shouldn’t bring up their concerns, but that OP should take steps to be as well-informed as possible and should be prepared for Connie to parade any shred of truth in her story (if there is any) that OP isn’t aware of.

        1. Observer*

          Well, the OP should not be saying that Connie is lying about b, c, and d, much less about a.

          All they should be doing is saying “Her mother was married to my uncle till she was 15 and we spent a LOT of time together – almost every weekend. No poverty in sight. And they aren’t immigrants either.” They could add “Both families are as white as can be as far as I know.”

          There is just not a lot for anyone to spin here.

    6. anonymous73*

      Not necessary. OP presents the facts as she knows them and lets the committee handle it.

    7. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      She discussed the influence of her struggles due to her “impoverished upbringing as an immigrant in the U.S.” OP knows that is total bs, and if she is making that part up, she is probably brazen enough to be making it all up.

  21. Foxtrotting*

    Alison’s advice is spot on as always. I would also make sure you try your best to bring solid evidence against specific claims. Basically, don’t say “Connie is white and lying” but “here are all the instances (with evidence) of where Connie’s version of her background does not match what I know.” For example, she mentioned being an immigrant. You can frame your response as “I have know Connie since X age. For the entire time I have known her she lived in the United States and, as far as I was aware, she has lived in the United States her entire life. Her family, Y name, has deep ties to the community.”

  22. Justin*

    Stop pretending to be us, please.

    Anyway, yes, let people know. Nothing good will come of this.

  23. LawLady*

    I would also say that OP should make absolutely sure that she fully understands Connie’s background. I know she says both sides are white, multi-multigenerational wealthy, etc., but if there’s any chance that Connie’s paternal family is not what OP is thinking, it would look terrible for OP to accuse.

    1. Narise*

      I cannot agree with you enough. Please make sure you are aware of all details. Is it possible there is a family history or details you are not aware of right now? Her mother was married to your uncle and is not a blood relative. Is there anyway to verify directly with Connie that this is the same Connie from your childhood? I agree with sharing what you know once you have done some due diligence but think of how damaging this could be to this Connie if you are wrong. It will go far beyond her not obtaining one position.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Connie said she grew up in a poor immigrant minority family. As OP GREW UP WITH HER, OP would know that is not true.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I don’t know if you need to do this, so much as present it to the hiring committee and ask them to do the due dilligence. You don’t have to say, “I know all about Connie, because…” and risk being exposed as wrong. You can say, “I was extremely close to Connie growing up, and this is what I knew about her. It’s possible that as a child I wasn’t privy to all the details of her mother’s life before she married my uncle, but I felt deeply uncomfortable knowing this and allowing this hiring decision to proceed without sharing it. Please let me know if there’s anything else you need from me.” It’s then up to the committee to investigate the discrepancy.

    4. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      If Connie claims that she grew up in a poor family, and OP knows that her mother and stepfather are actually rich, then the part about poverty is a lie, no matter what her biological father’s situation may have been. And if Connie is born in the US to an American mother, and if OP knows this as a fact, then Connie is not an immigrant, no matter where her biological father comes from. (If the bio dad is an immigrant, then Connie could say something more vague about immigrant background, but the way I read OP’s story, she claims that she herself is an immigrant.) There’s really no way that Connie’s story could turn out to be completely true because of her paternal family!

      The race question is more tricky because it’s possible that Connie’s biological father isn’t 100% white. I still can’t wrap my head around how someone could both be white-passing and face racism every day, but I also know that I don’t understand American ideas about race very well, so maybe it’s a thing in America… (It’s definitely possible for a white person to experience discrimination based on their ethnic background, at least in Europe, but I don’t think this is what Connie means, and I don’t think racism is the correct word for that.) So in this case I would focus on the poverty and immigration parts because they are more easily proved wrong.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I still can’t wrap my head around how someone could both be white-passing and face racism every day

        In the US, a lot of racism comes out when white people are (or think they are) alone together. So it’s very possible that a white-passing person hears racist jokes, a lot of comments referring to “those people” (non-white people), etc.

        1. The Original K.*

          I saw a Tik Tok of a white-passing guy whose father is Black that was him listing all the racist things people have said in front of him because they assume he’s white, ranging from micro-aggressions to the n-word. He always speaks up in the moment and people are shocked, and if they apologize it’s “sorry I said that in front of you.” Not “sorry I said it,” but “sorry that you heard it.”

        2. doreen*

          Some people “pass” in only certain contexts. I used to work with three sisters – people tended to think one of them was white until they met one of the her sisters.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            Yes, race can be very funny that way. I knew a gay male couple. One was white and one was black. In public people could tell they were close, but couldn’t always quite grok the nature of their relationship. More than once, people assumed they were brothers. They detected the closeness, but didn’t quite get to “gay” so they ended up at “brothers.” I suppose it’s possible that maybe those people thought one of them was adopted or something along those lines, but they gave the distinct impression that when they were together, the appearance of their race would “morph” to look more alike.

      2. anonagoose*

        I’m mixed race and white-passing, and I’ve been told (among many other things) that racial mixing is the origin of all of society’s ills. So, you know, it happens. I don’t experience racism because people look at me and see a person of color, and that is incredibly important for people to know. But I do experience racism based on my last name, based on stereotypes that people perpetuate about my ethnicities, based on the way that spaces I’m in treat POC and make it clear they will treat me if I am more open about my race…and there is also intergenerational trauma as a result of the racism my family has experienced, and the marginalization that occurs when I try to manifest my cultural identity in spaces.

        I want to be clear, I’m not saying it’s the same thing that people who are visibly non-white experience, or on the same scale. But those are all very much experiences of racism, and they do happen on a daily basis.

    5. anonymous73*

      Again, not necessary. OP needs to present the facts as she knows them and let the committee decide what to do moving forward.

    6. McS*

      I actually disagree, but OP should stick to facts she does 100% know when speaking up. “I saw her often for 15 years and never heard she was an immigrant.” “I’ve met both her parents and would identify them as white.” “To me as a child, the household she grew up in never seemed poor.” The hiring manager should be expected to follow up with research, not rely on OP for all the facts. Red flags matter when hiring and interviewers should always bring them up even if they’re not 100% sure.

    7. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      That is absurd. OP just shouldn’t lead in with the “she is white, I swear” approach and focus on the facts that she knows and that are verifiably inaccurate. OP needs to say that she knows Connie, that Connie is her cousin, and that even though they have not spoken recently, they grew up together as kids, and that OP knows for a fact that Connie’s parents, OP’s aunt and uncle, were not immigrants and were actually very affluent and that they were the ones to raise her. That far from having an impoverished life as an immigrant/child of immigrants, she had a very comfortable and privileged life, just like OP. She can then add in that to the best of her knowledge, Connie and her parents are white and not POCs, but admittedly OP has not reviewed any ancestry tests. Regardless, Connie did misrepresent her experience by discussing her struggles due to her “impoverished upbringing as an immigrant in the U.S. ”

      And honestly, if Connie was willing to blatantly and brazenly lie about that part, odds are good that the whole thing is just her gaming the system.

  24. kiki*

    I’m confused about your mentor’s response. The optics would only be bad if you are wrong and it seems pretty clear you likely aren’t. I would check in with your family if you can and verify what Connie said. If you’re worried you could be wrong and/or don’t want to jump to accusing Connie of anything to your family, I’d say something like this:
    “Connie recently interviewed at my workplace and described her experience as an impoverished immigrant of color. I was surprised– I didn’t know that about her experience and that wasn’t what I picked up on in the time I knew her.”

    Once you get more info, I think it’s safe to approach someone on the hiring committee and spell out what you said here. If it makes it feel less awkward, you could focus more on the more immediately provable lies, like that Connie is an immigrant and that she grew up impoverished when her family is notably wealthy. Investigating Connie’s race could be a bit murkier (Connie could come up with a story about her relative living out Stella’s life from The Vanishing Half or pull up a 23 and Me result that she’s 10% of something).

    1. Daniel*

      I’m a fan of this.

      And right afterward, I’d get in touch with Connie, just to see what she says. (And I mean right afterward, putting down the phone with your mom and immediately calling Connie, if you have her number.)

      It’s possible you learn something about Connie’s background that you didn’t know! Or that this person happens to be Connie’s doppelganger. But I’m not optimistic, so it’s also possible that Connie shows herself to be entirely off the deep end and tries to co-opt you into this scheme, now that she knows that you’re in the department she’s applying to.

      Either way, doing nothing isn’t an option. Peridot and Miss Muffet have already pointed out that this could be disastrous for you if you’re right about what’s up, but didn’t do anything and had already known Connie since childhood–as a member of your family, no less.

  25. irene adler*

    If this were my cousin, I’d be inclined to reach out to HER directly and ask, “WTF?”.

    Connie has to realize OP recognized her. And that OP is in a position to enlighten all of the hiring team as to the veracity of her statements. Knowing this and conducting herself as she did- wow!- that’s a whole ‘nother level of moxie.

    And yes, OP should let someone know about what is going on. For the sake of department reputation.

    Not doubting the OP’s words, but could there be someone who is a dead ringer for Connie? I’m often mistaken for someone else; albeit not by family members. And people vehemently INSIST I am this other person. I have to produce ID to disabuse them of their belief.

    1. cubone*

      yeah I can’t imagine not contacting Connie with just a …. “Hey, what on earth?” I agree with some other commenters it’s not on OP to resolve and also if she knows Connie has definitely lied, what’s the point, etc but I mean…. How could you not want to see what the person says in response to that?!

  26. Gracely*

    What the actual F.

    You have to say something. Regardless of the blowback to you, honestly, because this is disgusting and ridiculous.

    And I really hope someone asks Connie’s mom to find out if anyone else in her family knows Connie is doing this, because again, WTF. WTF WTF WTF.

  27. Hoopa*

    Where I work this would be a nightmare scenario. Self-declaration for affirmative action purposes (either gender or race) is solely based on one’s own identification (in my office). We have no way of pointing out obvious frauds. Any expression of doubting someone’s identification is grounds for harassment. It’s a crappy system alright although I’m not sure what to do about it.

    1. LawLady*

      Honestly I’m not sure there’s any good way around just accepting people’s self identification? How race physically manifests is so varied, and I certainly don’t love the idea that hiring panels or coworkers should be able to grill fair black people on whether they’re really black, etc.

      1. braindump*

        No race needs to be mentioned if OP just said “we grew up together and those facts about her having an impoverished immigrant life are false”

      2. Ann*

        There is. If the hiring preference was offered to applicants that grew up poor/in difficult circumstances (say, they could provide easily verifiable proof of getting some kind of government assistance), the hiring committee would not have to deal with the awkwardness of trying to judge their future employees by the color of their skin. And the additional awkwardness of not being sure they’re getting that color right.

        1. Anon1*

          Or we could just hire based on the skills and accomplishments of the candidates? That seems like the most straightforward way around this.

          1. Nina*

            Not if you’re trying for equity… because people from disadvantaged backgrounds, while they may be just as skilled and talented and hardworking as people from advantaged backgrounds, will have less access to things like high-school extracurriculars, private tutoring, unpaid internships, easy access to their parents’ professional connections, expensive/prestigious colleges, study-abroad schemes… all the stuff that looks nice on a resume. If you want to hire the best candidate, rather than the candidate who has the most advantaged background, then yeah, you have to control for things like that.

    2. Umpire*

      That’s a ridiculous system in a time when this sort of misrepresentation is somehow becoming more frequent. I understand what they’re trying to do, but no.

        1. Hoopa*

          I think it is becoming more frequent. Even if 99% of people are very honest, that leaves a lot of people willing to make a serious lie for financial gain.

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          I doubt it is becoming more frequent. Passing has occurred as long as racial prejudice in the US has been a thing (and probably in other places before that, but I haven’t done much reading on that.)

          What it *is* becoming is more frequently reported, both because of the wider net of news media (it would have been a matter of local/family scandal, unless the accused was say the President of the United States) and because the secret was more closely kept when it was a matter of life and death not a matter of jobs and book deals.

        1. Liva*

          Canadian universities and other government funded institutions are starting to implement policies for Indigenous identity verification. The policies are based on consultation with local Indigenous nations and existing Indigenous staff members. Roughly the policies aim to verify that the nation and community you’re claiming claims you back (e.g. could be a verification letter from a respected elder in the community).

          There is also a university that has policies to verify that students are African Nova Scotian – you submit an application explaining your community ties and it’s reviewed by respected community members.

