On Wednesday, activist Shaun King trended online after being called out by Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.
Samaria, unhappy with King’s invoking of her son’s name when in the spotlight, also accused him of misappropriating funds raised in Tamir’s name.
“Why do you think it’s so important to tell folks we had a conversation?” Samaria asked in a post shared on her Instagram account. “Well we talked and everything that was said was very toxic and uncomfortable for me to hear that you raised additional money and then say you did not want to bother me. Personally I don’t understand how you sleep at night.”
Samaria asserted that she did not believe that King is Black. A view shared by many.
“As a white man acting Black you are a imposter that can not be trusted,” she said, adding that King was a “selfish self-centered person” who had made her son’s death about himself. “God will deal with you, white man.”
A lot of the mistrust surrounding King is based on his refusal to disclose his racial identity fully. He says that his mother is white and that his father is a light-skinned Black man. But that he still won’t declare himself a Black man.
The list of nicknames poking fun of his racial ambiguity is exhaustive.
King, usually quick to respond to explosive allegations on Twitter, this time decided to address Samaria’s claims in a lengthy article on his digital newspaper, The North Star.
In King’s account, he alleged that he was first asked to raise funds twice by Tamir Rice’s uncle. He then says that he was approached by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has also received criticism from Tamir’s mother. King claims that after $120,000 was raised, much of the money was spent on attorneys and the courts.
King says, “I never received a penny from those funds or anyone else—and would never expect as much.”
Time and time again, King has found himself at the center of similar controversies. He is either accused of attention-seeking ambulance-chaser style, or he is labeled a fraud.
He says that Samaria has been fed lies about him.
“I don’t do press conferences. I don’t do photo ops or photoshoots. I don’t do news interviews. I generally don’t even speak at rallies or events. I just put my head down and do the work,” he writes.
“And listen, I don’t begrudge anyone who does any of those things – all of them absolutely have their place – but in an attempt to prove to the world that I am not scrambling for the limelight, what it has done for someone like Samaria Rice is allowed other people to define who I am for her. And ultimately I learned that she didn’t even know most of what I had done for her. That’s my fault and I’ll never let that happen again. Sadly, people have lied to Samaria about me and about the fundraising I have done for her family. I’ll never fully know their intentions, but I am going to take time here to detail it all for you.”
And he does.
Unfortunately, his detailed breakdown is unlikely to appease Samaria. In attempting to clear his name, he has once again done the very thing she asks him not to do.
Still, the community remains divided in all matters pertaining to King, questioning whether he is a thoroughly misunderstood do-gooder or just another peddler of Black trauma.