King, who has always been vocal about his views on politics and civil rights, and his wife, Arndrea Waters King, were a part of the “Voting Is a Civil Rights Issue” panel at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas. He spoke on how the government is consistently dismantling the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and suppressing the rights of voters, which his father and other civil rights leaders worked so hard to help keep fair for all regardless of the color of their skin.
“People ask me, what do you think your father is doing? He’s not just turning over — he’s spinning in his grave,” King told Deadline at SXSW.
He said he believes his father would be shocked to see what is happening after all the progress he helped make and suggested what he’d probably say in response to it.
“‘What the heck is going on? Me, my team, we opened doors that should never be closed.’ And yet we’re going, it feels, backwards — at least temporarily, which is interesting because he prophetically wrote in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, obviously he wanted us to revert to community, but we are seeing chaos constantly. Every day something else comes out that’s more extreme than the last thing. And, so, our work is cut out for us.”
An example of the unfair changes local government officials made to hinder particular communities or political party supporters from making it to the polls is the new voting law Georgia passed during election time. The law affected early voting hours, identification requirements for and timing for absentee voters, ballot drop boxes and vote counting. These changes make it harder for some to vote due to the additional hoops they have to go through to ensure they can vote.
“It’s kind of sad that my dad and his team and others — John Lewis, Amelia Boynton, Josea Williams, just to name a few — knocked down barriers that would give us the right to vote, by law, through the Voting Rights Act. And yet, 55 years after dad’s death — this is the 55th anniversary of him being assassinated in April — there are people who are literally putting in place provisions to make it harder for people to vote. Those same people, by the way, who at the national stage are talking about protecting and preserving democracy in the world while you are restricting democracy at home,” the 65-year-old said.
In addition, Waters King addressed how disappointing it is that in 2023, their daughter, the only grandchild of Martin Luther King Jr., has fewer voting rights than Black people had after the passing of the Voting Rights Act, which is devastating.
“Our daughter is the only grandchild of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. She’s 14 years old, she’ll be 15 in May. And she and her peers are right now sitting with fewer voting rights, and rights period, than the day that they were born,” she shared with Deadline. “So, when you really think about the work of her grandparents and so many others, I can’t imagine that this is what [Martin Luther King Jr.] envisioned. … And the reason I say that is she was born in 2008. In 2009, the Voting Rights Act, which was the crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement, was basically decimated.”
She also addressed how America’s education system is working to permanently remove critical race theory, the truth about the history of the Black experience in the United States, from school curriculums in states like Florida. Such policies create a lack of representation in schools for people of color and make one wonder about the false narrative taught, proving that America is going backward instead of continuing to fight for the equality of all.
“Legislation that has been passed in Georgia on what can be taught in schools,” Waters King said. “She and her peers are not being taught history. I think that, in a very real sense, gives us status of where we are as a country.”
Martin Luther King III partnered with Calabasas Films for a new documentary series, Protect/Serve, to showcase “the history of the police in America and the origins of institutional racism” and offer “solution-based discussions.” In addition, they plan to collaborate on more visuals that they hope will help America fight the good fight forward.
“We have to struggle on more than one front. Certainly, we’ll always be active doing activism work and legislatively, and also at the same time continuing to put out content that is even more impactful at a time in history when these stories are not being told,” King said.