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Bernice King talks Capitol riots, father’s civil rights legacy and Beloved Campaign

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As leaders around the world witnessed the riot at the Capitol, many issued condemnations and spoke out.

Among those was Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of slain civil rights giant Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She has a doctoral degree from Emory University School of Law.

King is the current CEO of the King Center in Atlanta and earned a doctoral degree from Emory University School of Law. She’s focused on continuing the legacy of her parents as she educates others about the nonviolent philosophy they shared.

The images from the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 were stunning: a true struggle of humanity that King said she understands deeply.

“I think all of us look through a personal lens first. As a Black person, my first thought was what most of us were thinking: ‘If this were Black people, they would have been dead or handcuffed. They never would have gotten that far. Militarized police would have been already positioned and this never would have happened,'” King said.

“This was white privilege meeting white supremacy at the Capitol. I mean, it was right there. If you want to know what white privilege is, here it is! This is what you’re witnessing right now. If you’re confused about it up to this point, this is what we’re talking about, because if this were us [Black people], it would be a different story. So now you understand white privilege,” King said.

The relationship between heartbreak and the division of America is the harrowing reality King says her father foresaw and warned the world about decades ago.

“You know, we have seeds of violence sewn consistently as a country, it’s like the harvest, right before our very eyes. My father used to say that ‘America was the greatest purveyor of violence’ and that we were founded in violence,” King said.

Creating a “beloved community” is what King says has to be at the forefront of the nation’s future — finding a way to not discard people due to differences but build a bridge.

“That’s why violence doesn’t work because even if you try to get rid of the people, the violence and the hatred will find another host. So you have to do the hard work of how do we connect to people who may not think like us, whose thinking is a threat to humanity,” King said. “How do we really win those people over? And it’s not by pointing the finger and saying ‘You’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong. You shouldn’t feel like this. This is what’s right.’ It’s really about connecting with them in a way that disarms them to make them awaken to the wrongness of their, their thinking.”

While a host of political and community leaders often remind Americans of the words of Martin Luther King Jr., his daughter says there is a responsibility that comes with using her father’s words.

“What I don’t want in the use of the words, the people that believe that my father would skip truth, would skip accountability, on its way to reconciliation. His work was ultimately about reconciliation, but there’s a process of reconciliation,” King said. “So when we use words like that or any other words that my father says, we can’t use them just to support our cause….We have to always recognize his words were always in the context of his vision of the ‘beloved community.’ You know, he saw people past their meanness and their evilness; he saw them as other people. That’s why he could treat them well, even though they treated him in mean-spirited ways and very evil ways. That’s why he could still treat them with dignity, because he saw them in another place, because he had the vision of the ‘beloved community,’ and he knew that if he embraced this way of nonviolence, which treats people with dignity at the end, and he operates in the spirit and the force of love, that he could begin to correct some of this, even in them and the system surrounding them, and then bring about a more just, equitable, peaceful world.”

There are signs of her father’s legacy in nearly every city in the nation.

Even in Indianapolis, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street to the memorial park, King says those places should serve as guidance of where to go next.

“Some people should say, ‘I need to, I need to learn more from Dr. King.’ Some people should say, ‘I’m encouraged in what I’m doing, because I’ve been feeling a little weary,’ is I suppose a reminder to keep the fight going,” King said. “Other people should look at it as an invitation to join the continuation of the movement in the work to create a more just, humane, equitable and peaceful world. That’s what people should do, because it keeps coming back.”

King says she looks forward to kicking off a new project called the Beloved Campaign that will be an opportunity to fully help people understand how love can really drive change in society.

She is also looking forward to working in tandem with other organizations and the current administration to address systemic racism and all of these racial and economic disparities.

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