Updated on Oct. 21 at 2:40 p.m. to correct misspellings of Dr. Lolita Kincade’s name.
By: Hannah Irvin
Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to an intimate audience at the University of Montevallo on Oct. 7. The mediated discussion launched the Dr. Wilson Fallin Jr. lecture series, and was facilitated by Human Development and Family Studies professor Dr. Lolita Kincade. She opened the discussion by asking King how and when she received her calling to service.
King shared that what she was taught as a child about service to humanity and the power of love and forgiveness had a large part to play in her decision. She recalled her mother telling her, “Somebody has to cut off the chain of violence.” At age 16, she felt called to become a minister like her father. She later earned her Master of Divinity and Juris Doctorate.
King believes that her parents wanted to leave a legacy of love, action and a nonviolent philosophy. She emphasized the importance of understanding the worth of every human being, even enemies.
Kincade asked King how she addresses the criticism the Christian church receives from social justice movements like Black Lives Matter. “I critique the church all the time,” said King. “I understand where they’re coming from.” She explained that the disconnect between religion and social justice movements lies in the disconnect of relationships between older and younger adults.
She believes that young people want to be involved in social justice, and because they do not observe the church participating, they choose to leave the church. Her proposed solution is to include young people in the churches’ discussions instead of attempting to shield them from the world’s problems.
“We have done a disservice because we spent about a generation and a half of time not wanting them to know about the struggle of the 50s and 60s,” she said. “We owe them an apology.”
King described mercy as “having the right to do something but refraining from it.” She said that respecting the dignity of a person is how one defeats injustice without destroying the person perpetuating the injustice. She referenced Romans 12:19, which reads, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” She added that holding someone accountable is not equivalent to wishing evil on them and that God still wants to see everyone come to repentance.
Kincade mentioned George Floyd and the trial of Derek Chauvin. She asked, “where do we go from here?” King explained that the current generation has chosen one of the most difficult issues to deal with because of how law enforcement is “designed.” The solution is to form a collected, coordinated effort by organizations to ensure that fair prosecutors will be elected.
“The greatest amount of change and transformation comes when people have a greater understanding of each other,” King said. She urged the audience to work together because change requires a united group of people.
“Racism runs deep across the world,” King said. She described the term “ally” as a way to say, “I’m helping you with your problem.” According to King, white people should not view racism as an issue that only affects Black people, but as an issue that affects everyone; therefore “ally” does not encompass the full role. King said white people need to be “amplifying the voices of those family members in the Black community.”
When addressing the topic of economic empowerment, King recommended a conversation about the direction America should take when addressing reparations and inequity. She discussed the history of America and how society is set up against Black Americans. Desegregation did not fix the practices and behaviors that perpetuate inequity. The effects of white supremacy run deep, and Black people are economically disadvantaged. King believes the most effective way to begin decreasing the racial wealth gap is by offering reparations in the form of provisions and practices, such as ending redlining and supporting Black-owned businesses.
King’s advice to people interested in taking social action is to join an existing organization and strengthen it. She specified that research, strategy, analysis and planning are often missing from social justice organizations.
“We are not the first generation to come up against injustice and evil and we will not be the last,” King said. Warning that anger can be a poison and that activists must be careful to not reside in their rage, Dr. King advised, “Put a time limit on your anger.”
“Struggle is a never-ending process,” she said, but encouraged the audience, saying that history shows there is always a minority of people who find a way to break through and make progress. King believes that justice will prevail as long as there are people working towards it.
For more information about Dr. Bernice King, visit www.berniceking.com.