Shaun King: ‘White man on my birth certificate is not my biological father’
A prominent Black Lives Matter activist accused of misrepresenting his race has addressed the reports, saying the man listed on his birth certificate is not his biological father.
Shaun King, a 36-year-old Atlanta-based activist who gained national attention in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last year, had been the subject of recent reports. Breitbart.com, the Blaze and Daily Caller questioned his biracial identity, family history, claims he was the victim of a hate crime in high school and even the extent of injuries he suffered in a car accident.
“The reports about my race, about my past and about the pain I’ve endured are all lies,” King wrote on the website DailyKos.com, where he is a staff writer. "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.”
King has identified himself in interviews as the biracial son of a white mother and an African-American father. The conservative websites uncovered mug shots and criminal records identifying the person listed on his birth certificate as King’s father, Jeffery Wayne King, as white.
Citing police reports, the Daily Caller questioned whether a racially motivated beating King suffered in 1995 at a rural Kentucky high school was as severe as King had described. Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos also wondered whether King, who attended Morehouse College, misled Oprah Winfrey by accepting an Oprah Scholarship to the historically black school.
"Morehouse College does not grant admission to students or offer scholarships based on race," the college said in a statement. (An earlier version of this story mistakenly said such scholarships are given exclusively to black men.)
On Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported that it had reviewed criminal records that identified Jeffery King’s ethnicity as white. On Wednesday night, CNN’s Don Lemon reported that a family member told the network that both of King’s parents are white.
“When I asked [Shaun] tonight if he is legally black or white, initially, he did not answer,” Lemon said. “Later, he referred to himself as biracial. But then when I asked him if that’s what he chose on his birth certificate, I did not hear back from him. No answer on that.” King did not return an email from Yahoo News seeking comment.
In a series of tweets to his nearly 200,000 Twitter followers, King blasted the reports as a “white supremacist conspiracy” akin to the birther movement that once surrounded President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
23. In essence, what is happening to me now, is like conservatives demanding Obama's long form birth certificate. It's all BULLSHIT.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 19, 2015
24. Out of respect for my dear mother, my siblings, and my extended family who've loved me through it all, I've just kept on working.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 19, 2015
29. If you have known me from when I was in elementary school at Huntertown Elementary until now, you've known me as black or bi-racial.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 19, 2015
32. Out of LOVE for my family, I've never gone public with my racial story because it's hurtful, scandalous, and it's MY STORY.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 19, 2015
Moving forward, I'm gonna work, stronger, harder, bolder than everMy life may be your trending topic but I live thisDone addressing it.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 19, 2015
King’s supporters also pushed back against the claims, saying they were part of a smear campaign to discredit a leading social media voice in the modern civil rights movement.
“Shaun is a flawed and imperfect man. He has made many mistakes. Just like me and just like you,” King’s wife, Rai, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “But regarding his race, he has never lied. Not once. His story is beautifully difficult, and painful. And I’ve actually encouraged him to tell it publicly because it is a unique expression of this country’s sordid and ridiculous history with race. But it’s his story to tell. On his own terms. When he’s ready to tell it.”
King was ready to tell it Thursday.
“For my entire life, I have held the cards of my complicated family history very close to my chest,” he wrote. “I preferred to keep it that way and deeply resent that I have been forced to authenticate so many intimate details of my life to prove who I really am. This, in and of itself, is a form of violence.”
This is it. My whole story.Race, love, hate, and me: A distinctly American storyThanks for the love.-Shaunhttp://t.co/ygUEziVt22— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 20, 2015
More from King’s column:
When I was 8 years old and in the second grade, black children first began asking me if I was “mixed.” In our house, my white mother, the sweetest woman ever and one of the best friends I’ve ever had, didn’t talk much about race. Most white families don’t. It’s part of the privilege. I didn’t even know what “mixed” was. This isn’t a secret. I’ve told this story publicly in front of thousands of people.
After that day when I was first asked if I was mixed, while I was still a very young child, kids and their well-intentioned parents began telling me they knew who my black father was, that I was so and so’s cousin, etc. This was in small-town Versailles, Kentucky, in the 1980s. It happened regularly for years on end. While I didn’t have an understanding of the national dialogue on interracial children, I knew even as a young child that what people were telling meant something very peculiar and unflattering about my mother. I was aware at how different I looked than my siblings, but didn’t understand DNA or genealogy. They were my family and I loved them.
I adored my mother so much then, that I just didn’t have the nerve to ever bring these things up to her. I was a child and loved our care-free relationship. She had been married and divorced several times and by the time I was in second grade she was raising my brother and me as a single mom. By the time I reached middle school, I fully identified myself not even as biracial, but just as black. Of course, that was an oversimplification of my story, but that was what made sense at that time. Adults who loved and knew me, on many occasions sat me down and told me that I was black. As you could imagine, this had a profound impact on me and soon became my truth.
Every friend I had was black, my girlfriends were black, I was seen as black, treated as black, and endured constant overt racism as a young black teenager. Never have I once identified myself as white. Not on forms, not for convenience or privilege, and not for fun and games, have I ever identified myself as white. I was never a white guy pretending to be black. Not once, ever, did it occur to me that I was being phony or fraudulent or fake. Quite the opposite — I always believed I was living the truest form of my self.
On the subject of his scholarship, King writes:
To be clear, I received a full academic and leadership scholarship to attend Morehouse College based on my grades and my leadership skills. I love Morehouse. It helped me heal from the brokenness of my past and my very best friendships and bonds were formed there. When I was forced to leave Morehouse to have yet another spinal surgery, I lost that scholarship and was then offered a scholarship from Oprah Winfrey when I returned to complete my studies. She wanted it to be for “diamonds in the rough” and that was pretty much who I was at that point. I didn’t apply for it. Nobody does. The college selects brothers who need it and I was, very gratefully, chosen for it.
Since these articles have been released, my family and I have received constant death threats and nonstop racist harassment. Multiple members of my family have been harassed and we now have been forced to take extra security measures for our safety. This was the goal ... divide and conquer. But I will not allow it to define or distract me for one more day and hope that all of you reading this will move on with me.