          Obviously these kinds of policies are more difficult to develop for groups where there don’t really exist obvious communities to reach out to for verification – but I don’t think it’s impossible.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Could this specific situation be dealt with by ignoring the race part and focussing on the “grew up in poverty as an immigrant” part or would poverty also come under self-identification? To be honest, those seem more certain to me anyway, as it is POSSIBLE that Connie has a grandparent who is POC that the LW doesn’t know about or maybe she was adopted or something, but it’s fairly unlikely she could have been living in poverty without the LW noticing. Or rather with the LW thinking she lived a life of extreme privilege in one of the town’s richest families. (It’s definitely possible for people to hide how bad things are, but I doubt somebody living in extreme poverty could pretend extreme wealth.)

      1. Ann*

        I missed it at first, but OP says that Connie is not an immigrant. So that right there is a lie, and OP should totally bring it up.

    4. Observer*

      We have no way of pointing out obvious frauds. Any expression of doubting someone’s identification is grounds for harassment.

      Well, in this context it doesn’t really matter. Because what the OP should be doing is stating that Connie’s Mom was married to OP uncle till they (OP and Connie) were 15 years old, and in that time they spent almost every weekend together. Neither Mom nor (step?)Dad are immigrants nor were they poor.

      If the committee is any good, that will be enough. If they aren’t. . . OP should make sure to put this in writing and send it to a personal email so they have documentation that they raised the alarm.

      No need to question Connie’s racial “bona fides”

  28. ellielock*

    Curious though, don’t you usually have to disclose if you know/ have family or relatives working in the workplace? Or is that something done after you receive an offer?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      That would be a company policy. I don’t believe there’s any legal requirement.

  29. Don*

    I don’t really understand how this is even at this stage. “During her team interview with me,” the LW says… which, were I in their shoes, I’d have already felt I needed to disclose my familiar relationship. I think this is not such a tie that it would preclude me from weighing in, but I also think it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to make that call. Maybe I would have let it go till after, but I could also imagine my calling a break to disclose this to my boss or the hiring manager. Or in an academic situation, the hiring committee chair (based on the way my old edu employer organized these things).

    Regardless, I think that’s a pretty simple way to open this if you’re concerned about coming out and contesting someone’s claimed racial identity. “Hey hiring manager, I feel like I need to disclose this connection before I give you my notes/report from this interview. I’m pretty confident that the applicant is this family connection who I spent a lot of time with growing up and I don’t want to allow any appearance of impropriety on my part.”

    As far as your mentor with this “It would look like I’m attacking a candidate based on race in a predominantly white department.” I don’t know what that dude is thinking. There is nothing //attacking// about saying that you believe an applicant is misrepresenting themselves, particularly when you have personal knowledge of overt fabrications. It is no different whether they’re claiming an ethnic identity they don’t possess, a degree they don’t have, work experience that doesn’t exist, etc. My opinions about the rightness or wrongness of those things would be considered irrelevant to my employer if this all came out later and they knew I’d shut my mouth about it.

    This isn’t choosing to keep your mouth shut as someone steals bread they might need to eat. This is a person using fraud to take the place of someone less privileged and potentially sucking you into the inevitable mess.

    1. Jackalope*

      Yes, this is an important point. In addition to the issues inherent in claiming to be a poor minority immigrant in and of themselves, there’s also the fact that Connie was lying about a lot of information on her resume and in her interview. In this case the lie is particularly egregious, but even if it had been something less awful it still should be a reason to take her out of the running.

      1. Siege*

        It’s much more likely that Connie started lying at an early age and the jobs/grants/etc on her resume are all completely legitimate ones she’s held … based on her lies that she’s a minority immigrant who grew up in poverty. You don’t just get to 45 or 50 and go “screw it, I’ll start lying for these opportunities! Guess it’s time to make a fake resume!”

    2. MicroManagered*

      You make really good points. Assuming this situation is still relatively close to the stage described in the letter (i.e. Connie has just recently interviewed, a decision hasn’t been made yet), OP can still save some face behind saying she wasn’t 100% sure until they were face-to-face in the interview if she wants. In addition to disclosing the familial connection, she can mention that she’s not sure about some of Connie’s claims of being a minority or immigrant, that they spent a significant portion of their childhoods together, that she knows both sides of Connie’s family well, and they’re both very affluent white families as far as she knows. The hiring team and department can do what they want with that info, but at least they won’t come back to OP when they find out another way.

    3. Oxford Comma*

      A lot of times in academia, you don’t know who the applicants are till just before they present. Unless you’re on the search committee, which OP is not.

    4. anonymath*

      I like best the approach of, “Hey we’re family so I should recuse myself. We spent 15 years summering together in the Hamptons, and her mom’s endowment of the cancer center made big news. Her mom was born in Jersey and her dad was born in Connecticut, you know…. I thought it was really weird she didn’t acknowledge me! We spent so much time going to horse camp together!” Just spill all that info without directly addressing the story. In a public forum. Maybe the faculty lounge, during coffee. Plant all the suspicions and let someone else do the uncover.

  30. Mehitabel*

    I have not read through all of the comments, so I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this but… personally, I think the LW needs to confront Connie about this and tell her that either 1) she comes clean to the university, or 2) she withdraws her candidacy altogether — and that if she does not do so, the LW will. LW really has no other choice here IMO. If Connie gets that job, and when (and it WILL be ‘when’, not ‘if’) her fraudulent claims are exposed, and when it comes to light that LW is her cousin and knew all along — well, LW could find herself out on the street right next to her for having been complicit in the lie.

    1. toolittletoolate*

      absolutely! I don’t know why this approach hasn’t gotten more “air time” in this forum. It accomplishes several things
      1. OP can verify that this is indeed the person she thinks it is–no mistaken identity
      2. If for some strange reason, OP’s knowledge of cousin’s life is not completely correct, cousin has a chance to explain herself and give OP important information that might change OP’s understanding.
      3. If OP is right, cousin gets a chance to learn an important lesson and clean up her own mess
      4. OP can still blow the whistle.

  31. Umpire*

    You absolutely need to tell. It sounds like your boss either does not understand that she’s not actually multiracial, or does not care/is fine with this/wants to sweep it under the rug.

    You *must* say something, for the sake of all the students from these backgrounds who will be violated by her. For the person who should have gotten the job but won’t because she stole it. For your own sake too, so when the scandal breaks “why didn’t so and so say anything? Must’ve been helping her.” Especially if it comes out that you know her intimately. There goes your reputation. As I recall, there have been about 2 more American academics caught doing this recently.

    You could see if you can get some information from your mother or something. You should speak to someone very high up but come prepared with evidence.

  32. LilPinkSock*

    Why would it look like you’re attacking a candidate based on race? You know this person and you know she’s lying. Look at this way: would you prefer to alert an on-the-fence hiring committee now, or wait until this Connie establishes herself at your organization based on lies, then someone finds out the truth, and the optics are actually terrible.

    1. BEC*

      Right?? It’s not like OP is saying ‘this candidate shouldn’t be accepted because a non-white person of their immigrant background couldn’t possibly have gotten all these awards’ but rather ‘this person is saying they’re an immigrant when they’re not, and claiming to not be white when in fact they are’.

      Mentor missed the mark entirely on this one, and it shows his deep discomfort with this area (and therefore lack of credentials/ability to comment and advise OP on this topic)

      1. Meghan*

        At my institution (small uni) there is always and D&I point person on the hiring committee.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          And at all the universities I’ve worked at, the hiring committee is all overworked and beleaguered faculty members.

      2. Academic Fibro Warrior*

        Not on the hiring committee. That’s handled generally speaking by the department the interviewee is applying to work in. And depending on the school a relative isn’t so unusual, even in the same department (one of my mentors as a grad student was married to the graduate program officer. They wanted her as tenure track and hired him as an instructor so they could get her). In the school I used to work at there were a ton of family connections and nobody batted an eye. It was a small town and a small network. And even if the school had truly been interested in diversity other than lip service, the deep interpersonal and professional connections really made it difficult for non connected people to get on with any power or gain any. So it stayed really non diverse in the levels that mattered. I have no way of knowing based on the letter, but this situation is not at all unbelievable to me and would definitely be possible in a smaller school without a big national footprint and…in that case the local fallout would likely not even be that bad. But academia is a small pond and the LW would have trouble moving to a more prestigious school after it came out.

        But if the school ends up punishing LW for doing the right thing, is that truly an environment one would want to stay in? Hiring in academia is…grueling in good times but presumably there’s enough academic standing the LW could get out? Wouldn’t even need to really bring up the situation because it would likely come up organically in the interview process anyway or through personal connections at conferences and what not. (We can be a gossipy bunch).

        Academia is brutal and callous enough for people without all the privileges. The cruelty magnifies as identities intersect. The LW has an opportunity here to not just do the right thing but ensure this woman doesn’t harm students of color, at least here. And word can get around.

        That said. The legal counsel who posted above has the best advice based on my own administrative higher ed work. And there should be an EEO office that LW can go speak to as well. With evidence of the childhood I would think, as that is what LW has the pertinent information on. (Bonus points if you have a picture of her with her sweet 16 Mercedes or BMW).

        1. Nina*

          In my (limited, so I’ll bow to your superior expertise) experience, the two-body problem is common with spousal relationships, less common with parent-child relationships, unusual with sibling relationships, and virtually unheard-of with any other kind of family relationship.

    1. nom de plume*

      No, in this case, it’s the Search Committee Chair. They’re in charge in these processes. Maybe add in the Dean, but this goes to the Chair first.

  33. donde esta*

    Similar stories (many) have come up in academia in the last few years. They were usually exposed by peers (i.e., grad students and teaching faculty) pointing out holes in the story with documents and testimony. In other words, there’s no need to disprove the whole thing–just raise the doubt about the things you are most confident about (individual did not grow up in poverty, was born in US). If you can provide documents like yearbooks or birth announcements, that’ll do it. It may take a while, especially if powerful people are invested in the narrative, but it will come apart eventually.

    As an aside, I have as an academic whose work relates to BIPOC cultures been directly advised to do what this questioner describes–claim to be white-passing when I’m actually white–by two different academics who do not know eachother. The idea is out there.

    1. Tricksie*

      Whoa. I can’t believe you’ve actually been directly advised to do this!!! That’s…!!!!

      1. donde esta*

        I know. I KNOW!!! It’s a really strong myth among white academics, that being BIPOC is a free ticket to a great job. Both people who said this to me are kind of marginal and unsuccessful, not anyone’s mentors by any means. But for real, they thought that would work. And that **I would do it**.

        It’s an interesting case of urban myth becoming real life, actually.

        1. Brief anon*

          Just recently, the chair of my department said, in a work conversation, that Black people have an easier time getting into top grad programs and an easier time finishing them, because they get so much support and favorable treatment. He also believes that Black people have an easier time on the job market. We are social scientists; his inability (or refusal) to understand the evidence on these issues has eaten away any respect I still had for him. But he’s definitely not the only one who assumes his prejudices are facts.

    2. This is Artemesia*

      Wow some really ethically challenged advise there. I had a mentor who did research on segregation and was a well known scholar. He also had a first name that sounded sort of ‘black’ although it was also the name of his own very white conservative Senator ancestor. He would be invited to appear on panels at scholarly events and soon learned to let the people inviting him know that he was white — since it turned out he was being asked to ‘add diversity’ in some cases or because it was an all black event in other cases. It is really reprehensible for someone to be pretending to be a POC in order to gain hiring advantage.

      1. donde esta*

        The thing about names being used sloppily as evidence of racial identity or ethnic background or immigrant experience is also for real, though less common now that most people have a headshot on the web.

        1. The Original K.*

          I’m Black. You wouldn’t know it from my name. I can always tell who has looked me up before meeting me. I’ve seen double-takes and outright disappointment when I’ve showed up for interviews and introduced myself.

        2. Johanna Cabal*

          The name thing gets to me because I have a white friend who married a man whose family came to the US from China and she ended up taking his last name. Apparently, it threw off all of her job interviewers every time. I also once worked under another woman who took her Puerto Rican spouse’s surname.

          1. WS*

            Yes, when my Chinese sister-in-law used her English married name, she got a lot more interviews, but she decided that the offended and aggressive behaviour of some interviewers wasn’t worth it.

    3. nom de plume*

      Honestly, with the Jessica Krug case, it wasn’t so much about hard proof as it was about colleagues and peers showing wild divergences in her (Krug’s) self-narrative. So I wouldn’t get too bogged down in amassing a cache of evidence; the OP stating what she knows should give the Search Committee Chair enough to do their own due diligence and take this to the candidate.

