Brian Schoenauer: Shaun King – Race Relations in America

Shaun King


Photography and Text by Brian Schoenauer, Copyright 2016




For many, especially those on campus here at Penn, the results of this election were shocking. Students were left wondering how we got to this point. Hilary Clinton, one of the most qualified candidates in recent memory, had lost to a real estate mogul and reality television star. Donald Trump, who had appeared to countlessly sabotage his own campaign with vulgar and hateful rhetoric, was the president-elect. But on November 17th, writer and activist Shaun King offered up his own reality check to the students here at Penn. King offered a sobering analysis of what he believed to be the impetus behind the divisiveness in this country.


Shaun King, at age 37, is the senior justice writer for the New York Daily News. In this role, he is responsible for reporting and commenting on social justice, police brutality and race relations. King, who was born to a black father and raised by his white mother, has been no stranger to racially motivated crime and hate. While in high school, King was beaten so severely by fellow white students that he had to miss almost two years of high school due to the injuries. This racially motivated attack undoubtedly changed King. To this day, one can see the scar on his left cheek – a constant reminder of the racism he faced as a high school student.


The crowd at the Penn Museum was filled with people of all races and age. King began his address with lighthearted jokes. However, his tone soon turned more serious as his presentation began. King asked his audience to consider a paradox. He showed the audience a graph of the rise of technology – a graph that soared upwards at an exponential rate. He argued that people confuse this graph as a representation of the quality of our humanity. King reminded the audience about the horrors of American history.


He showed the audience the scarred back of a slave. He even asked a young boy in attendance, whose view was obstructed behind the podium, to move seats so he could see this image. He reminded the audience that police have killed 102 African Americans in the past year. He showed the audience videos of civil rights riots and police brutality from the 1960s that was uncomfortably similar to American society today. The audience, at these moments and throughout the night, audibly voiced their reactions. Many could be heard simply reacting “Mmmm” – as if they suddenly realized the weight of reality.


The reality that race relations in this country, our humanity, are not where they thought it was – and that the results of this election should be a reminder of this. Yes there are issues of class. Yes there are economic issues. There is a whole contingency of rural middle class Americans who have felt left behind and forgotten by Washington elite. But it is more than that. Shaun King’s presentation offered a crucial and weighty reflection on the condition of American society. He showed the audience that race relations and equality are not where they should be – and that as a nation we have a lot of work to do.



About The Author: Brian Schoenaeur is a senior enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2017. Brian is also a running back on the Penn football team. To read additional articles by Brian Schoenaeur, go here


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