Martin Luther King Jr. would be stunned by efforts to suppress the rollback of voting rights in this country and the education of the struggle for civil rights, according to his eldest son, Martin Luther King III,
“People ask me, what do you think your father is doing? He’s not just turning over — he’s turning over in his grave,” MLK III told Deadline in a talk at the SXSW convention and festivals. He imagines his late father was thinking, “What’s going on? Me, my team, we have opened doors that should never be closed. And yet we go, it feels backwards—at least temporarily. Which is interesting because he prophetically wrote in his last book, Where do we go here: chaos or community?Obviously, he wanted us to return to the community, but we continue to see chaos. Every day something comes out that is more extreme than the last thing. And, therefore, we have our work cut out for us.
King and his wife Arandrea Waters were among the panelists at the SXSW Featured Session on Voting Is a Civil Rights Issue. Our conversation ranged from the GOP’s campaign to restrict access to voting and the right-wing’s disdain for “woke-ism” to George Floyd’s America and King’s upcoming documentary series. protect/servewhich examines “the history of policing in America and the origins of institutional racism” and provides a “solution-based discussion”.
In King’s home state of Georgia, the Republican-controlled legislature in 2021 made major changes to state election law, including a reduction in vote collection boxes, especially in areas with higher numbers of voters of color and Democrats. The so-called Senate Bill 202 also sharply reduced the window of time for voters to request an absentee ballot (a practice Democrats supported by a wide margin over Republican voters in 2020).
“It’s kind of sad that my dad and his team and others — John Lewis, Amelia Boynton, Josiah Williams, just to name a few — knocked down the barriers that allowed us to vote by law, through the Voting Rights Act. King said.” And yet, 55 years after dad’s death — the 55th anniversary of his assassination in April — there are people who are actually making provisions to make it harder for people to vote . By the way, the same people, who are talking about protecting and preserving democracy in the world at the national level, while you are restricting democracy in the country.
Waters King said, “Our daughter is the only granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. She is 14 years old, she will be 15 in May. And he and his cohorts are sitting right now with fewer voting rights and term rights than they had on the day of their birth. So, when you really think about the work of her grandparents and so many other people, I can’t imagine what it is [Martin Luther King Jr.] Was conceived… and the reason I say that is because she was born in 2008. In 2009, the Voting Rights Act, one of the crowning achievements of the Civil Rights Movement, was basically destroyed.
Waters King highlights yet another regressive action affecting young people like his daughter.
“The law has been passed in Georgia on what can be taught in the schools,” Waters King said. “History is not being taught to him and his colleagues. I think that, in a very real sense, gives us where we are as a country.
The New York Times published an article earlier this week reporting that the state of Florida is reviewing the social studies curriculum, inviting parents, teachers, political activists and others to comb through the textbooks. is doing, “evaluating not only academic material, but anything it might indicate, for example, on critical race theory.” The Times reported that one publisher made “multiple versions of his social studies materials , softened or eliminated references to race—even in the story of Rosa Parks—as she sought to gain approval in Florida.”
MLK III explicitly states that this amounts to “writing black history”. He visited Tuscaloosa, Ala., in February shortly after hundreds of high school students “walked out of class … after he said he was told by school leaders about some relevant events from the upcoming student-led Black History Month program.” was asked to leave,” the Associated Press reported. (School officials denied the students’ allegations).
“All these crowning, major struggles — the Montgomery bus boycott in ’55, the Birmingham campaign that led to the Civil Rights Act of ’65, the right to vote campaign between Selma and Montgomery in ’65. And yet you can’t teach history . You can’t even talk about these things – according to what this school did.”
The Kings clearly do not intend to remain silent and have, in fact, been expanding the scope of their activism and engagement through a media partnership with Calabasas Films, founded by producer Kapil Mahendra. MLK III and Calabasas are collaborating on documentary series protect/serve, which examines ways to deal with police bias against communities of color. According to a Washington Post examination, updated as recently as this week, black Americans are facing a dramatically higher rate of being killed by police – more than twice the rate of white Americans or Hispanic Americans. More.
“You have to see how we are selecting police officers? How are we training police officers? In other words, human relations, sensitivity, diversity and many other areas. similar [training] — not just done one more time, but over and over again — that’s got to be training,” King insisted. He also advocates rotating police through dangerous beats, like soldiers are rotated through the battlefield. It also called for an independent mechanism to investigate malpractices.
“Seven out of 10 – maybe nine out of 10 – cases brought to prosecution come from police forces,” he said. “So, they have a sweet relationship. How then, when a policeman does something wrong, are you expected to prosecute it? You don’t have that objectivity. You need an independent prosecutor. He continues, “You [also] what is the need of community policing protect/serve should be about.
The death of George Floyd under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in 2020 shocked the nation and sparked a backlash over systemic racial injustice.
King said, “Corporate America was starting to change.” “Departments of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion were funded and resources were allocated.” But progress has stalled, or even reversed, it can be argued. The national debate has shifted from addressing systemic injustice to debating “Critical Race Theory” and “Voc-ism”.
,[My father] challenged us to stay awake and engaged and now someone else has used awareness as a negative concept,” King observed. “If we want to change America, to become the America that it should be, We all have to stay awake and persevere. That’s what he said. He never talked about America being great or being ‘great again,’ because no one knows when that happened. But he said that America was America can become what it should be for all of us, by challenging us all to stay awake.
MLK III, who lost his father when he was just 10 years old, has seen the reaction before.
“Dad used to say, we’re at the point where harassment is being legislated. The sad thing is we’re still there, that we haven’t moved on,” he remarked. “When there is progress he also understands the inevitable backlash. In 1963 – 60 years ago – the Great March on Washington brought together labor, religious leaders, blacks, whites, Latinos and others. And more than three weeks after Shortly after, 16th Street Baptist Church [in Birmingham, Ala.] Bombed. Therefore, [there’s] Inevitable pushback.
Arandrea Waters King still sees some reason to be hopeful.
“At the end of the day, there are more people of goodwill. I’ve seen it many times, not only in the work we’re doing now, but also in the work I’ve done before, working against hate crimes and hate groups. was doing,” she said. “There really aren’t many people of goodwill.”
The work they intend to do moving forward with Calabasas Films will help rally those forces of goodwill.
“We have to fight on more than one front. Of course, we will always be proactive and active legislatively, while also continuing to create content that is even more impactful in history when these stories are not being told.