      Act fast, OP — you are playing not only with your department’s reputation but your own, too.

      1. Observer*

        the OP stating what she knows should give the Search Committee Chair enough to do their own due diligence and take this to the candidate.

        That’s exactly right. The OP doesn’t need to prove this in a court, they just need to give enough information for the hiring folks to do their job.

        Act fast, OP — you are playing not only with your department’s reputation but your own, too.

        This is 100% true.

    4. Observer*

      I have as an academic whose work relates to BIPOC cultures been directly advised to do what this questioner describes–claim to be white-passing when I’m actually white–by two different academics who do not know each other.

      Is it any wonder that many people don’t trust academics and academia?

  34. Delta Delta*

    The mentor is way off base here. Blow that whistle. Here’s the thing for me – she is LYING about a lot of things. She is lying about her race. She is lying about her background. She is lying about poverty. Sure, maybe she got those grants or fellowships or whatever, but if she did, it’s likely because she lied in order to do it. On the other hand, maybe she’s lying now about all that.

    The optics aren’t poor here. This will absolutely self-destruct if Connie is hired. Get out in front of it now. If they do hire her, you’ll want to make sure it was documented that you called shenanigans on all this.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I’m going to qualify this – perhaps she isn’t lying about her racial background. It’s true that there may be things in her background that OP doesn’t know. But there are things OP DOES know to be inaccurate, and it seems like those are important things to raise.

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m so curious about the part in the interview where she pretended not to know you… Didn’t that come off as odd to the others that you recognized someone as your cousin and that person didn’t seem to know you at all?

        1. ltrftc*

          Agreed. The people on both sides of this story behaved in ways that don’t logically make sense, even if one of them were a racist academic con artist. Truth can be stranger than fiction though I guess?

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Could just be faceblindness. I mean, I can’t recognize myself in pictures- someone I haven’t seen for quite a while? I’d probably follow their lead on whether or not I know them, honestly (which doesn’t always help, but it doesn’t cause as much trouble as trying to trust my own instincts on the matter).

          2. Observer*

            I don’t think it’s hard to understand at all. The OP says that they were “speechless”. Which is generally a term used when you can’t figure out what to say or just can’t get a word out because you’re so discombobulated.

            I don’t think it’s so hard to understand why the OP would be stunned silly.

          3. Elsajeni*

            I mean, a family member that you were close with as kids, lost touch with, are connected to on social media but otherwise haven’t seen recently… I have some family fitting that description and I don’t know that I would recognize all of them as adults, or, even if I did, if the combination of them blanking me and then describing a background that was not at all that of the person I remembered would be enough to make me think in the moment “I… guess? this is a different, similar-looking person with the same name? super weird coincidence if so, but it seems like the only possibility that makes any sense?”

  36. Khatul Madame*

    Wow. That’s gumption taken to the next plane, right there.

    There must be google-able information that confirms Connie’s true origins.
    LW could also chat with the interview panelists that looked uncomfortable and see if they can gently suggest a due diligence action (if they carry more weight in the department).

    I am amazed that Connie pretended not to know the LW. Is she counting on the LW participating in the charade in case she gets the job?

    1. Daniel*

      My mind went there too–whether Connie was counting on roping LW in or that she could use a variant of “but we’re faaaaaaamily!” if LW asks her what’s up.

      1. Sylvan*

        If Connie likes telling stories about being persecuted, she could paint LW as some sort of aggressor for questioning her.

        1. Sylvan*

          (I saw somebody do this online once. A white person pretended to be Native American. A family member spoke up about it and the pretender framed them as dishonest, abusive, etc. I would have believed it if overwhelming evidence didn’t show that this person was, in fact, white.)

  37. Koala*

    As much as I think the OP should say something, if I were the one getting that news I would ask 1) why she didn’t speak up in the interview when she became aware it was a family member and 2) why she didn’t then excuse herself from the interview as that’s a clear conflict of interest (at least where I work it would be). By saying something NOW so long after the fact, the OP risks making herself look bad at the same time.

    1. Daniel*

      Well, LW should get more info on Connie’s background first, but after that, she could say, “I was so bewildered by what I was seeing that I couldn’t react.” Maybe not the greatest look, but at least it’s the truth and establishes that LW isn’t trying to deceive the department.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        I don’t think OP not speaking up in the interview is particularly surprising. If I personally were to encounter one of my cousins inventing wild stories during a job interview, I would absolutely be too shocked and bewildered to know how to respond in the moment.

        Having had a coworker who was a fabulist and an inveterate liar, quite frankly it happened to me all the time that I was too bewildered by their lies to know what to say in the moment. The wilder the lie, the more difficult it was to know what to say. If the person had claimed they finished a report I knew they hadn’t, I could easily say something, but often they would come up with a totally new claim like they used to live in China and spoke fluent Chinese (while we had a lot of coworkers who actually spoke Chinese, so I knew this person did not). There were often other people present who made it even more awkward to say something. Some people–like me–just aren’t good on their feet.

      2. Observer*

        Well, LW should get more info on Connie’s background first,

        This is totally unnecessary. The OP knows enough to know that significant portions of Connie’s story are absolutely not the case. From there, it’s on the hiring committee to do their due diligence.

  38. Lacey*

    If I were the OP I think I would have made Connie acknowledge me as her cousin in the interview, but that ship has sailed.

    I think people are overplaying the idea that your cousin who you grew up with might secretly be a POC. Just as I am super aware that my cousins, who I did not grow up with, are from the whitest of white families, I think you know.

    But, if you want to feel super secure – and I get it – ask your cousin what the heck is up.
    Then, if she tells you something like, “Oh, I have a secret bio dad” you should double check with your Aunt about whether that’s real.

    More likely she says something about how 10 generations back one of her ancestors was Navajo.

    But at least you’ll feel confident about telling your department she’s a fraud.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      It seems like, though, Connie is also claiming to be an immigrant and to have grown up poor. A family secret (different biological father) can’t change those facts.

      1. Lacey*

        This is true – I overlooked that bit. She would still be a fraud even if she did secretly have a father who was not white.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, at absolute best, she is taking one aspect of her background, for example, a secret POC immigrant father living in poverty and phrasing it in such a way as to make it sound very different from the reality, “I am mixed race and grew up with an immigrant father who was unemployed most of my childhood,” even if technically true, leaves out a lot if the father played no part in her life and she was raised in wealth.

          And to be honest, I’d be surprised if there’s even that much truth in it.

        2. Observer*

          She would still be a fraud even if she did secretly have a father who was not white.

          Exactly. And that’s why the OP really needs to bring this to the hiring committee asap. Because the lies are enough, even if it turns out that she actually has a Black father.

  39. ABCYaBye*

    OP, as others have pointed out, there may be some things you aren’t aware of in your family’s history, so you may want to give yourself a little cover when you say something. But you also need to give yourself some professional cover by saying something to the hiring committee, letting them know that Connie is your cousin. And then raise the doubts you have about her story. During that disclosure, indicate that while you may not know everything about your family’s history (the appropriate cover), you aren’t entirely sure all of what Connie has shared adds up completely, as she at least didn’t grow up poor.

    You have a responsibility to yourself and your institution to at least raise your concerns.

  40. Clobberin' Time*

    I mean, the letter overall makes no sense whatsoever. According to the OP:

    – Connie is from a prominent, well-known family in the community, yet nobody has ever heard of her, nobody blinks in the slightest at the claim that she is a POC instead of a member of this well-known white family, and even though this is an academic community in a city with at least TWO major universities, nobody has talked to anyone else in their field about her or even heard of her to say “POC? Are we talking about the same Connie?

    -Connie and the OP’s mom are close, Connie and the OP have reconnected in recent years, yet Connie never did any networking with the OP when applying not only to the same university where OP works but to the same department OP works in.

    -The OP was on the interview panel with Connie and was “speechless the entire time” – so the OP sat silent during an interview panel, and never lifted a finger during or afterward to point out that Connie is her cousin?

    -Connie has an “impressive” resume that the OP is worried may be false, but OP doesn’t explain why – there’s nothing in the letter suggesting that the resume shows Connie had leadership or professional positions that would imply she is BIPOC.

    -And the OP, who works in academia, seems not to have given a thought to the fact that if Connie does get hired, she is going to have to keep up the pretense that they are strangers for all time; and if Connie gets caught (which she will) that the OP is going to have incredible blowback.

    If this isn’t a fake letter, then there is something very wrong with Connie and the OP is being incredibly obtuse, not only about her ethical obligations, but about how the effect of keeping her mouth shut is going to affect her career.

    1. donde esta*

      This is partly about culture. Pretty much all of the silence and weirdness you point out is typical of academia, and similar race-frauds have been proven in the last few years (similar lies AND similarly lengthy fraud). But also there are reasons for people in hiring to be this stupid, financial and institutional reasons. Poster above who talks about it being convenient for whites to have a nearly-white person handling the DEI ish is probably on to something.

      1. Student*

        Can confirm these kind of academic shenanigans happens with women in academic fields that are dominated by men, too. I would not be at all surprised to see a university buy into POC fraud after seeing what they did to boost gender stats artificially.

        When I was a grad student, my department had only a couple of women, compared to dozens of men, as professors. One of the women professors got sick of second-class treatment and left for a different job. She left the area, she stopped teaching classes for the university, her grad students got new advisors. It was a big deal to all of us women grad students at the time, so I’m quite sure if the details.

        The university decided it couldn’t afford to have the gender ratio in the department get even more sckewed, though – so they kept her on the books as a professor for at least a full year after she left. I hope she got a sweetheart deal out of them for it. I never could figure out if they were fudging the books with her consent and a pay-out, or if they were just lying, hoping she wouldn’t notice and call them out.

        With POC, I’d expect them to be even more brazen about fraudulently inflating numbers.

        1. donde esta*

          it is very likely that her contract offered a year of unpaid leave and she took it all. very ordinary thing to do.

          the endless casual misogyny is also ordinary, of course, so your substantive point stands.

    2. Loulou*

      The name thing doesn’t seem so odd to me. I personally work with people whose names are on buildings here, but they are not related in the slightest, or if they are it’s many generations back in the old country. I wouldn’t assume someone is one of “those Hiltons” or whatever just because they share a name.

      1. to varying degrees*

        Yeah, people may recognize the name but don’t know if the person is a part of that family. I work for a company that has a pretty prominent name and I can tell you for a fact most people haven’t heard of one of the kids as this person has NOTHING to do with the family or family business. And if the name is even somewhat common, they may not make the connection.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          And then she would be putting her name as Connie Hilton Jones on her resume so nobody missed the connection.

      2. Darsynia*

        Especially not if the family is prominent and white, and Connie is presenting herself as a BIPOC immigrant!

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Agreed and this may be an Irish difference thing, but…just because her family is well known doesn’t mean I’d expect HER to be. If I met one of our taoiseach’s (prime minister’s) kids, I…wouldn’t think “oh, your surname is ‘Martin.’ Your dad must be the taoiseach.” I’d just think…they had the same surname. That goes double for our president’s kids as his name is Higgins, which is an extremely common name and I would never assume somebody called Higgins must be related to him. I know the first name of one of his daughters and it’s a bit unusual, but his other three kids? I have no idea what their first names are. I don’t even know how many kids our taoiseach has. (OK, his wikipedia page says 5 and gives the name of one of them, but even that is a common name.)

        Now I do find it odd that Connie would lie about so much right to the LW’s face. Surely, she’d….assume the LW would out her. Maybe she lied on her resume, not knowing the LW would be there and then…just had to go through with it.

        But I don’t think not recognising the name is weird. Unless it’s a fairly uncommon name, I wouldn’t expect people to assume a connection. Heck, I even had a lecturer who had a fairly uncommon name and later read that there was a prominent Anglo-Irish family (it’s an English name, not an Irish one, which is partly why it’s uncommon here) from the same area she is from and I still only assume she’s PROBABLY related to them, because coincidences do happen and it’s not impossible that two English families with the same name would settle in the same area. I certainly wouldn’t assume she were lying if she said her family were of a different ethnicity or background to them. I’d just think “hmm, must be coincidence, so.”

      4. H3llifIknow*

        I may have misread it, but I got the impression Connie wasn’t using the “privileged well known multigenerational” name that might be recognized, but rather the name of the man her mom was married to, and therefore not associated with that privilege? Maybe… I was confused by the references to the marriage to the Uncle otherwise TBH.

      5. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, agreed — I just for fun went to look at the Mass General Hospital website to see who they have things named for, and at the top of the main campus map page, they refer to the Lunder Building, the Yawkey Center and the Wang Ambulatory Care Center. Yawkey is the only name on that list that would make me go, “Is she one of THE Yawkeys??”

      6. kicking_k*

        Yeah, I’m going for Connie’s real name being fairly common. I worked in a university job where there was a running joke that we couldn’t hire any more administrators called Anne or Linda because there were so many – and two of the Lindas had the same surname. They were not related. I’ve also known at least four women called Jenny with the same common surname as my in-laws. If I’m going into an interview with another Jenny (surname), sight unseen, I’m not going to assume I know her or have a family connection to her. But if my sister-in-law is applying to my institution, I’d expect her to give me a heads up.

    3. Pippa K*

      Yeah, after thinking about all this, I’m back to “this cannot be real, can it?” Maybe it is! Connie wouldn’t be the first white person to try this kind of scam. But the other details set off my spidey senses. I really, really want an update!

    4. Essentially Cheesy*

      Yes, this completely! Lots of red flags for me – including clear first cousin family relationship!

    5. The Original K.*

      Connie and the OP’s mom are close, Connie and the OP have reconnected in recent years, yet Connie never did any networking with the OP when applying not only to the same university where OP works but to the same department OP works in.
      If Connie has been lying about her race, it stands to reason that she wouldn’t reach out to someone who could blow up her spot – that’s why she pretended not to know LW during the interview.

      -The OP was on the interview panel with Connie and was “speechless the entire time” – so the OP sat silent during an interview panel, and never lifted a finger during or afterward to point out that Connie is her cousin?
      I will say, in LW’s shoes I probably would have instinctively said “Hi Connie” when I saw her, which probably would have caused someone to ask “you two know each other?” I wonder how that would have played out, if Connie would have doubled down.

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        Either Connie has been pulling a Dolezal and has been lying about her race for some time, or she just came up with this story to get the job in OP’s department.

        If it’s a long-term con, then why would Connie do the one thing that is most likely to exposure her and ruin her career – applying at a job in the same department where her cousin works?

        If it’s something Connie is doing just to get this one job, why is she doing the bonkers, dangerous thing of pretending to be BIPOC – instead of trading on her network, including her personal connection to someone who already works in that department?

        The only explanation I can come up with that makes any sense at all is that Connie has lost her marbles completely and has thrown over every advantage she has from being a rich, well-connected white woman with a direct “in” to the job she wants, in favor of some deep psychological need to pretend to be a woman of color.

    6. Hlao-roo*

      I can make sense of your first few bullet points:

      – From a well-known family in the community: it could be that Connie is from a non-immediate relation to the family members who donate to the hospitals/museums/etc. Using Batman as an example, everyone in Gotham City knows Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne as prominent philanthropists. Bruce Wayne’s cousins (if he had any) would presumably also be well-off, but the average joes in Gotham wouldn’t immediately connect the name “Connie Wayne” with WayneTech.

      – OP and Connie reconnected on social media, which is usually a pretty passive form a connection. And if one or both of the accounts that they’re connected on are primarily social-life focused, it is very reasonable that Connie did not network with OP and perhaps reasonably that Connie didn’t know OP worked in this specific university department.

      – Some interview panels have only one or two people ask questions and the others are there to take notes and form an impression of the candidate, so it’s possible that was OP’s role. Also “speechless the entire time” doesn’t necessarily mean “literally silent,” so it could be that the OP asked her interview questions but was “speechless” with respect to not knowing how to address a white person brazenly lie about being a person of color.

      And the OP did say something to her mentor after the interview, and wrote in to Alison because the mentor’s advice didn’t sit right. So I think saying the OP is obtuse about her ethical obligations is a bit harsh.

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        I don’t think the OP is being unethical, but she is being obtuse how this would affect her personally if Connie is hired.

        And sure, we can come up with “coulds” and “possibles” that explain away some of the weirdness in the OP’s letter. Maybe, as someone else commented, the OP changed a number of facts to obscure their identity and that’s why things are not jibing. I have to say that the one thing that makes absolutely no sense to me is the idea of a well-connected privileged person throwing away all of their networking, family and community connections, and background in favor of pretending to be a POC to get that one job. If that is in fact what Connie is doing, then she is banana crackers.

        1. Not to me.*

          As a Black person, it isn’t banana crackers to me. It’s extremely believable. Lots of white people online and in academia believe that POC – especially Black people get unfair advantages in hiring. Couple that with the fact that the wealthier and more privileged people are, the more likely they are to believe they worked for it and aren’t that privileged = people like Connie.
          You look at it as “why throw away your real connections?” Someone like Connie, who is not an outlier , isn’t throwing away anything. Because when she gets caught she’ll go back to being on the family board or whatever. Someone in her circle will give her something and this will be forgotten. Well off white people don’t really face consequences and they know that.

          If you’re American, do you remember the white woman who went to the Supreme Court to complain about affirmative action? She was convinced the only reason she didn’t get into the school she wanted was because a Black person unfairly got her spot. Didn’t matter that she didn’t have the grades. Meanwhile, part of her justification for why she deserved the spot was that she came from a powerful legacy family. Said completely without irony. She got tons of support from other white people who felt that POC were the truly privileged in this country with unfair advantages at school and work. And what happened to her? She got hired by a congressman or something who felt sympathy for her plight.

          I know this is kinda rambling but I hope you get what I mean about why this isn’t banana crackers if you’re someone like this.

    7. NervousNellie*

      I get what you are saying, some things about this letter make me think that the author has changed key details to remain anonymous, but was a little sloppy. That said, all of this could be relatively easily explained:

      1. A prominent family can still have a common last name, and if Connie’s real name is also fairly common, it wouldn’t make sense to think that “Jessica Patterson,” who is presenting as a passably white is that same Jessica Patterson who is the daughter of “Big Rex Patterson.” Especially if Connie has put a lot of effort into her appearance, she might look very little like her old self at first, second, and even third glance.
      2. I got the impression that OP is thinking that if Connie lies about her identity, she might be making up a very impressive resume, especially if this is the first time OP has heard about these impressive and prestigious roles and positions. Also, if Connie is convincing, she’s clearly had practice.
      3. I think OP has considered that, but her immeadiate concern is “omg, my cousin and former close friend just came out as the next Rachel Dolezal.” I feel like you might not think a lot past that point.

      I get the impression that OP might be younger than her style of writing implies, and that she’s really just temporarily freaking out (I would be, for what that’s worth) and doesn’t know what to do, because let’s face it, this is a crazy story, and if Connie is a good conwoman, it might be really, really hard for OP to prove she hasn’t just had a psychotic break.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        I read the letter as they interviewed Connie IN PERSON as a panel so she SAW her family member and isn’t just making assumptions from a name/resume.

        1. NervousNellie*

          I’m not implying that they didn’t. I’m merely explaining how some of this could be so.

        2. Anony Mouse*

          I’m still thinking that I might not be 100% sure in the moment if I was correctly recognising someone I hadn’t seen in person since we were kids, especially if they are not behaving the way I would expect (like, by giving me a heads-up they are interviewing in my department so I can declare a conflict and not be on their panel!) I think I’d be apt to hold my fire too until I was sure, because this would be a pretty awful thing to be either wrong or right about. A look at social media might confirm that yes, this IS the Connie I am friends with on FB who otherwise presents herself as my cousin. But I don’t know that I’d be on my phone checking IN the interview.

    8. Nanani*

      Connie is from a prominent family – in their hometown – which is highly unlikely to be where the current application is happening. Academia involves a lot of relocation.

      Freezing in an awkward situation is normal. Especially if OP was not the lead in any way.

      Connie probably didn’t catch OP in her research – which fits with OP not being a major player in the hiring committee.

      Most importantly, what part of take letters at their word is troubling you? Its literally a rule of this site.
      “Sounds fake” is not constructive.

    9. tinyhipsterboy*

      I mean, we’re supposed to give letter-writers the benefit of the doubt, and there are a variety of things that could explain the issues you’re taking with the post, including things that other commenters have pointed out. I don’t think we can leap immediately to saying the letter might be fake, especially not with some of the over-the-top (and still real) letters we’ve seen here in the past.

    10. Oxford Comma*

      “-The OP was on the interview panel with Connie and was “speechless the entire time” – so the OP sat silent during an interview panel, and never lifted a finger during or afterward to point out that Connie is her cousin?”

      Academic interviews are highly structured and usually weird. It’s not like you have a ton of time. You might be in a room with 30 people. You’re not going to want to make a scene. There’s also being stunned in the moment.

      “-Connie has an “impressive” resume that the OP is worried may be false, but OP doesn’t explain why – there’s nothing in the letter suggesting that the resume shows Connie had leadership or professional positions that would imply she is BIPOC.”

      Connie is apparently lying about at least one if not multiple parts of her background. Right there, that is enough that everything on Connie’s application materials is now potentially false. That’s all it takes. She lied about her background. It’s now entirely possible she’s lying about publications, her role in projects, grants she’s saying she’s received. Everything now needs to be gone over with a fine tooth comb.

      1. nom de plume*

        What is weird about academic interviews? They’re not weird – they’re structured, but less so than many I’ve had in non-academic interviews. This whole “academia is weird and crazy and everyone in it is nuts” gets regularly trotted out in the comments, and it’s tiresome

  41. Anono-me*

    I agree that this wrong on so many levels and it is not something that you should stay quiet about. Morality aside, once this comes out, you will be seen as complicit if you don’t speak up now (document that you shared your concerns).

    I would suggest that before you talk to anyone else about this, that you pull together a family photo album of Connie’s life. One that shows her with both of her parents, all four grandparents and if possible her eight great grandparents; along with photos of the house she grew up in, and any photos of her that indicate wealth, sunbathing on the family yacht, riding her horse, etc. If possible, you may want to include a few photos of the two of you to establish that this is your cousin/step cousin.

    I would also suggest approaching the conversation/s with an attitude of compassion and concern for Connie, as well as, concern for the University.

    You may have the most success with convincing others if you focus on disproving the impoverished childhood and immigrant portions of Connie’s narrative. In my experience, some people, especially people with a great deal of privilege, can be reluctant and/or weird when addressing issues involving race (for example, your mentor).

    1. ABCYaBye*

      Especially complicit if people find out that they’re cousins. Family helping family will look worse.

    2. Oxford Comma*

      All the OP has to do is to go to the appropriate party at the university. Probably the chair of the search committee. She discloses what she knows and it’s now incumbent on the search committee and probably HR to do the investigating.

    3. Anono-me*

      Just to clarify, the photos are to provide confirmation about Connie’s real life to other people.

  42. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Um… OP, your mentor doesn’t sound great. Follow Alison’s advice to the letter. I know that at least a few people are suggesting that you go spelunking through family closets first, but I don’t believe it is at all necessary–you spent your entire childhood with Connie, you know that she did NOT experience an impoverished, strained upbringing as a biracial immigrant. I also trust that you recognize your own cousin, so I’m not concerned about mistaken identity here, either.

    What Connie is doing is harmful, unethical, and terrible. Flag it now because it’s the right thing to do.

  43. Tricksie*

    This is so strange! The fact that her cousin was there and she just plowed through the interview anyway? Like…it makes me search for any possible answer that makes Connie not the cousin-Connie, because otherwise it’s just so pathological?? We really, really, really need an update on this one. And if OP is 100% sure this is her cousin, she has got to say something, even just: “I was very taken aback during Connie’s interview. Connie is my cousin and I’ve known her since birth. To the best of my knowledge, she is not an immigrant and her biological parents are white and well-off. I’m worried she might be misrepresenting herself.”

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I think that Connie had committed to the lie so deeply that she felt she had no choice but to brazen it out. She couldn’t come up with something on the spot, and just decided to go all in. It sounds like she’d won certain grants and awards earmarked for POC, and she can’t not discuss them. Either she lied about winning them, or to lied about her background in order to become eligible for them.

      From Connie’s point of view, it might have been “Go through with it, and hope OP doesn’t say anything,” or fake the sudden onset of a serious physical malady.

  44. Move it move it*

    I AM a woman of color who appears white. I am well aware that I am extremely privileged compared to people in my community with dark skin. I have not had to face the micro and macro-aggressions they have lived with their entire lives. I actually feel guilty when thinking about the possibility of my race being used in a way that helps me gain advantages. I deliberately don’t apply for opportunities that I could apply for if my getting it would mean a POC with less privilege would miss out on the opportunity. The white man who gave you that terrible advice is completely wrong. You must speak up!

