Much of the country celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 15 by posting inspirational quotes or photos of the civil rights activist to commemorate and pay tribute to his legacy. However, MLK's actual family used the opportunity to comment on the country's current leadership. After recent accusations of racism made against the president, Martin Luther King Jr.'s children's quotes about Donald Trump were necessary and timely.
Addressing the congregation of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta was Rev. Bernice King, Dr. King's youngest child. “Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the voice of one who may speak sometimes representing these United States, whose words sometimes do not reflect that legacy of my father,” she said at the Atlanta church where Dr. King pastored from 1960 to 1968, according to The New York Times.
King went on to say, “We cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America.”
Some of the "words" that King may be referring to are from recent news about President Donald Trump. Just days before Dr. King's commemorative day, Trump was accused of calling Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries "sh*thole countries" during an Oval Office meeting about immigration.
Trump has denied the accusations about his remarks, telling reporters on Sunday, Jan. 14, “I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person that you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”
Just before Trump received criticism about his alleged "sh*thole" comment, he visited the state of Georgia and approved the re-designation of the Martin Luther King Jr. national historic site to a national historical park in the civil rights icon's honor.
On Friday, Jan. 12, Trump signed a proclamation marking Jan. 15, 2018 as MLK's federal holiday and encouraging “all Americans to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King’s extraordinary life.” The White House then tweeted a video message on the actual holiday in which Trump said that "Dr. King's dream is our dream, the American dream."
With the proximity of his alleged immigration comments being so close to MLK Day, his inspirational message about Dr. King may have been a bit lost on the American public.
Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta also spoke on the topic of Trump's rhetoric during the service on Monday, Jan. 15, per The New York Times. Warnock said there was “a volcanic eruption of hate speech spewing” from the president, and called on Trump to repent for his actions and behavior.
Meanwhile in Washington, King's oldest son, Martin Luther King III commented on Trump's alleged immigration statements, according to ABC News, saying, “When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is.”
He went on to say, “Now the problem is that you have a president who says things but has the power to execute and create racism. That’s a dangerous power and a dangerous position, and we cannot tolerate that. We’ve got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”
Alveda C. King, the niece of Dr. King and a former legislator in Georgia offered a different perspective on behalf of the King family. During an interview with Fox and Friends on Jan. 13, King's niece declared that, “President Trump is not a racist" when talking about the "real racism" that her uncle combated during the 1960s. She felt that the word racism was being "thrown around unjustly" at the president.
People can continue to debate and discuss each new individual allegation or potentially racist comment that our president says, but as I see it, the conversation about race and racial justice in the United States is a far more important to pay attention to.