For too many Americans, Martin Luther King Jr. Day starts and ends on social media. It’s a disturbing fact that Bernice King, the civil rights leader’s youngest daughter, knows too well.
“Tomorrow, there will be people tweeting about my father and #MLKDay who are complicit in, complacent about, and/or a part of cultivating some form of injustice,” King warned her Twitter followers on the eve of the national holiday.
As King predicted, #MLKDay began trending first thing Monday. But the real story was on the streets of Washington, D.C. where hundreds of activists marched to protect the voting rights of Black and brown Americans. The event, which doubled as the annual D.C. Peace Walk, marked a peak moment of visibility for the ongoing Deliver for Voting Rights campaign.
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“We’re working to restore the very voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to secure,” said King’s eldest son Martin Luther King III, who marched with his wife Arndrea Waters King and 13-year-old daughter Yolanda Renee King (via NBC News). “We will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father’s dream for a more equal and just America.”
Demonstrators marched over D.C.’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge to symbolize the importance of the federal government committing to voting rights in the same way it committed to a bipartisan infrastructure package last November. The campaign calls on President Biden and Congress to end the filibuster (a legislative delaying tactic rooted in Jim Crow era governance); as well as pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Democrats hope to pass the latter later this week.
Legislators’ reluctance to take up the cause, as well as a Supreme Court ruling from last year that significantly undermined the Black and brown right to vote, continues to alarm contemporary civil rights leaders. Suffice to say: Half-baked promises to do better, let alone the kind offered once a year on social media, are no longer cutting it.
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Virtue signaling online, Bernice King continued in her Sunday Twitter thread, “That’s to be expected, and not just regarding voting legislation. There will be people who are complicit in bombing children tweeting. There will be people who are complacent about poverty tweeting. There will be people who cultivate the Prison Industrial Complex tweeting. And so on.”
King urged supporters of her father and family to not get “caught up” in the disingenuous churn and instead push for sustainable change.
“Please take some time to study what my father taught about the Triple Evils of Racism, Militarism, and Poverty (Extreme Materialism). And what he taught about the Beloved Community and Nonviolence,” King continued. “Please be a part of a worldwide coalition for justice.”
You can learn more about the Deliver for Voting Rights campaign and Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.