[There was a video here]
[UPDATED BELOW] Yesterday, the nativist website Breitbart.com alleged that the anti-racism activist Shaun King had repeatedly and willfully misrepresented his racial background for money and publicity, highlighting the fact that King’s 1979 birth certificate indicates he was born to two white parents (instead of a “Caucasian mother and an African-American father,” as a 2012 profile of King noted). But now MSNBC correspondent Joy Reid is reporting—and King has since confirmed in an essay for DailyKos—a crucial bit of context: The father listed on the certificate, Jeffery Wayne King, is not the activist’s biological father. Today Reid told anchor Richard Lui:
I did talk to Shaun. I can tell you that Shaun King is biracial. There is no reason to doubt that he is biracial. The stories about what he said regarding getting his scholarship, etc, I think you have to consider the source. I don’t think they’re credible absent any actual reporting.
The story essentially is that the two people who are listed on Shaun King’s birth certificate, his mom and his dad, his mother is his biological mother, the man listed on his birth certificate is not his biological father.
I think getting into further details about who his biological father is, unfairly drags his mother into a story—and she is not a public figure. This is a very private story between his mom, dad, and the person who is his biological father. But Shaun King, since he was about 8 or 9 years old, has known that his dad is not his biological father.
Reid’s reporting goes a long way in explaining King’s oblique references to familial secrets during his lengthy rebuttal on Twitter:
26. Like many of you, I have siblings I don't know, siblings I'm estranged from, and a family full of secrets, divorce, affairs, etc.— 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
Following Reid’s report, Breitbart encouraged King to submit a DNA sample to prove his blackness: yet another indication that Breitbart and its ilk are chiefly motivated not by a wish to expose Shaun King as a fraud, but their desire to intimidate and humiliate anti-racism activists. Congratulations to Breitbart on the efficiency with which they’ve proven this point.
Update, 7:05 p.m.
In an essay for DailyKos published on Thursday afternoon, King explained that he was told from a very young age that his biological father was a “light-skinned black man” with whom his mother had had an affair:
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. This has been my lived reality for nearly 30 of my 35 years on earth. I am not ashamed of it, or of who I am—never that—but I was advised by my pastor nearly 20 years ago that this was not a mess of my doing and it was not my responsibility to fix it.