Martin Luther King’s Son: “More Than 50 Years Later, People Continue To Demand Dignity, Respect And Justice”

The color photographs are mixed with others in black and white on the social networks of Martin Luther King III. With more than half a century of difference, some men with placards in Harlem in 1963 that say “Police brutality must disappear” and two children hold some cards in 2020 where they read “Black Lives Matter [Las vidas negras importan]Between them, the face of his father, Martin Luther King Jr., and some fragments of his best-known speeches. His phrases take effect once again among the slogans that are chanted throughout the United States today: “Without justice there is no peace “,” respect our existence or expect resistance “.

March 1963, Atlanta. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, pose with three of their four children at their Atlanta home, Left, Martin Luther King III.

AP / Archive

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Martin Luther King III, 62, joins them, writes them over and over again. The son of the historic African-American leader attends eldiario.es at the start of the third week of protests against racism and police violence in the US, a social outbreak that many consider the most important since it occurred in 1968, after the murder by the renowned civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Laureate.

Her son, also an activist and member of the board of directors of the King Center – dedicated to spreading the legacy of Martin Luther King – has been showing strong support for the mobilizations for days and was present at the tribute to George Floyd that was celebrated last week . “People continue to ask for dignity, respect and justice 50 years later,” he says in a conversation with this newspaper.

How did you feel when you saw the video of George Floyd saying he couldn’t breathe under Police Derek Chauvin’s knee?

My first feeling I had was a feeling of anger, thinking that enough is enough. When is this behavior going to stop? When will this pain that is being inflicted stop? And then I thought of Eric Garner, who was also murdered in New York City, strangled by the police [en 2014]. It was what crossed my mind.

Do you agree with those who say that the current protests are the biggest social outbreak since the murder of her father in 1968?

In 1968, there were fires and riots in more than 100 cities. Today there are protests in more than 130 cities and most of them have been peaceful protests. There has been some violence, but this is the biggest wave of demonstrations since my father’s murder. So yes, I agree.

For most of the time we have seen peaceful protests, but also riots and fighting. You defend the legacy of your father, an exponent of non-violence. How do you live these acts?

My father used to say that violence is the language of the unheard. Most of the protests have been non-violent, only some of the protesters have been violent. My father never supported violence, but he understood why people get involved in it or feel that they have no choice. Ho wever, he always believed that peaceful protests give the best results. And that’s what he always did.

It is difficult to speak for your father, but the references to his figure these days are inevitable and you have remembered his work and his words several times. What would he think if he could witness the protests?

First of all, I think that if my father lived, much of what we are facing would no longer be a problem because both my father and mother wanted to eradicate poverty, racism and violence from this world. If Dad lived, we would surely be in a different position.

If I came now and saw what is happening, I would be very upset with what has happened [la muerte de George Floyd]But I would also be very happy to see that people are protesting. The difference between what happened in 1968, 52 years ago, and what is happening now is that there are more cities and there are also more whites who are participating, saying that this is wrong. In 1968, there were many blacks and some whites. But today there are plenty of whites across the country who are also protesting, calling for change now. And I think my father would be happy about that.

And where do you think it would be? In Minneapolis, maybe?

It’s a good question, I don’t know if I can answer it. Yes, perhaps I would have gone to Minneapolis, like my family and I, who went to the George Floyd memorial service and to the site of the protests to participate in them and pay tribute to the family. Yes, it sure would be there, but maybe it would also be in Atlanta [su ciudad natal] or in other places where there are demonstrations. What is certain is that he would be part of them.

More than 50 years later, basic demands are heard, such as justice.

Without a doubt. People continue to ask for dignity, respect and justice. It is something that happens every day in some city in the United States.

The list of black people who have died in cases of police violence in the US is long. Why does it keep happening?

Because there is racism. Blacks represent 13% of the population, but still make up 60% and 80% of the prison population. That means the police have targeted black people. So that’s part of the problem, racism. And until we face racism in the US, we will not tackle the problem of selective controls and police misconduct. The other problem is that police are scared of black people and respond differently to a black assailant than a white assailant. All that has to change. Most of it is rooted in racism. If we are able to eliminate and make society aware of racism, then the police may do their work in a different way.

Can a police reform change anything? What does it take to end racism in police departments?

Police officers need diversity, human relations and training to sensitize them. There is a need for civilian oversight bodies of the police departments, which are made up of citizens of that community, so that when a police officer does something, this body makes the decision about what happens to it, not the department, because the police remain united. There must be consequences when there are certain actions and the Police are not accountable. When they do something against black people, they are usually able to get away with it. This has to change and it has to change now.

What do you think of the anti-racist protests that are spreading around the world?

March 1963, Atlanta. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, pose with three of their four children at their Atlanta home, Left, Martin Luther King III.

March 1963, Atlanta. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, pose with three of their four children at their Atlanta home, Left, Martin Luther King III.

AP / Archive

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