This week mainstream media outlets ran with a story started by a racist blog claiming that Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King was hiding his true identity as a white man.
Followers of the intelligent and dynamic leader were dismayed as publication after publication accused King of being a liar, charlatan and a hypocrite.
As it turns out King is the son of a “light-skinned black man” whom his mother had an affair with. She listed her then-husband, a white man, as the father on King’s birth certificate.
The rapid and gleeful way mainstream media ran with the story displays not only a racist bent (the woman blogger who unearthed this ‘secret’ is known to harass families of police brutality victims and has been banned from Twitter multiple times) but a lack of understanding of black identity.
In an effort to support Shaun King, domestic violence activist Sil Lai Abrams shared her story of not finding out that her father was black until teenhood.
A story from The Oberlin Review goes deeper into Sil Lai’s story;
“It’s amazing how denial can kick in especially if your parents want you to believe something,” said Abrams. “When I asked my father, ‘Why is my skin tone different?’ what he told me seemed to make sense. I was born in Hawaii on the island of Maui, so what they told me was, ‘Sil Lai, your skin is brown because you are Hawaiian,’ and it made sense to me.”
Abrams revealed how she finally found out her true ethnicity as an early teenager. She and her sister were reading a book of “tasteless jokes,” and after reading a particularly offensive joke about black people, her father furiously burst into the room.
“‘I don’t know why you’re laughing Sil Lai. You’re one.’ My mouth hung wide as we watched him stalk out of the room without glancing back, and with those few words my father stripped me of my identity and place as his daughter. That was it. That was the conversation. That was how he told me,” said Abrams.
Her father told her that he and her family lied to her for so long out of love. Abrams found out that her mother had an affair with a black airplane pilot, and she was the result. Abrams said that after finding out, she became a social misfit and a part of the alternative culture inside her high school. She ignored her racial identity and her biggest fear was anyone finding out that she was black. At 17, her Florida driver’s license indicated her race as white.
America has provided very limited ways that people can be black, act black, define as black, but more people are coming to the fore and challenging those notions. The ‘black experience’ isn’t singular. There are a multitude of ways that those who identify as black express themselves and acknowledge their heritage;
No, My Blackness Isn’t Determined By Who I Date
How Rachel Dolezal Just Made Things Harder for Those of Us Who Don’t “Look Black”
“I Had to Un-Brainwash Myself” Zoe Kravitz Admits to Not Identifying With Black Culture as a Girl
The #AllBlackGirlsDont Tag Is Giving Black Women Space to Dispute Stereotypes and Self-Define
Ladies, what are your thoughts?