In late August, no small kerfuffle ensued because Black Lives Matter activists Shaun King was accused of lying about his ethnicity and co-opting blackness for personal gain. This situation along with Ekemini Uwan’s tweets (above) started me thinking. Why doesn’t our black family receive the privilege of being sinners without it discrediting an entire group of people?
The accusations leveled against Shaun forced him to share painful family history to set the record straight:
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.
I love my mom and my gut hurt that his mother’s past indiscretions were drudged up. However, the Shaun King scandal highlights a common tactic used against black leaders and their movements—attacking the character, morality, or actions to discredit a black social concerns. For that short window when the slander might have been true, Shaun’s personal failure immediately was presumed to hurt the Black Lives Matter movement even if everything they had been fighting against was just and right (whether it is or isn’t is a topic for another day).