How the Shaun King/DeRay Mckesson beef leaves us not knowing what to think

OPINION: The cannon fire between the two activists really amounts to a pissing match between two men who are trying to claim a throne neither necessarily deserves

Activists Shaun King (L), Deray Mckesson (Getty Images)

Shaun King’s integrity has been called into question a lot lately, and now it appears his wife, Rai is stepping up not only to defend her man but also to clap back at one of his most vocal critics, activist DeRay Mckesson.

Last week Mckesson took to social media to share a Medium piece that echoed the sentiments of those who find themselves questioning King’s methods, motives, and fundraising tactics.

The picture that he paints from that point forward is both compelling and disturbing, making King out to be a longtime scam artist who has managed to shapeshift under the guise of public service and swindle well-meaning supporters out of a lot of money.

READ MORE: Activist DeRay McKesson questions Shaun King’s integrity

The essay also points out that King moves through these spaces as if he is above reproach and anyone who dares disagree with him is often dismissed, discredited or denied access — particularly Black women.

Given that some of King’s most heated arguments with critics have happened publicly, that last allegation is more a matter of record than opinion. It’s also something King has (in so many words) conceded to himself in the past.

Even the staunchest Shaun King supporter would have found it difficult to read McKesson’s breakdown, and look at all those receipts without admitting (at the very least) that King probably isn’t as effective or organized of a leader as he purports himself to be.

But does a couple of failed ventures necessarily make him a thief though?

Timing is everything

Despite being a vocal social justice advocate, Mckesson likes to point out that he actually has a track record of often going radio silent during, “public disagreements within activism and organizing” communities, even when he’s the focus of those very disagreements. So my first question when I read his piece was, “Why now then? Why is he suddenly coming forward with a folder of old documents?”

Well, according to him, he was motivated to break his silence and pen the essay because it was clearly time “to address a lapse in integrity within the activism community so glaring that to be silent is to be complicit.”

But despite that noble reasoning, one can’t help but notice that the piece also just happened to drop on the very same night that King was being awarded at Rihanna’s Diamond Ball for his work and achievements.

READ MORE: Shaun King to be honored at Rihanna’s Diamond Ball and some of Black Twitter is giving the side-eye

As one of my friends anonymously stated, even if every single accusation made was true, the timing of the Medium article reeks of envy and resentment that King is being uplifted as the leader of the movement, a throne Mckesson perhaps believes he deserves himself.

This isn’t my personal opinion, because frankly I’ve never met either brother and don’t feel like I have enough information to start sniffing out people’s intentions, but I can see why so many have come to that conclusion.

Not surprisingly, that takedown sparked a lot of drama on social media, with King issuing a rebuttal in his own Medium post and proponents on both sides getting immeshed in heated debates about who is a fraud vs who is a blue Patagonia vest-wearing hater.

If King and McKesson are to now be seen as the Biggie and Tupac of this social justice “beef” that would make King’s wife Rai, the Faith Evans archetype in this melodrama. This week, she apparently got tired of biting her tongue and gave her perspective on the whole debacle.

Stand by your man

On September 14th, Shaun King’s Twitter account was temporarily renamed Rai King and featured her profile photo.

She started out by clarifying, “This is Rai King. I am a lifelong educator. I taught in marginalized communities across the world for 16 years. I am now the Diversity Director at a world class organization. I am a mother to 5 wonderful human beings and the wife of @ShaunKing. This is my story… I left Twitter many years ago. For me, it represents so much of what is wrong with our current state of events in the world. I still believe so. That my husband could be the number one trending topic in the world on a night where the country was literally watching a debate to choose Donald Trump’s successor, says all I need to know about the ridiculousness of this space. And yet, as useless and detached from real life as I find this space to be, it is the place in which I am forced to come to defend myself. And to be clear, this entire rant is a defense of myself.”

READ MORE: Activist Shaun King pens blistering essay defending his racial background

She continues by stating, “Shaun has asked me repeatedly not to, but I’ve held my tongue for years and I’m done. What I can’t figure out is why you are so hellbent on destroying my family? For folx who claim to love Black people so much, you sure are committed to tearing this Black family down. And for the life of me I just can’t wrap my head around why. You have clearly made it your mission to ruin our lives. You don’t know me, you’ve never met me. You’ve never had a conversation with me. You don’t know anything about me. And yet, you have clearly become obsessed with assassinating my character.”

Then she goes on to inform everyone, Mckesson especially, “And to be clear, when you come for my husband, you come for me. When you have been attached to someone for 22 years, there is no such thing as his battle and my battle. When you come for @ShaunKing you are coming for me. There is no such thing as his battle and my battle. They are all OUR battles. We are doing life together in every way.”

Ok so clearly sis is pissed. And frankly, if my beloved was being dragged by their mustache all over these internet streets I may be inclined to pen something much worse.

“I wrote about Shaun King in an effort to bring clarity to a set of issues that continue to be a topic of conversation re: fundraising, organizing, & activism,” McKesson wrote as the accompanying Twitter caption to his piece, as a pre-emptive defense against those who may question his motives.

To which activist Tamika D. Mallory responded,@deray is what we call “throwing stones from a glass house.”

“I never took one penny from @shaunking nor has he ever offered me any,” she clarifies before pointing out, “All it would have took was one phone call. This is why people can’t believe many of the allegations. Because as in this case, they are not true.”

If what Mallory is saying is true, and the fact checking in the initial article was indeed that sloppy, does it mean everything it said against King should be dismissed as fruit from the poisoned tree?

Not quite.

So who do we believe?

Honestly, I fell down a pretty deep and dark rabbit hole while doing research on all of this. It appears the infighting and catty drama behind-the-scenes amongst social justice warriors would put even the most over the top telenovelas to shame.

Folks are often righteously indignant and seemingly convinced that they have been chosen (by whom I’m not sure) to lead the movement and thus save the world.

Very few can take feedback or constructive criticism without lashing out with responses akin to saying “after all I’ve done for you people!”

READ MORE: Deray Mckesson loses defamation suit against Jeanine Pirro over 2017 comments

And as for those long winded “gotcha!” articles: my goodness. These ninjas are verbose as hell. Does it really take 17 pages of text to tell us you can’t stand someone? Cause I feel like Cardi B could have been just as impactful in telling someone to kiss her ass in just one verse.

But now that the dust has settled a bit, many of the good folks committed to this work find themselves wondering, “Whose side should we take?”

I can say with full transparency my choice is: NONE of the above.

Lest we forget, the Black Lives Matter movement was started by Black women NOT Shaun King or DeRay Mckesson. And despite who is quicker to capitalize on photo-ops, the movement has also been in large part sustained by the sweat, tears and legwork of Black women.

Yet somehow, it seems the narrative has completely been taken over by two men who are pretty blatantly fighting over a throne that doesn’t necessarily belong to either of them.

I honestly feel like at this point, they both need to have a seat, empower Black women who work twice as hard as they do to get even half of their clout, and then consult with their therapists about how they somehow turned a fight for Black liberation into a petty ass pissing contest.

As for those who keep on pointing out the myriad of ways toxic masculinity sneaks its way into our lives without being detected, don’t forget to add this one to the count. Because it’s a doozy.

Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric