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Illustration of Shaun King courtesy of shaunking.org

By Joseph Thorpe 

In America, racism is political. It is now and it always has been. When Americans elect officials based on their particular ideologies on race, racism is institutionalized. When minorities are jailed disproportionally due to the racist nature of outdated American laws, and the cash bail system is rigged to favor those of wealth, racism in America is institutionalized. When African-American men die at the hands of police officers, and when those police officers go uninvestigated and unaccountable, racism in America is institutionalized.

Activist Shaun King has emerged as the most prominent voice of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) movement and is leading the charge against institutionalized racism in all its forms.

King assumed his first leadership role in 1999, as the youngest Student Government President at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended the historically black men’s college in 1947.

King became well-known for an article covering the Michael Brown shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. The Brown shooting was one of several police-involved shootings that ignited the BLM movement, and one which King disputes was lawless. King has been hurtled largely by self-propulsion to the forefront of America’s modern civil rights movement.

On October 1, Amber Guyger, a Dallas, Texas police officer, was found guilty of the murder of one Botham Jean, a black man who lived in the same apartment building as Guyger. After she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, Guyger shot and killed Jean while he was eating ice cream and watching television on his couch.

King had been keeping up diligent coverage on Guyger’s trial through social media, for fear that this killing would be just one of many swept under the blue rug of police fraternity whereby the laws that apply to all Americans become irrelevant in trials where police officers are defendants.

King wasted no time after the guilty verdict was announced, within moments posting to Facebook about another officer on trial. The tragic incident this time took place in Decatur, Georgia, where Officer Robert Olsen stands accused of escalating the scene where a black man named Anthony Hill was having a mental health episode relating to his bipolar disorder. Hill was shot two times, with no other method of de-escalation attempted prior. Olsen is facing six charges: Two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of making a false statement and two counts of violation of oath by a public officer.

These trials are the battleground for the BLM movement and their ‘All Lives Matter’ (ALM) counterpart. ALM is a propaganda slogan used by police apologists to discredit and marginalize, as well as an attempt to turn the tables of truth with logical fallacy as the lever.

King is no stranger to the white supremacist movement that has risen in America, emboldened by the racist rhetoric of the alt-right- and right-wing politicians. On August 12, 2017 DeAndre Harris was beaten by a group of white supremacists in a parking garage during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, VA.

After the attack, with no suspects apprehended or identified, and the case having been abandoned by the FBI and the Virginia State Police, King took the matter of justice for Harris in his own hands, through his social media accounts.

King, with all the vigilance the racist attack and the victim were due, used his platform to post pictures captured by cameras in the area of the rally of Harris’ six attackers, calling for his followers to seek out the identity of these men and bring them to lawful justice.

As of September 19, 2019, four of the six men involved in beating Harris have been found, tried and sentenced for their crimes. King stood alone as the sole advocate for justice when law enforcement and the news cycle had left the victim forgotten. King’s efforts to identify the remaining two perpetrators continue.

A man who must spend most of the hours of his day involved in his work, even with a wife—his high school sweetheart—and their five children, King is tireless and dauntless in his efforts for justice reform.

In the last two years alone, King co-founded the Real Justice PAC (2018), a political action committee that helps elect prosecutors who support criminal justice reform at the county and city levels — aiming, with their aid, to reform the cash bail and prison systems in America. King is also a Writer-in-Residence at Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project.

In 2019, King launched an online revival of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist newspaper The North Star, with support from Douglass’ living relatives. A crowdfunded endeavor, The North Star is building a media corporation from the ground up with a mission to, “speak truth to power…as a modern media company for a new generation of freedom fighters.” The North Star provides articles, podcast episodes and videos available by paid membership. Students can access content for $5 a month.

King is elevating his activism with the recently announced ‘Flip the Senate’ campaign. Flip the Senate is a 50-state grassroots initiative to take control of the Senate away from conservatives. The August 5 announcement issues a strategy focused on 2020 political elections.

“IT’S A NATIONAL EMERGENCY,” reads the Flip the Senate webpage (https://www.howweflipthesenate.com). “Defeating Donald Trump in 2020 is obviously a huge deal, but consider the following two scenarios: #1. A Democrat wins the presidency, but Democrats still lose the Senate. NOTHING GETS DONE. If Republicans control the Senate, as they did for all but 2 short years of the Obama presidency, they will block every meaningful policy and reform that comes up. They even stole a Supreme Court nomination from Obama. We cannot allow that to happen again.”

“But here’s an even more concerning scenario: #2,” The website continues. “A Democrat loses to Trump and Republicans keep control of the Senate. This is fully possible. And if it happens, Trump would not only be likely to get multiple more Supreme Court picks, he would continue to stock courts all over the country with hundreds of ultra-conservative judges that each have lifetime appointments. The consequences will last for generations.”

King goes on to talk about how impeachment would be near impossible in a government led by Trump as President and a conservative-controlled Senate. Not only that, but it would surely signal that no meaningful legislation on immigration, healthcare, or an increase in minimum wage will ever pass.

King is passionate in his efforts to win back the Senate for the democrats, citing the seats that liberals actually lost in 2018 as a failure on their part. He encourages everyone to speak their mind with their votes, in order to gain some ground in the Senate.

“When we organize, WE WIN,” King posted on his website. “We are going to organize, support, and rally behind strong candidates in every single state. You can’t win where you don’t show up. And for the next 13 straight months, we have to fight nationwide like our lives depend on it – because they do! LET’S FLIP THE SENATE!”

These are but a shortlist of King’s accomplished activism that has resulted in legitimate change. Without persons like Shaun King to lead us, we may again fall victim to a government full of bigotry and lacking morals.