    1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      That’s the really irritating part of it to me tbh. Even if she isn’t LW’s cousin, this hiring team apparently lapped it up when someone who called THEMSELVES white-passing also talked about experiencing racism “every day.”

      I’m guessing there are a lot of problems at this org if their favorite person of color is a white one.

  45. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I think that this is the most bizarre letter ever on AAM! I mean what are the chances that this is a completely different person? I’m assuming she looks like the cousin enough and has the same info (name, college etc) that OP is quite certain that this is her cousin.

    If I was the OP I would talk with your cousin or your aunt. This is so bizarre, especially if this is not how she normally is.

  46. GlitterIsEverything*

    Caviat: your phrasing regarding Connie’s mom and your uncle make me wonder if your uncle is Connie’s father, or if she is a child from a previous relationship. Assuming there is no unknown parentage here (and it would be worth a phone call to your mom to confirm that before you head down this path!), here’s my thoughts:

    She pretended not to know you, then proceeded to blatantly lie about her race and childhood in front of you as part of an interview. AND she’s lying in a way that actively harms the groups she claims to represent.

    Connie clearly thinks so little of you that she thinks you won’t call her out on this. She’s relying on you to help maintain her facade.

    You absolutely HAVE to say something. I would even go so far as to call a meeting with everyone on the interview panel. Tell them that you are extended family, what you know about her family and childhood, then excuse yourself from the hiring process on those grounds. You may have to answer questions about why you didn’t excuse yourself from the process when you found out she was applying, and need to be prepared with an answer.

    Letting this slide is not only being complicit in the lie, it shows Connie that she can trust you at least not call her out on, but possibly to participate in any other unethical things she may be doing. You *really* don’t want to put yourself in this position.

  47. Antilla the Hon*

    Referring to the OP’s explanation of their privileged life, I personally don’t think people should ever have to disclose, explain, or apologize for living what they—or others—perceive to be a “privileged” life. And I don’t think people should be judged for having privileges in life that others don’t have. Life is hard regardless of any privileges you might have! Someone’s life may appear to be privileged on paper (according to an ever-moving yardstick), but there is usually a lot going on below the surface that others aren’t privy to: physical and mental health challenges, family troubles, substance abuse, physical/mental abuse, etc. Money can be nice to make you more comfortable, but it doesn’t ensure privilege, happiness, etc.

      1. Antilla the Hon*

        My comment was in response to OP’s statement of “ I’m white, and I have had a privileged life that allows me to live comfortably on an academic salary. It would look like I’m attacking a candidate based on race in a predominantly white department.” The way I read the privilege comment was that it seemed to be something that must be apologized for and/or something that made her less credible in speaking up. I don’t feel like the OP should apologize for her circumstances in life. It is what it is. If someone’s being sketchy (which OP felt Connie was being), I’m of the mind that people should speak up regardless.

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          OP’s statement means that speaking up could look like they were wielding their privilege to harm someone without privilege, in an environment where the victim would have few allies to support them. As many commenters have pointed out, that is not the case.

          Also there is no need to point out that people with privilege still have problems. Everyone already knows this. People without privilege have the same problems and more. It just makes you look sensitive–no one is calling you out so you don’t need to defend rich white people here?

    1. Imaginary Number*

      There is a chasm between requiring someone to disclose their privileged background and saying that it’s unacceptable to invent a wholly factitious story of struggling to overcome lack-of-privilege. OP specifically mentioned that OP was the one who centered a good portion of the interview around this–not the interviewers.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Sure, but money *does* mean you **didn’t** lead an impoverished childhood.

      1. Antilla the Hon*

        @Insert Clever Name Here: I absolutely disagree. When I lived with my father he and his new wife had plenty of money, lived in a nice house, and had lots of resources to travel the world. But they couldn’t be bothered to meet basic my basic physical needs. I had a roof over my head and that was it. As a middle schooler and early high schooler (not of working age and no access to public transportation), I was expected to come up with my own lunch money, tampon money, clothing money, etc. I didn’t have enough to eat and was often very hungry. I developed “disturbed eating issues” and lifelong food issues from having to sneak food and binged when I could. I had moved from a northern climate (lots of sweater weather) to a tropical climate when I lived with him. He refused to buy me clothes that were appropriate for the weather, so I had to wear SWEATERS with shorts in 90+ degree heat and humidity. My shoes were literally duct taped together and had holes in the bottoms. I didn’t have enough underwear and bras. He punched me in the face and broke my glasses (very nearsighted) and I had to go without glasses for a long period of time (try learning in school when you literally cannot see the board). So yeah, a parent having money doesn’t necessarily mean the child is living a life of privilege. Just putting those facts out there. My spouse also taught in a well to do community and you’d be surprised and shocked at the number of neglected kids who have wealthy parents. It’s pretty galling to me to see people make blanket assumptions and judgments of others based income bracket, zip code, physical appearance, skin color, etc.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I am truly sorry you went through that and as a teacher, and somebody who grew up “poor” but had a loving, happy childhood where poverty meant no foreign holidays, no car and checking the price was reasonable before you asked for a toy for your birthday so our parents didn’t feel pressured into spending more than they could afford and having relatives who were wealthy but had a lot of family problems, I absolutely agree with you that people make very inaccurate assumptions that poverty = difficult childhood and wealth = easy childhood with all the benefits.

          It is something I feel quite strongly about, both because I find it offensive to have people assume that being poor means having a dysfunctional family and because it concerns me that people, including professionals often overlook signs of issues in children from better off homes.

          But I think what Insert Clever Name Here meant isn’t that Connie couldn’t possibly have had a troubled childhood, but that the particular troubles she describes are clearly untrue.

          It’s definitely possible she was denied privileges by her parents or that she has a secret grandparent who was of a different race or something, but all of it? It would require a truly weird combination of circumstances and I would expect the LW to have SOME awareness SOMETHING was going on, even if she didn’t know the details. I mentioned my wealthy relatives above. By the time I was 12, I was trying to find complaints about my family to make so they didn’t feel my family was so much happier than theirs (to be honest, my complaints probably only highlighted that, because I was complaining about things like “my dad is SO embarrassing; he insisting on walking me up to school for my first day in secondary,” which does not compare to “my dad is an alcoholic”/”has an addiction to prescription drugs”/”has left my mum and has had no contact with us in five years”, all of which were things that happened in their family). They may have had all the trappings of wealth and success but seeing them regularly? It was obvious to me from about the age of 9 that all was not well. Yes, like I said above, people like teachers and professionals who only see kids in a certain situation often miss signs or underestimate them, but…if the LW is Connie’s cousin and spent a fair bit of time with her, then I’d expect SOMETHING about her story to resonate, if there were truth in it, if only something like, “oh, yeah, I always wondered why she wasn’t that close to her father. Maybe this explains it.”

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          What you experienced is horrifying and I am so deeply sorry that your father abused you that way. I understand why that experience makes a comment like mine grating. No child, regardless of their income bracket, deserves to be abused.

          Certainly having money doesn’t mean a carefree life. Certainly it doesn’t mean the absence of abuse.

          In Connie’s situation, *if* that was the case, then there are ways to say that. “Despite the appearance of wealth my parents maintained, we were actually desperately poor” would be truthful. And if that is true and Connie inwardly panicked when she saw her cousin in the panel and just went on with her rehearsed simplified spiel, then the next thing she should have done was call OP and be like “buckle up, because you’re about to hear what really happened in my childhood.”

    3. Anono-me*

      For me at least, a privileged life does NOT mean a perfect life. But rather privilege means more resources and fewer obstacles when dealing with the challenges life throws at everyone.

      1. Ann*

        That’s true, but you can’t take one thing about a person and use it to infer whether they’re privileged. Especially if that one thing is their looks. Their wealth (or lack of wealth) is probably a much better measure.

        This is just a general comment, Connie is obviously another story altogether, unless OP is somehow not aware of pretty major things about her once-close relative.

    4. actual immigrant*

      none of what you said is wrong but i am struggling to see how it’s relevant to this conversation

      1. Antilla the Hon*

        My comment was in response to OP’s statement of “ I’m white, and I have had a privileged life that allows me to live comfortably on an academic salary. It would look like I’m attacking a candidate based on race in a predominantly white department.” (I was Writing in response to the privileged statement.)

      1. Antilla the Hon*

        Oops Actual Immigrant I meant to respond to Cool Tina Train Conductress. My comment was in response to OP’s statement of “ I’m white, and I have had a privileged life that allows me to live comfortably on an academic salary. It would look like I’m attacking a candidate based on race in a predominantly white department.” (I was Writing in response to the privileged statement.)

    5. Observer*

      there is usually a lot going on below the surface that others aren’t privy to: physical and mental health challenges, family troubles, substance abuse, physical/mental abuse, etc. Money can be nice to make you more comfortable, but it doesn’t ensure privilege, happiness, etc.

      True but totally irrelevant. No one is criticizing Connie for being the American born child of wealthy American born parents. Nor is anyone claiming that her life has been all peaches and cream on a bed of roses.

      The idea that whatever troubles Connie has had equate to being “white passing”, having grown up in poverty, and facing “racism every day” is just gross.

  48. anonymous73*

    Your mentor is wrong. Connie is pretending to be someone she’s not, using it as an unfair advantage and you know it. It’s a fact, not hearsay or rumor. If they choose to ignore you and hire her, that’s on them, but you need to do your part and tell them what you know.

  49. HufferWare*

    Your mentor is completely out of touch. You MUST say something because if you don’t, when this comes out it’s going look like a white woman pretending to be a black woman got a prestige position through her white COUSIN who was on the hiring committee! This will 100% come back on you and then you, your employer, and everyone on the hiring committee is going to look like a fool and it will be completely apparent you don’t have any black people in positions of management. Franky you should have called her out the second she walked in the room. Racists like this woman are extremely harmful and should be treated as such.

  50. CoffeeFail*

    Is dropping an anonymous note with information about Connie not an option? Presumably there are records that would dispute what she said during the interview.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      If someone dropped ME an “anonymous note” I’d discard and disregard it. That’s cowardly and they’d be acting on essentially gossip. But the LW has agency to dispute Connie’s claims because she grew up as part of her family. She should 100% bring it to the hiring committee’s notice *at the very least*.

      1. CoffeeFail*

        I would only offer up an anonymous note if I could couple it with record evidence that the committee could explore and I guess I would be more understanding about why someone would choose to go that route. As someone who really dislikes inserting myself into drama, particularly drama I had no hand in creating, I respect the fact that someone else may feel the same.

    2. Anono-me*

      Even if dropping an anonymous note were a valid way to address Connie’s false narrative; it doesn’t provide any protection for LW against claims that she was complicit in Connie’s misbehavior.

      1. CoffeeFail*

        Agree to disagree. If the note comes with verifiable evidence, then I don’t really need to know who shared it. I can think of lots of reasons that someone wouldn’t want to put themselves out there.

    3. Seconds*

      The whole point of this is that OP has the standing to know that Connie is lying. An anonymous note would lose that context completely.

      Plus, there is just nothing wrong, during a hiring process, with saying, “Hey, I know this person well. Here’s what I have experienced with them.” To go through odd maneuvers (anonymous letters!) to avoid that seems odd to me; it would affect my judgment of the person who couldn’t just report their experiences.

  51. Imaginary Number*

    I’m imagining some bizarre scenario where Connie is acting as a “mystery shopper” for the company’s hiring process, only to walk into the interview and realize she’s related to someone there.

  52. oh no no no*

    I am utterly confused at why you didn’t say anything when you entered the interview.

    and this: my mentor (an older white male) told me to stay out of it because the optics are poor. I’m white, and I have had a privileged life that allows me to live comfortably on an academic salary. It would look like I’m attacking a candidate based on race in a predominantly white department. – makes zero sense. You would not be attacking a candidate based on race if, in fact, she is your cousin you know to be white.

    She needs to be called out.

    1. NervousNellie*

      I got the impression that OP is a bit more junior. I feel like between a panic/shock response and perhaps being invited to sit in but not really participate in the interview, OP clammed up.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      #1 – Shocked/confused in the moment that cousin didn;t acknowledge knowing the LW

      #2 – Didn’t know until the interview got going that Connie was going to start spouting outragious lies and then it’s really ackward to contradict a person in the moment.

  53. BrookhavenFR*

    Dear Karen,
    Mind your own business. You only know what is going on the surface based on stereotypes you are to her. Many families were forced to ‘play white’ because of years of oppression or not being able to get ahead because of their race. Someone that may look white to you may be Hispanic, Native American, or another minority. You can’t judge by a name either. Here is a clue, most Native Americans don’t go around with names like Running Bear any more. At that, Native ancestry, especially registered, is important to accept again because the cultures are dying, being lost to history through forced assimilation. People are starting to accept this background again to help preserve a bit of this.

