After the birth certificate of police brutality activist Shaun King was displayed online, his fans were questioning whether he was this month’s Rachel Dolezal. But King has come forward to say that his biological father is not the White man listed on his birth certificate, but is in fact a light-skinned Black man.
King is an important figure in the Black Lives Matter movement, as the 35-year-old posts up-to-date information on various police brutality cases and makes appearances on television and political websites discussing the topic. But after Breibart.com released his birth certificate with Jeffery Wayne King listed as his father and Daily Beat said that public records show his father as being White, those who followed him questioned his authenticity. His wife wrote an open letter posted to Facebook assuring the public that her longtime partner has never lied about his race and that the stories circulating about him are “ridiculous lies.”
“Just know this, there is nothing fake about Shaun King. He’s no Rachel Dolezal,” wrote Rai King, referencing the former NAACP leader who was recently outed as a White woman who had been posing as Black. “What’s white about him is white, and what’s Black about him is Black and always has been from the time he was a child. There’s no spray tan, no fake Black hairstyles, no attempt to make himself appear any more ethnic than he already does.”
One of King’s relatives spoke to CNN’s Don Lemon Wednesday and said that both of the activist’s parents are White. But now, King is setting the record straight on his racial identity as a response to the attacks made by conservative media outlets and those making him the butt of jokes.
“The reports about my race, about my past, and about the pain I’ve endured are all lies,” King wrote in a letter on Daily Kos.
“My mother is a senior citizen. I refuse to speak in detail about the nature of my mother’s past, or her sexual partners, and I am gravely embarrassed to even be saying this now, but I have been told for most of my life that the white man on my birth certificate is not my biological father and that my actual biological father is a light-skinned black man. My mother and I have discussed her affair. She was a young woman in a bad relationship and I have no judgment,” he continued.
King went on to address accusations being brought against him, such as the possibility that his story of being beaten up years ago in a hate crime were false.
“In March of 1995, it all boiled over and a racist mob of nearly a dozen students beat me severely, first punching me from all sides, then, when I cradled into a fetal position on the ground they stomped me mercilessly, some with steel-toed boots, for about 20 seconds. That day changed the entire trajectory of my life. Thankfully, multiple credible, unbiased eyewitnesses to this traumatic day have come out publicly and spoken on my behalf in the past 48 hours,” King wrote.
The activist also denied passing for Black to receive a scholarship from Oprah Winfrey to attend Morehouse College, saying he never went to the school as an “undercover white man.”
“I was 17 and my racial identity was fully formed. I knew who I was. I wasn’t appropriating or faking, but living out my life,” he said.
Throughout his explanation, King stressed that being Black has always been a large part of his life, from having close relationships with Black people to being mistreated due to his race. He explains that because of his commitment to fighting for justice within the Black community, especially concerning victims of police brutality, he will not allow the death threats he claims to have received nor the scrutiny stop him.
“This was the goal… divide and conquer,” he wrote. “My focus will continue to be ending police brutality. I believe it is the pre-eminent civil rights issue of modern America and that, together, we can fight against it effectively.”
Some have questioned if it is relevant as to whether King is Black or White, as there have been several White people who have championed for Black causes while being true to who they are, such as White Like Me author Tim Wise and Chicago social activist and priest Michael Louis Pfleger.
King’s 175,000 Twitter followers rely on him to report on police brutality victims whose stories may not receive much mainstream attention otherwise, and his race does not change his effectiveness to be a champion to his chosen cause. So does his race really matter?