Conservative bloggers are accusing Shaun King, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, of lying about his race – prompting comparisons to Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP leader whose white parents publicly disputed her claims of being a black woman.
In an emotional essay posted Thursday on Daily Kos, King calls the accusations “lies” with “obviously racist intentions” and says his biological father – not the man listed on his birth certificate – is African-American.
“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,” King writes. “It is horrifying to me that my most personal information, for the most nefarious reasons, has been forced out into the open and that my private past and pain have been used as jokes and fodder to discredit me and the greater movement for justice in America.”
Some black studies experts agree that the furor is a way of trying to smear the broader Black Lives Matter movement.
“The attacks on the right are trying to delegitimize the white folks who find value in the Black Lives Matter movement in finding them, in some cases, untrustworthy and, in other cases, crazy,” Mark Anthony Neal, an African American studies professor at Duke University and author of “New Black Man,” told NBC News.
“We are a country that has infantile ideas about race and the complexity of race,” Neal said.
Young activists protesting the deaths of African-Americans around the country at the hands of police have organized around the phrase “black lives matter.” Organizers, like King, are trying to highlight the ways racism affects black Americans and push for such policies as body cameras for officers.
King said the brouhaha is a “white supremacist conspiracy.”
“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,” he said on Twitter. “Every single person who knows me BEYOND Twitter, beyond trending topics and HIT PIECES, knows I have never lied about my race.”
King, who once netted a prestigious Oprah Winfrey scholarship to attend the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta, said there is no truth toallegations that he lied about his race to get the assistance.
The controversy centers around a 1995 police report filed by King where his race is listed as “white.”
The police officer investigating the altercation told The New York Times that he marked “white” as race based on King’s light skin and white mother.
The conservative website, Breibart , published a version of what it says is King’s birth certificate which lists his race as “white”.
“King’s explanation of his own race, like Rachel Dolezal’s, boils down to feelings over facts,” Breitbart wrote. “He has no idea who his biological father is, and has, by his own admission, never asked. But he felt an affinity for the black community, he says, so he identified as black. Were it not for our story, he would still be presenting himself as biracial without really knowing the truth.”
The site’s motives are questionable, said Joy Reid, an MSNBC national correspondent, adding “he has become a target because of black lives matter.”
“They are stoking racial resentment for their audience, it’s what they do,” said Reid who has spoken with King about how growing up biracial in a small town in Kentucky impacted his sense of racial identity.
King’s wife took to Facebook to defend him.
“Shaun is a flawed and imperfect man. He has made many mistakes. Just like me and just like you,” Shaun’s wife, Rai King, wrote. “But regarding his race, he has never lied. Not once.” “He’s no Rachel Dolezal.”
Read more at NBCNews.com.