    1. EPLawyer*

      You are literally ignoring the whole point that they ARE COUSINS and grew up together. This isn’t someone making assumptions about a stranger. This is someone who KNOWS this person rather well as they GREW UP TOGETHER.

      She is in fact, NOT a Karen but is trying to act ethically in this situation.

    2. NerdyKris*

      “karen” is just a code for the b-word. And this isn’t some rando, it’s her COUSIN. That she grew up with.

      1. tinyhipsterboy*

        “Karen” has a very specific meaning that isn’t just the B-word and came about largely from AAVE. It can absolutely be misused, but I don’t think we should be claiming it’s just coded misogynist language.

          1. tinyhipsterboy*

            I mean, you have to use it to actually refer to someone being a Karen. When you aren’t using it right, it absolutely has misogynist connotations, but comparing it to the N-word is ridiculous. C’mon.

          2. Karen*

            Hi, there. Karen is my real first name. For one thing, comparing something that’s not a racial slur to a racial slur generally isn’t the best plan. For another, Karen is the name of an ethnic group.

            Karen is often used as a substitute for another misogynistic insult, and that’s frustrating. I don’t love that my name is an insult. But, like anything more or less memetic, people will move on sooner or later. Let it go.

        1. Wisteria*

          No. “Karen” is not from AAVE, and it does very much have roots in the b-word. “Karen” originated from a guy complaining about his ex online, which a different guy started posting excerpts from on Reddit. The ex’s name was Karen. It morphed into a name for obnoxious white women *whose obnoxiousness is rooted in the intersection of femaleness and whiteness.* However. It’s origins are rooted firmly in misogyny.
          Google it yourself.

          1. tinyhipsterboy*

            When it’s misused, it’s almost always certainly in misogynist ways – I won’t argue with that. But “Karen” does indeed come from AAVE and is used to describe white women wielding their white womanhood as a weapon. I did, in fact, Google it just before I posted to make sure I wasn’t mixing up terminology, actually. Here, have a few resources that may help (I put them through in case of paywalls):


            Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely being misused here. OP isn’t a Karen at all, from the context we have. But to say that the term itself is code for the b-word and comes from it? Please, let’s not do that.

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I don’t think a native person would describe themselves as an immigrant?

    4. The Original K.*

      This is her relative. Not a distant relative she doesn’t know well; someone she grew up with. LW isn’t making this up, and she knows way more than “the stereotypes” because she is kin to this person and they were raised together.

      As I posted below, I’m Black and my name is not, so I know all about not judging by a name (it’s a long-standing joke on the side of my family with that last name), but the LW isn’t judging by a name, she’s judging by the fifteen years of family history she has. She has ample evidence.

    5. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      Dear BrookhavenFR,

      Quit using minorities to spout off on some personal soapbox tangent that makes it clear you didn’t actually read the post you’re replying to.

      (The issues you brought up are very real and serious. They are also not relevant to the actual situation here.)


      An actual Native American

    6. AnotherLibrarian*

      This is a real issue and should be discussed, but this isn’t the situation here. The OP is talking about a person she grew up with. I mean, I might not know everything about my cousins, but if one claimed to be black I’d be flummoxed. I do think the OP needs to confirm and make sure, but not saying something will do harm to the people her cousin is possibly pretending to be.

    7. ABCYaBye*

      A “Karen” would be someone who selfishly badgered someone to get their way or complained about something with zero basis for the complaint. The LW here didn’t say a word in the interview and was asking the question of AAM to figure out how to approach this ethically and responsibly. That is not Karen behavior at all. So calling the LW Karen is inappropriate at best.

      Also, if you’d read the letter fully, you’d realize the LW is the applicant’s COUSIN. They’re related. So the LW has a hell of a lot of context to use in asking the question the way they did.

    8. Irish Teacher*

      But it IS her business. She is on the interviewing panel. If she fails to speak out about the fact that one of the people she is interviewing is not only her cousin but has given information she knows to be fake, then if Connie is employed and WHEN it comes out, the likely assumption would be that she and Connie were in the fraud together.

      I cannot see how it is not her business to tell the truth about both her relationship with Connie and that she knows somebody she is interviewing lied as part of that interview.

  54. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    As someone with a PoC cousin, I’m furious. OP, please raise your concerns and let the board do their job.

  55. H3llifIknow*

    I’m surprised that the LW “went along” with Connie when she pretended not to even KNOW her at the interview! A simple “OMG Cousin Connie; what a surprise! I saw the name but didn’t make the connection. Haven’t seen you in years. How is Aunt Sue?” would have maybe clued in EVERYONE without saying out loud that she isn’t of mixed race. But, now you have a fundamental duty to say “Hey Connie is my cousin; we grew up together. I can tell you with 100% certainty, she is not a woman of color, and I cannot condone her using such an offensive falsehood to try to get this job.” I’m not sure what “optics” your mentor was talking about … it sounds like you didn’t make it super CLEAR that “No, I KNOW her. REALLY WELL and she isn’t a PoC!” Go back. Insist. And, maybe you need to call her and call her out! “I will NOT let you further perpetuate this lie in the academic community. Cease and desist or I will tell everyone and your reputation WILL take a hit!” You have to take a stand here!

    1. BEC*

      How would OP saying she knew her in the interview have made others think Connie wasn’t white/immigrant?

      1. H3llifIknow*

        I said it “might” clue them in subtly. Or at least plant a seed of “wait a second is this person related to the “multigen” family? Hmmmm. I’m not going to doubt the LW. She grew up with her and her family and she said she is 100% certain.

    2. BEC*

      Also, I wouldn’t recommend your approach. On the (very tiny) chance that OP is mistaken, she could say ‘Connie, I was really confused when you said you were not white and an immigrant. Your family never mentioned this when we were growing up and as far as I know from all the buildings named after you guys, you’ve been here for generations. What’s going on?”

    3. irene adler*

      If nothing else, I would have burst out laughing when Connie described “her past struggles with an impoverished upbringing as an immigrant in the U.S.”. I’d be asking her when she became an immigrant given I knew she was born in USA.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      If people haven’t been in a situation where someone is brazenly flouting social conventions, then they don’t really know what they would do if they had been in that interview. I’ve dealt with a couple of people professionally who would bald-face lie and act otherwise outrageously, and it’s really very confounding. We don’t have a playbook for people who are so far outside of the following the same social rules we are. I think our brains look for some reasonable explanation. This is why gaslighting works.

      1. NervousNellie*

        Yeah, a lot of people in here seem to think they’d have the perfect Hollywood one-liner ready to deploy in this circumstance. I’ve been in a similar situation (person was brazenly going on and on about stuff that made no sense,) and I was genuinely dumbfounded and said nearly nothing.

      2. White Squirrel*

        I’ve had a family member who was diagnosed at various times as a Narcissist and as Borderline Personality Disorder. I saw this person deny things I had literally seen with my own eyes and bystanders believed them over me and other witnesses because they were that believable.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Yup, I once worked with a manager who would lie black was white. She lied about something I said ON A REPORT I GOT A COPY OF. I thought for a moment maybe she’d misheard me at the meeting, until I read on to the part where she described how she advised me what I should have done differently…to something I never did or said I did. And still when she noticed me looking stunned after reading it and asked what was wrong, I just muttered something like, “oh, I’m grand,” because…how do you say, “um, this account you wrote is just complete fiction.” I was also…sort of like an intern at the time and only 20, so didn’t have a great understanding of workplace norms, but I’m not sure I’d deal with it much better today because it was just so bizarre and she acted like it was completely normal. When she DID get caught out on a lie, she simply laughed and said, “oh, I didn’t think anybody would actually believe me.” And treated the whole thing as one big joke.

        This isn’t quite the same as Connie isn’t in a position of authority but I can still see, “um, where do I start here? How do I interrupt the interview and basically say, ‘um, Connie, I KNOW you and literally, NONE of this is true.’ How do I say that and still sound like I am behaving appropriately in front of my colleagues?”

        1. NervousNellie*

          I think too many people here are downplaying how difficult it would be to look professional while explaining someone is lying in a complete and dramatic way.

  56. TyphoidMary*

    When you say this is “ethics vs optics” I think something important here needs to be named:

    White people pretending to be BIPOC and then taking positions meant for BIPOC folks–positions where they will inevitably be treated as an authority on an experience they do not have–does ACTUAL HARM.

    It’s not “ethics vs optics.” It’s speaking out against somebody willing to perpetrate harm, vs personal discomfort and potential professional backlash (which is one of the very mechanisms used to maintain white supremacy).

    1. Nanani*


      It’s not about the optics of accusing Connie – its about the actual EFFECT of hiring a white liar in a job meant for a person of colour. That matters 1000% more than any hand-wringing about optics.
      LW should get a different mentor too.

    2. HufferWare*

      Thank you!! Connie is racist, her actions are racist, and she is intentionally doing harm. If she actually cared at all about immigrants, poor people, racism, or black communities she would use her access to her enormous familial wealth to support them, not try to take their jobs.

  57. H3llifIknow*

    I read the letter as they interviewed Connie IN PERSON as a panel so she SAW her family member and isn’t just making assumptions from a name/resume.

  58. Spicy Tuna*

    If you know a candidate is lying about something, say something! It doesn’t matter what they are lying about. Even if the lie isn’t directly related to their experience or the job, it still speaks to their character. Say something !

  59. Seeking second childhood*

    Which side of the family are you related to? Is there any possibility that the other side of the family was themself passing? I point this out because when a friend finally dug up genealogy info she learned that her own great grandmother was descended from freed slaves. Someone in between had destroyed or hidden photos photos, but she found at least one that survived, and it was pretty clear.
    However my friend and her children are continuing to list themselves as white because they have no connection to the culture.

    1. Seeking second childhood*

      For the record, I believe you, and it sounds like the details she gave of her background are undeniably different than what you remember from growing up together. But the possibility exists that she did discover a hidden black ancestor, and didn’t handle it the same way as my friend did. Just something to keep in mind before you say anything.

      1. Liva*

        Having a distant Black ancestor doesn’t make you Black though – I would venture a guess that very few Americans have 100% white ancestors.

      2. Observer*

        Nope. Because the rest of her spiel was false. She is not an immigrant, and she did not grow up in poverty. So, even if she suddenly discovered a black ancestor (or even that her bio dad is actually black), she’s lying about some really significant stuff here. That matters.

  60. Cocafonix*

    I’m confused. If you definitely knew it was her, and she pretended not to know you, why wouldn’t you have said something then? “Hi Connie, it’s been a long time, good to see you.” Then to the others… “we spent a lot of our childhood together.” Should you not have recused yourself at that point? Or even before if you knew you were about to interview family?

    1. tinyhipsterboy*

      I’d guess that OP was so baffled by what was going on that it didn’t even really occur to them in the moment to say something like that. Not everyone’s great at the in-the-moment stuff like that. I agree it would have been a good thing to call attention to it at the time, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20 lol.

  61. Anonymous for This*

    So if you’re doubting coming forward, I think I have some insight in a university situation.

    Carrie Bourassa, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan here in Canada, pretended to be Indigenous for years. She won awards for her work and obtained several research grants designed to help increase Indigenous representation in academia. And for anyone doubting whether she is a fraud, her own sister came out saying that their family is largely of Ukrainian heritage.

    My point is, the university (where I work) is still reeling from these revelations. Of course she doesn’t work here anymore, but the people who hired her and promoted her work are being side-eyed hard. The department where she worked is still struggling to regain its reputation and to hire an actual Indigenous candidate. It’s set back the university’s Indigenization initiative as they now cannot trust self-declarations for hiring. As far as I know (I’m low-level) they’re still figuring out a way to verify Indigenous status while also being mindful of the potential pitfalls that Indigenous candidates may face in doing so.

    So OP, you have to say something. as people have mentioned above, if you don’t and it comes out later (which is more likely given her family’s fame), you’re going to look terrible. Not to mention feel terrible, since if Connie is hired she will be taking a spot away from someone who may have actually experienced the systemic racism and poverty she claims she went through.

    I’ll drop some links to news articles in a reply here, for people who want to read more about it. I think it’s highly relevant to OP’s situation.

  62. Ana Gram*

    I’d email whoever is in charge of the hiring decision and tell them what Connie is lying about. Before that, however, I’d get on Facebook and start screenshotting photos of Connie and her/your family for when the gaslighting starts. Because it will.

