Shaun King Addresses Fundraiser Fraud, Cyntoia Brown Criticism And Light-Skin Privilege

"Because I look how I look, that makes me more relatable to white people, in white spaces..."

On Thursday (June 20) activist Shaun King stopped by BET's Black Coffee and joined hosts Marc Lamont Hill, Gia Peppers and Jameer Pond to discuss political and social issues and address any ongoing rumors surrounding his fundraising efforts.

While on the topic of reparations, a subject that recently resurfaced with force after a recent congressional hearing on the matter took place Wednesday (June 19), King chimed in on Ta-Nehisi Coates' provoking argument. Coates, a longtime journalist and author, criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's views on reparations and gave a detailed breakdown on the importance of considering restitution for people of color.

"There are rich conversations that have already taken place that say, 'Whatever [the] reparations plan would be, this percentage plan goes to African descendants of slaves. This percentage goes to African immigrants in America. There are those kind of plans that exist, but yesterday wasn't necessarily the day to drop the plan on the table, but Ta-Nehisi, I think, has made himself the nation's spokesperson," King said.

"When we think reparations, [Coates] has articulated it so well, in a way that has been relatable, but revolutionary. Which is hard to do — to make a hard-edged idea readable and understandable to people."

Back in January, King, the co-founder of Real Justice PAC and The North Star, was at the center of criticism following unsubstantiated claims that he may have been collecting on some of his fundraising money. At the time, a $100,000 reward had been offered by both King and civil rights attorney Lee Merritt for any tips leading to an arrest in the December 2018 fatal shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes. Not long after this, critics began to question whether King was good at "finishing" what he starts.

King addressed the claims made by Hill on behalf of critics, acknowledging that he is not the best closer when it comes to some of his projects, but he denied ever taking a dime of the money he's raised.

"That's probably the best criticism of me that somebody could offer. Like, I'm a natural starter, I've been fundraising my entire life. So I know how to pitch an idea. But I have struggled, up until the past two to three years, to figure out how to start something, grow it and maintain it. 

"The organization that we started, Real Justice [PAC], is probably the best thing I've ever been a part of. We started that in 2016, it's growing, it's vital, and the main reason why it's so successful is because I don't run it. 

"I have a very limited skill set, and it's taken me almost 40 years to realize that. If there are 100 skills a person has, I have two of them. There's some I do OK, some I'm alright with, and there are 70 things that I'm going to bomb on. So I have to figure out the two or three things I do well... [those] are a couple things, fundraising and getting people connected to an issue."

When host Hill reiterated some of the fan criticism for clarity, "The accusation is that you're keeping it," King was quick to vehemently deny the rumors again.

"Which is a lie. First and foremost, when people say that, that's a crime. Every time I've raised money for a family or a cause, [had I even] kept 50 cent of that money, I have committed a felony. You are not allowed to raise money for anything, and pocket it on the low. Anytime I've raised money, I've always had two or three other full time jobs myself. 

"Almost every dollar I've ever raised goes directly to the family themselves. When I've raised money for organizations, I'm not even managing that money. I have never, in the five years of this movement, I've never even had access to the dollars that I've raised."

King also addressed the rumors and tweets surrounding the alleged mishandling of a campaign for Cyntoia Brown

"Ultimately, the way I handled it did her harm. That's why I say you're responsible for your intentions. Because a lot of times people say, 'Hey, that wasn't my intention.' But you're responsible for your impact as well. So my intention was right, but the impact it had, I don't feel good about that. I apologized directly to her, privately, and I apologized to her publicly. Now, she rejected it, said she didn't want it [and] didn't accept it. And I had to leave that, saying, 'I did my best.' If I had it to do all over again, I would handle it differently.

"I was trying to fix and correct the record, but it ultimately did me and others more harm than I wanted."

While on the topic of race, King's own background has often been at the forefront of his activism. A few years back, Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon attempted to "out" the biracial King as a white man representing the Black Lives Matter movement. King addressed the comments with the cast as well as touched on the subject of "light-skin" privilege in Black activism.

"So when this lie came out, that I was a white man pretending to be Black, Steve Bannon was the chairman of Brietbart. The person who advanced that lie, Milo [Yiannopoulos], who was one of the lead writers at Breitbart, has literally since been expelled from every social network.

"My story of my family or racial background wasn't a secret. This was something I had shared my entire life. I have told this story from stages. But the truth is, because I am who I am, because I look how I look, there are doors that are open to me that shouldn't. There are privileges and platforms that I get, and that's for a lot of reasons. It's one, because I'm a man.

"There is this degree of even, like, light-skin privilege and accessibility. Because I look how I look, that makes me more relatable to white people, in white spaces. 

"So what I have to do, if I have some level of relatablility — that I didn't choose, I was born with it — I have to use it. I have to squeeze it, [and] I have to maximize it. So that's what you see with mega-woke light people."


Tune in to Black Coffee, live, every weekday at 10 a.m. EST, on BET's Facebook and Twitter!





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