Bernice King: 'This is a regime and Trump's not acting alone.'


"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." The statement quickly became a rallying cry for women in defiance GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. One woman’s reaction is particularly notable: Bernice A. King, the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his widow, Coretta Scott King.

In 1986, the widowed Coretta Scott King wrote a letter and presented a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation to a position as a judge in the federal district court in Alabama.

Her powerful testimony cited numerous incidents of Sessions’ participation in persecuting Civil Rights leaders and Black voters in Alabama. She noted that, if he were to be made a judge, he would be given "life tenure for doing what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods." She characterized Sessions as having used the "awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens."

Coming from a family with a long history of being warned and nevertheless persisting, daughter Bernice King spoke out immediately upon the Senate GOP outrageously moving to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) when she attempted to read that 1986 letter on the Senate floor in opposition to Sessions' nomination for Attorney General.

And on Facebook she offered wise counsel on how to deal with the current administration and this period of GOP control of the House, Senate, and White House, including to "Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone":

Using the hashtags #LetLizSpeak and #LetCorettaSpeak, Bernice tweeted repeatedly both in support of Warren and against the sexism and racism inherent in the silencing of her and Mrs. King’s words, including a post with the powerful appeal by her mother to women to get involved in social change: "Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul."

Make no mistake: With Republican control of Congress and the White House, we are facing a perfect storm for almost unimaginable rollbacks in civil rights on a number of fronts, including voting rights. If Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General, the protections of the Voting Rights Act, which were already dramatically weakened in 2013 by the Supreme Court, will continue to be eroded, and states, like North Carolina, actively engaging in voter disenfranchisement aimed at the black community and other groups will no longer be prosecuted.

In a clear warning sign, activity by the Department of Justice discouraging prosecution of voter disenfranchisement began literally hours after Trump was inaugurated.

As Mrs. King observed in her 1986 testimony, "Free exercise of voting rights is so fundamental to American democracy that we cannot tolerate any infringement of those rights." Her daughter's urgent response to the silencing of Warren and the potential appointment of Sessions to the highest law enforcement office in the land constitutes an important and meaningful continuation of the Civil Rights legacy of her parents. We must heed her call.