    1. actual immigrant*

      yeah, i would start piling up the evidence now, there is a good chance connie will try to keep up the charade and invent a whole family background you supposedly were not privy too once confronted.

  63. Ray*

    If you do not say anything you are complicit. And when the truth gets out you will experience backlash.

  64. Hel*

    Those wondering why the OP didn’t speak up:

    You’re assuming she realized it was her cousin before entering the interview. If she didn’t, and she hasn’t seen/spoken to this woman in several years, then she may have *thought* it was her cousin, but when Connie didn’t react/recognize her, she probably assumed she was mistaken. Even if she became certain during the interview that it was her cousin, at that point it would be super weird to interrupt and say “Hey, aren’t we related?”. My guess is OP used social media to later confirm it was in fact Connie her cousin and not someone else at which point, again, ship has sailed.

    That said, OP should speak up. I know it’s weird to dramatically announce someone is a liar, but at the very least you could hedge it by going to the Hiring Committee with something to the effect of “Hey, this woman bore a strong resemblance to a cousin of mine and I’ve since confirmed it is the same person. This is a conflict of interest so I must recuse myself from the decision, but I feel there’s some relevant information I need to share with you. I haven’t spoken with Connie in several years so there may be things I don’t know about them, but we were very close growing up and the way they represented themselves in the interview does not align with my memory/knowledge of them and their family. Specifically X, Y, and Z.”

    1. Anony Mouse*

      Yes this. I’m not super-great at recognising people, especially if they change their hair or something, and I’d probably have doubted myself if the person blanked me, even if I later became certain.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Oh yeah, I was once in a court room on a Jury Selection and the person who was the defendant was my cousin whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years. I remember thinking, “The defendant looks familiar” and it took me another three hours to put it together. At which point I spoke to the judge and was taken off the Jury. If it took me three hours to ID my own cousin (we do not share a last name), I can 100% imagine not recognizing a job candidate and then questioning my own assessment once confronted with such a different backstory.

      Also, I like your language. If the OP is wrong (and there’s a tiny chance she is) than it’ll potentially ruin her career. This is a big thing to accuse someone of and then be wrong about, so I like the idea of both finding some proof and hedging when contacting someone.

    3. Delta Delta*

      Joining in on your initial point. One of my cousins – who I spent some time with as a kid, but hadn’t seen in many years – grew up, got married, changed her name, and got a job as a flight attendant. I’m a little older than her, and I moved away and didn’t attend a lot of family events from about the time she was 12 on. She also went by a family moniker – think “Suzy-Jo” but professionally goes by her full first name, “Suzanne.” I got on a plane one day and did a bit of a double-take when I saw the flight attendant with a name tag that said “Suzanne” and thought, ‘hm, that might be my cousin.’ She had a similar thought and it wasn’t until she checked the manifest that she realized who I was. So, I get it if it didn’t immediately click when they saw each other, and then things got weird.

  65. Deborah*

    I mean, I’d do a little work on verification first – I’d double check with mom that Connie wasn’t living some shared custody double life where time with mom was in the Hamptons but time with dad was impoverished, or other family secrets. And some Googling to make sure there’s not a Connie name-and-lookalike out there. But after that, I’d be telling.

  66. Observer*

    I haven’t read the responses, so I hope I’m repeating what someone else said. But I want to point something out – you have a very, very bad mentor.

    There are no “bad optics” here. And, you are not “attacking her based on race” – you are passing on a highly, highly relevant piece of information. The fact that your mentor advised you to be complicit in something highly unethical because of bad optics is bad. The fact that he thinks there are bad optics here makes it worse.

    Now, if the department decides to hire her knowing this information, that’s not your problem. Although, it would make me question people’s ethics and / or judgement.

  67. Baron*

    I also have a family connection with a white person who falsely claims to be black. I’m sympathetic to a point, because this began around the time she was diagnosed with some heavy mental health stuff…but it’s funny how whenever there’s police involvement, etc., she suddenly knows she’s white again. It’s a hell of a situation for family, and I wish the OP strength and courage in managing it.

  68. Not A Real Manager*

    I think it is entirely believable that this really happened and that Connie is really LW’s cousin. People who lie on this scale get away with it because they tell lies so outlandish with such confidence that no one could possibly call them on it without risking looking very stupid if they’re wrong. Connie so counting on that from the LW and LW needs to speak up since they have knowledge the committee doesn’t.

    I did like the language I saw used above leading with “to the best of my knowledge…” when you report it to the committee. But be ready for Connie to come back at you or spin it into “what I actually meant was…”.

  69. Skytext*

    I could see being taken by surprise that my cousin pretended not to know me, and then sitting there stunned while she spun her tall tales. But once she was ushered out the door , I don’t think I could’ve stopped myself from standing up and telling everyone “hold on, I’ve got to tell you: that woman is my cousin, we grew up together, we spent every at her mansion riding her ponies, we spent every summer in the Hamptons, she got a Porsche for her sixteenth birthday. Her parents are Fred and Wilma Gotrocks, her mom is in both the DAR and the Daughters of the Confederacy. Her grandfather is William Gotrocks whose name is on our gymnasium. I don’t know what poor, immigrant, Person of Color she was talking about, but it sure isn’t her!”

    1. Tricksie*

      I would so love to have been a fly on the wall if this exact thing had happened! (But I understand not reacting in the moment because of being shocked or flabbergasted.)

  70. Canadian Librarin #72*

    OP, you must find a way to bring this deception out into the open – firstly for straightforwardly ethical reasons, but also because when this eventually comes out (and these things always do, in the day of social media), you risk looking complicit in Connie’s lies. Your mentor sucks; be better than him. Shore up whatever you need to if you’re concerned about job security, but this is really something where you can’t just stay silent.

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      And if they do go ahead and hire her, it will eventually blow up in everyone’s faces. Like, big time news story blow up. If OP doesn’t speak up, she will be linked to it forever.

  71. Macaroni Penguin*

    Also, another thing the OP can do is talk to her cousin and ask for an explanation. Conny might just drop out of the candidate pool when confronted. It does sound like Conny and the OP have lost touch as adults. But Conny’s contact information shouldn’t be hard to find through the family network.

    Or this could turn into an epic mystery novel situation where Conny has an identical twin with amnesia who has applied to work at the establishment.

  72. Office Walls Needed*

    Verify it’s your cousin. Take some screenshots in case her social media changes. See if there’s an anonymous tip line to HR and send a message there stating you’re concerned a job candidate is misrepresenting herself. If you’re worried about talking directly to someone. My university has a confidential reporting portal for ethics complaints.

  73. HR Ninja*

    I’m guessing this has been said before, but this one definitely needs an update down the road!

  74. Dan*

    Call the cousin to let her know that someone is impersonating her to get a job, and see what she says…

    1. Grey Panther*

      Oh, that would be interesting. I’m also curious to hear what LW’s mom and, by extension, Connie’s mom would have to say.

  75. Don*

    Those of you surprised the LW was confronted with this huge stack of nonsense and didn’t say anything in the moment have presumably been fortunate to never have one of these con artist/prolific liars in your life and I encourage you to thank your lucky stars. Two of the big things grifters rely on to ply their trade is folks’ socialization not to cause a scene/rock the boat and the persuasive power of iron clad certainty to make you doubt your own perceptions and memory.

    1. Woah*

      Yes! If this is all as it seems from OP’s letter, then Connie is likely the type of person who could successfully turn this around on OP and impact her professional reputation, even just from the interview. “Remember the time OP thought that woman who identifies as ABC was her cousin? How delusional!”

  76. AdequateArchaeologist*

    I’m confused about many things here, but one of my questions is how does she plan to get around the I-9 paperwork??

      1. AdequateArchaeologist*

        Yes, the immigration aspect. I’m thinking specifically birth certificate and/or passport. Too, is she claiming to be a naturalized citizen? Because if not wouldn’t there possibly be visa paperwork involved? Just a lot of questions about how the paperwork shakes out.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Was an immigrant. Now a US citizen with SSN.

      IDK, but I figure she could do that. Or even once she’s hired the HR admin person taking her paperwork isn’t privy to the elaborate lies she told to be hired so won’t bat an eye at whatever paperwork Connie provides.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        Easy, My son is technically an immigrant (an international adoptee). He uses his passport for an I-9 – not his naturalization paperwork (and you should use your passport – your naturalization paperwork is a pain in the back end to replace if you lose it). And his social security card.

        But he is honestly an American kid with Asian features who was raised in a middle class household by really white people. He is an immigrant only on the technicality that he wasn’t a U.S. citizen at birth.

        (The changed the law shortly after he was adopted and now kids adopted internationally are automatically granted U.S. citizenship).

    2. Ana Gram*

      I think this is the least of Connie’s worries. At a university, I doubt the (likely) low level HR employee knows she’s pretending to be an immigrant or POC or whatnot and won’t give it a second thought. And I doubt Connie’s boss would ever look at the I-9 paperwork.

    3. MincePies*

      I considered this at first, too, but then I realized she could simply provide a US passport, which AFAIK doesn’t have anything on it distinguishing a naturalized citizen from a citizen at birth.

  77. Woah*

    Oh man, this is dreadful! Please do as Alison says, assuming you’re completely sure there’s no family secret or something you’re missing out on.

    I work in advocacy, and a lot of my relatives would be surprised to hear that I identify as a victim of sexual abuse. It doesn’t make it less true, but it is information they aren’t privileged to know. If you’re sure there’s nothing that happened or could have happened while you were disconnected, then sound the alarms.

    1. Observer*

      If you’re sure there’s nothing that happened or could have happened while you were disconnected, then sound the alarms.

      There would have to be some time travel involved for that to be the case. She claims to have been raised in an impoverished immigrant household. That didn’t happen when she was 15+

      1. Woah*

        Families are weird and have weird stuff going on all the time. We thought one of my relatives was wealthy because whenever we came to town her house was beautiful and she spent tons of time and money on us. Turns out she was the housekeeper at that beautiful house and only ever invited us when her employers were out of town. She was paid well for her position and had no family of her own and was always on vacation when we were there, hence the time and money she lavished on us.

        do I think this is a likely scenario? No. Is it out of the realm of possibility that there could be more to Connie’s story? Its not plausible or likely, but it is possible.

  78. Canterlot*

    I knew one of these people. Not Dolezal, but they did make the national news in a low-key way. So much there to dish about, but one of the most hateful and obnoxious things about this person was the way they performed their assumed identity like it was a minstrel show. They were playing pretend – but in the most offensive, ugly, white-imagined way possible with a completely made up, absolutely tragic story of abuse, racism, poverty, drugs, violence…

    OP, notice how your cousin wasn’t pretending to be a white-passing lady from a working class home, with all of the complexity of race and class in the real world? No. It had to be the full on tragedy version. How is an actual working-class immigrant going to compete with the symphony of a million sad violins, tailor-made to wring tears and virtue from a white audience by someone with their finger on the pulse?

    (Ps. I’ve got a crisp $100 bill that says that your cousin faked or plagiarized a lot of her research. Academic research is really hard, and the person who will invent a whole identity isn’t going to put in the years when they could just make it up.)

  79. Cat Mom*

    My brother had a couple of friends in college who were white dudes from South Africa (with dual US citizenship.) They would check the “African American” box on demographic forms.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I had a French professor once, a white woman from France, who was confronted with those check boxes on a form when she came to the U.S. She was honestly confused, because she didn’t think of herself as “Caucasian,” since she’s not from anywhere near the Caucasus. She went with “Hispanic,” because Spain was the closest to France that she could figure out. If they’d just used “white,” she would have understood. But I’m guessing it wasn’t an honest misunderstanding for those dudes.

      1. Antilla the Hon*

        It reminds me of The Middle episode where Sue Sue Heck got confused and misunderstood that section on her college application and checked the wrong box……..

      2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        If it helps, actual EEOC forms don’t say “Caucasian.” In employment situations she would’ve probably chosen “White not of Hispanic origin.”

    2. Jackie*

      Interesting, but this seems rather different. Are you suggesting this…. is unethical or fraudulent? If you are a white person from Africa but immigrated to the US, I think this is not unreasonable, is it? Or for example, if you are ethnically Japanese but are from Peru, can’t you claim to be Latino?
      Actually there are plenty of people from Africa who are not very black-skinned, or white for that matter, for example from Egypt. If they immigrate to America, are they African American? I should think so?

