Social justice activist Shaun King spent the greater part of this week being vilified by conservative media and their minions based on haphazard evidence that suggested he is a white man pretending to be African-American. However, anyone with common sense could read the context clues of his writings and see that (1) his biological father is black, (2) the circumstances are complicated, (3) he didn’t want to talk it out of respect for his mother, and (4) it is none of our business. Of course, these outlets were relentless, pulling out “family members” and birth certificates to support their attacks.
Eventually King was pushed into posting this piece explaining his lineage, why he didn’t want to talk about it, and the true motivations behind the “investigation” against him. A part of me wanted him to remain silent, throwing the middle finger to their desperate attempts to disqualify his life’s work. However, another part of me is glad he eloquently dismantled each one of their thinly-veiled arguments.
Although King’s piece did little to dissuade the main antagonist of these attacks from trying to paint King as the male Rachel Dolezal, it did show how quickly people were ready to brand him a liar. Using photos like this of him as a child, it highlighted the highly-misguided theory that you can tell the race of someone based on their appearance.
Race and ethnicity cannot be determined by appearance.
African-Americans come in all shades, sizes and hair types. This is the result of many different scenarios, four of which are most common historically: (1) Slave master rapes his slaves, producing biracial offspring, (2) Interracial coupling between blacks and Native Americans (in my lineage, the Choctaw tribe on my maternal grandmother’s side and the Blackfeet tribe on my maternal grandfather’s), (3) interracial coupling that was shunned by the community and therefore hidden, and (4) loving interracial coupling.
This is my maternal grandfather. Both of his parents are African-American. He was very fair-skinned due to his father being biracial. We’re not entirely sure whether my great-grandfather’s conception was consensual or not, but it doesn’t matter for this point.
My grandfather’s fair skin sometimes made him appear Caucasian. For example: he was injured on the job sometime in the 1950s. Because the paramedics thought he was white, he was rushed to an all-white hospital and treated for his injuries. No one realized he was black until his butterscotch-complected wife showed up to take him home, with several of their fair-skinned babies in tow.
This is my nephew. Both of his parents are African-American, even though he was born with straight black hair (which eventually grew coarse) and gray eyes (which eventually turned brown).
[two_thirds_last] These are my baby cousins. They are biracial: their father is a French guy who looks like Travis Barker from Blink-182, and their African-American mother (my 1st cousin) is constantly confused for being Latina, even though both of her parents are black.
Here’s several other reasons why their “evidence” was pure bullcrap:
His mother literally could have put Donald Duck on the birth certificate.
One of their sources of proof was a birth certificate that listed King’s father as a white man. However, hospitals don’t require DNA tests to put the father on the birth certificates. Prime example: this man who was ordered to pay child support for a kid that biologically wasn’t his, because the mother put his name on the birth certificate to receive welfare benefits.
Family members don’t have all the facts.
They also claimed to have quotes from family members that stated that both of King’s parents were white.
I have hundreds of relatives that I haven’t spoken to in 10+ years, if ever. Unless it’s my mother, NONE of them can speak on behalf of my life experience. One of my uncles would tell me all the time “you look just like yo daddy”, but the man he was referring to isn’t my biological father.
The other piece of “evidence” used was the police report from when King was attacked in high school. King’s account (and several others) reflect a gang of students jumping King based on racist reasons. However, the police report says that it was a minor scuffle between King and one other person.
As we’ve seen time after time after time, the police report will only show what the officers want to be known. I know from personal experience that schools will downplay severe incidents to avoid media attention or parental uproar, especially ones surrounding racism. I also know from the cases of Otis Byrd and Lennon Lacy that southern states are still dripping with racism that they’d prefer remained unspoken.
Racists will do all they can to avoid accepting blame or criticism. It always turns into distraction tactics, like “well if they hadn’t _____________” or “they should have ____________” or “they’re not even _____________”.
I appreciate the articles posted before King’s explanation that saw right through the attacks, including this one on Very Smart Brothas and another on Madame Noire. All in all, this fiasco just shows how far we have to go before we can call ourselves a post-racial society.
The first step? Admitting our biases and dismantling them.