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        It is all more complicated than it appears, especially for people who are – say white South Africans (my former boss). Or people who have grandparents and parents who have “passed” but would now like to claim a cultural identity that they’ve been denied (because it was more secure to pass) of African American or Native. Or people who grew up in Peru (which does have a fairly significant Asian population) and have Asian features and a Latino last name who don’t fit in tiny boxes.

        I think the race thing here is the smallest portion of this – its what people will focus on, but the reality is she is painting her self as a person who comes from disadvantaged circumstances – race but also class and immigration status. But grew up privileged beyond what most of us know.

      2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        It’s unreasonable if they’re white (cuz those forms also say “white”) and if the question said the word “race” or “ethnicity” in it.

        If it just said “pick one” and didn’t give any more context (unlikely), perhaps there’s a way in which those white guys weren’t lying. But they knew they were not ethnically or racially African (American or otherwise), so they answered the (likely) question fraudulently.

        Also, I’m pretty sure these forms rarely use “African American” as an option on its own. If they use it at all, it’s usually “Black or African American.” (That’s what the EEOC and Department of Education use; the EEOC used to just say “Black.”) So it’s really not ambiguous unless it’s a poorly-written form indeed.

  80. Esa*

    Loving the name choice! “Connie” obviously being shortened from her birth name “con-artist”

  81. Rain's Small Hands*

    “I need to bring up some concerns about the candidate, Connie. Connie and I are “sorta cousins” – her mother was married to my uncle – and when we were young we were really close for at least fifteen years and my mother is still close with her mother. We are still Facebook friends. The background she gave to the committee doesn’t ring true with my experience with her growing up. Her immigrant status is not something I was aware of, and while I knew her, and from what I know of her mother and her mother’s family, Connie was raised the opposite of poor – she comes from the sort of family universities name buildings after. I’m also unaware of her being a person of color at all, though I don’t know anything about her biological father’s family, only her stepfather’s family – which is mine – and her mother’s family. I know that while she was part of my uncle’s household, she was raised as an upper middle class (or upper class if that fits better) white person with a lot of privilege. I am concerned that if we hire her and this background turns out to be a fabrication, which I suspect it is, and is exposed the organization’s reputation will suffer. But this is not my decision to make, I just wanted to make sure that you had the information I had since it would be irresponsible for me not to disclose it.”

  82. Frenchie, Too*

    I would suggest sending out an email to a few or all of the hiring committee members (once your suspicions are confirmed).
    Subject: full disclosure on candidate XYZ
    Dear fellow committee members,
    In the interest of full disclosure I’d like to provide the following information.
    The candidate XYZ is my cousin/whatever through marriage. She was married to my uncle George for 15 years.
    She is a member of the well-known RichyRich family back home in Home City USA. [Provide a pertinent link if you can find one].
    I’m providing this information to fully disclose our previous family relationship.
    If you have further questions please let me know.
    Gobsmacked Cuz

    This will give them the information to decide whether to further consider her for the job. It also washes your hands, should there be blowback when she is eventually discovered.

    Also, don’t be shy about letting your mom know that her friend is a creep.

    1. Observer*

      Also, don’t be shy about letting your mom know that her friend is a creep.

      Why? Connie’s mother is not responsible for this charade

  83. So Confused*

    This letter is a confusing read because it sounds like OP is both claiming to know Cousin Connie very well but also to have lost touch since childhood and only reconnected virtually, but also that while they haven’t spoken in years their moms are still very close. So I’m not sure how certain OP is of all the facts here, or even how certain OP is that this is, in fact, Cousin Connie. How well did she pretend not to know OP? Did she make awkward eye contact at any point or simply ignore OP altogether? If it was a very large group or OP wasn’t super visible in the meeting (assuming it was in person), did she even see OP there? Is OP sure there aren’t facts about Connie’s life that OP wasn’t made privy to as a child? Could this be some sort of Mackenzie Fierceton situation that OP doesn’t have all of the facts about and where the truth is more complicated than OP realizes? (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about:

    Not trying to defend Connie or rationalize here, I’m more worried about OP being able to CYA in case there’s even a remote chance OP is wrong about any part of this, and also trying to make sense of a situation that I feel like we don’t have a lot of information about.

    If OP is absolutely certain this is Cousin Connie and is absolutely certain of Cousin Connie’s full background, then OP absolutely needs to escalate this. Personally, I’d confront Connie or possibly start by bringing this up with mom and/or Connie’s mom first to make sure there’s no weird family secret you’re unaware of. Even if you no longer have Connie’s number, you can DM through whichever social media you reconnected through. Then give Connie an ultimatum: withdraw or I out you. If she really won’t budge, you obviously need to say something, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because when the truth eventually comes out, the consequences for you and for the whole department will be just as real as the ones for her.

  84. PJ*

    I am still sitting here in shock that should would lie so extensively while you were sitting RIGHT THERE!!! How on earth…??? That’s just over the top crazy.

    1. Luna*

      I tip my hat to OP’s restraint. After being speechless for a while, I would have been bursting out laughing at the ridiculous tales Connie is telling. Right in front of someone that knows they are tales.

  85. McS*

    To be honest, I would be a bit softer than Alison recommends, but definitely say something! From the outside, it seems possible you don’t know her as well as you think you do or she hasn’t shared everything with you. I’d say, “I don’t know if Connie mentioned, but we are step cousins (if she hasn’t mentioned this, it’s already a red flag). I want to be honest and give you as much information as possible to make your decision. We grew up spending a fair amount of time together and I would not characterize her background the same way she has.” If the hiring manager is concerned, they’ll ask questions. If this isn’t enough to make them concerned, you have an even bigger problem.

  86. Passionfruit Tea*

    Before you call her out or have any kind of meeting please contact your aunt/uncle, explain the situation and make 100% certain that she is not indeed adopted (and that they lied about this). You do not want this to backfire on you because you didn’t know the whole truth.

    1. Observer*

      Even if she were adopted, she didn’t grow up in poverty. Nor did she grow up as an immigrant. Given that background and the somewhat continuing background connection, the idea that Connie morphed from the child of wealthy White parents to a WOC and immigrant who was raised in poverty is just fantasy.

      1. Littorally*

        I agree that the whole story together — WOC, immigrant, grew up in poverty, long personal history with discrimination — needs some really amazing and profoundly unlikely contortions to be true, even a kinda-sorta-if-you-squint sort of true. However, it may turn out that one or two of those elements is true. The OP is going to be using their own credibility as their primary proof that Connie is a liar, and that means that they will need to be really accurate.

        IE — if it turns out that Connie really is mixed-race, or that part of her heritage is from an ethnic group whose inclusion in whiteness is debatable, she will be able to strike a blow to OP’s credibility that could gloss over the other accusations. ‘OP lied to you about my race, how can you believe ANYTHING they say, this is more proof of the discrimination I’ve had to labor against my whole life’ etc.

  87. Luna*

    Your mentor needs to be told firmly that you are not doing any kind of ‘attack’, but that you know Connie personally and have for a very long time, and you can assure them that Connie is not white-passing, she is white, she is not an immigrant, she is country-born from several country-born generations, etc. Maybe even point out several places with her family name on it, if they don’t want to believe based on word alone. (Which would be hypocritical, since they apparently are taking Connie based on her word.)

    I don’t know what Connie’s deal is. Maybe she wants special grants, maybe she’s just bored with being so ‘uninteresting’, but she needs to stop. Not only is it bad to pretend to be a race you aren’t… it’s also a pretty bad thing to use ‘white-passing’, in my opinion. This is not the 1930s anymore, where non-white people were not allowed to ride certain elevators.

  88. oh dear*

    You already know what to do. Please come forward and expose this person for fraud if not for being a huge racist.

  89. Ebar*

    I’d say the other thing is potentially you are yourself exposed to reputation damage if you say nothing. If it comes out that a. you knew of her claims and in no way challenged them, and b. are a relative it’s not much of a leap to think you covered for her.

  90. Academic*

    I am an academic, and my department had a Dolezal-type situation in the last few years (it was in the news). And the department concluded that misrepresentation like this was sufficient grounds for revoking tenure. Which is about as big a deal as it gets in academia. So it is definitely a big enough deal to bring to the attention of the hiring committee, and definitely grounds to turn someone down for a job.

  91. Nina_Bee*

    Not to mention by her potentially being hired, a real POC would be missing out on a position who actually had the skills, background and experience that your cousin falsely pretended to have (and what the hiring people may be excited to have on the team). Ugh your cousin sucks.

  92. Sagentime*

    Please make sure you are correct- you don’t know what her father’s full racial background is. One or both of her parents may appear white but in fact have mixed race heritage. Ask your Mom what she knows if anything. If you can not know for sure, I think you should speak up and say I am deeply concerned that this may be a Rachel Dolezal situation due to these reasons. Tell them what you know and don’t know. Then it is up to them to sort out the rest.

  93. Littorally*

    So, coming back and thinking about this — I think a lot of commenters are being very blithe about presuming that the OP already has 100% of the relevant facts, this Connie is indisputably the same person and not a lookalike, and the OP’s word will be sufficient to the people with hiring power to act on without any supporting evidence.

    So, step one is gathering information.
    Is this the same Connie? Verify that. Social media is a great tool.
    – Check in with your mom about any family secrets that might be relevant. It sounds like there was a broken home involved in Connie’s situation, and I can certainly attest from personal experience that there can be a huge whiplash of experience moving between one parent and the other. You saw weekends-with-her-mother’s-new-husband Connie — what was weekday Connie’s life like?
    – Gather up some evidence and make sure that whatever concerns you’re taking to management are ones that you can support. You don’t need to do the entire thing yourself, but have something

    On the balance, do I think Connie is a fraud? Yeah, that seems like the most straightforward answer here. Given what you’ve provided, there would need to be a lot of family secrets to even bring Connie’s story into the realm of “technically not false but highly exaggerated.” But just because it’s likely doesn’t mean it’s certain, and I do think before you stick your neck out making accusations of wholesale falsehood and racefaking, you want to make sure you’re on firm footing. This is a potential drama bomb, and in your shoes I would want to minimize the drama as much as possible.

    However, I do think you absolutely need to speak up, presuming that you don’t find anything in your research that would clear your cousin. If you say nothing and it comes out later, it will be real bad for you.

  94. Goody*

    Nesting error…

    I would absolutely talk to the hiring committee.

    You didn’t disclose your relationship when you were introduced in the interview because you didn’t want that relationship to color her chances in any way. You were further silenced by shock at her claims. But now that the shock has worn off and you’re thinking clearly, you realize you have to share what you know.

    And please, an update when the dust settles?

  95. Jessica Fletcher*

    I read or skimmed most comments and didn’t see this, so. It’s possible Connie’s mom is a white passing person of color, or biracial, and OP wouldn’t know. It’s possible that after the divorce, OP’s uncle left Connie and her mom with nothing, and they struggled. OP wouldn’t know, because she and Connie didn’t see each other after the divorce.

    OP should take 5 minutes to Facebook message Connie to confirm it’s her. Say you didn’t know this about her, and see what she says.

    It’s possible Connie is completely lying. It’s also possible she’s biracial and white passing, but is exaggerating her financial situation for most of her childhood.

    OP should be very careful to verify what she can, and then speak only to what she can directly verify. You don’t want to say, “I always thought she was white,” and then find out she really does have a different racial background that you had no way of knowing.

    1. Megan*

      That’s a good point that she should make sure she knows these facts for sure before saying something in case she didn’t know some of this about her cousin.

  96. drsunsets*

    In a similar vein, our off-shore institutional higher-ups twice brought in new professors as straight-up hires after they interviewed them once. Over the phone. The on-site faculty and department chairs never got to meet with them. Both of them were gone within 6 months. One was a white supremacist (the students immediately Googled him and figured it out) and the other had just been released from prison for Medicare fraud (the faculty immediately Googled her and figured it out).

    Morals of the story: (1) People will always find out. (2) This is why you have a hiring committee

  97. Megan*

    I’m not sure what there even is to debate here. Since you’re on the hiring committee and this is your cousins you grew up with, you should have immediately said something after she left the interview like “well that was weird. That was my cousin I spent lots of time with as a child and she acted like she didn’t even know me and then completely lied about herself. She is 100% white from a very wealthy family and is not an immigrant.” That’s not discrimatory or racist at all to say that, because you are pointing out facts about a family member you know be true. She lied to try to take advantage of a job opportunity that was supposed to be reserved for historically under-represented/disadvantaged groups that she is factually not part of. You definitely have standing to go back and say something now even though you originally didn’t in the moment and you absolutely should say something.

    1. Betsy Devore, Girl Sleuth*

      I keep checking, hoping to see “Read an update to this letter here” added on.

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