The May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man, brutally handled by Minneapolis police sparked a worldwide response — peaceful demonstrations in many places and anger-fueled riots in others. The incident renewed widespread sentiments of racial injustice and excessive force by law enforcement and led the Minneapolis City Council to announce June 8 a plan to disband its police department. While faith leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned racism and denounced the death of Floyd and other black men in police custody, the incident especially grieved men and women long involved in the civil-rights movement, who continue to advocate for racial equality sought by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. more than 50 years ago.
Alveda King, the daughter of civil-rights activist A.D. King and the niece of the leader of the civil-rights movement, has been at the forefront of the fight for the dignity of the human person through her work in civil-rights advocacy and the pro-life movement. An evangelical Christian, she spoke with EWTN senior contributor Matthew Bunson June 9 for Register Radio about the death of Floyd and the resulting civil unrest. This interview has been edited and formatted for print.
What are your reflections on the days since the death of George Floyd, both for you and the country?
I am so delighted to be invited onto the airwaves with you to discuss this very serious situation. We were already dealing with COVID-19 sheltering in — can America reopen? — and then George was killed. And so that was just another shock to the systems of America, individually and institutionally. Now that George Floyd has been buried, I agree with his family. His brother Terrance continues to say, “We do want justice, but not violence.” His sister Ruby [says], “We are bringing love back. We know that God is love.”
The most important message I can remind America is this: “We are one blood,” Acts 17:26.
God made all people. We are not separate races. We should not fight over skin color. We can see skin color. We’re not colorblind. But we should learn to live together, as brothers, as my uncle Martin Luther King said, and, I’ll add, as sisters, or perish together as fools.
America, we can get through this. We’re going to need God’s help — and God’s blessing.
What do you think your uncle would say now? What would be his response to the protests?
During Martin Luther King Jr.’s lifetime, he said, “When we learn to value the human personality, we won’t kill anybody.”
I believe he would advise us to see each other as human beings, not separate races, not socioeconomic differences. Social gospel is different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So there again, he would remind us, “Listen to each other; communicate.”
He was also very emphatic on the need to vote. We are in primary season headed toward the general election this year, but vote for those beliefs that align with the Bible, those beliefs that you have, that everyone should have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we’re killing each other, we’re not having life.
Your uncle, in his speech “I Have a Dream …,” specifically focused on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Right now, there are some who are saying that we need to overthrow this entire system. Would your uncle have agreed with that?
The heart of a lawless nation leads to degradation. Martin Luther King Jr. supported the Constitution of the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. recited the Pledge of Allegiance. And so, we want to be one nation under God. We will not be able to do that if we allow ourselves to become a lawless nation. … Now, if we get unlawful, unruly leaders, if we vote them in, or they are appointed or whatever, we have an obligation to pray for them. They are in authority. And so we have to ask God to help them come back in line with the word of God. That is the process that God gives to us.
What does the African American community most need at this time, and what do other Americans really also need to be doing right now?
We need what everyone needs. I am a 70-year-old African American woman. So as a senior citizen, as a female citizen, as an African American citizen, I have the same needs that everyone in several of those categories has, regardless of our ethnicity: We need to be secure. We need to work. We need to worship. We need to be healthy. All of us need that.
And what are your thoughts on racism as a life issue?
When I look at the issue of life, the little child in the womb, whether that child is black or white, male or female, going to be rich or poor, has some preexisting health condition — that’s a person, in the womb.
And so when we look at what’s happening today, where we deal with racism with civil rights, with the economy, it is back to Martin Luther King Jr.: “When we learn to value the human personality, we won’t kill anybody.”
That means we’ll embrace everyone, from the womb to the tomb. Abortion is an egregious sin. It needs to stop. A woman has a right to choose what she does with her body. The baby is not her body. Where is the lawyer for the baby? How can the dream survive if we murder our children?
Are there ways that members of the pro-life community can speak even more effectively in the African American community and be heard, especially right now, in this important moment?
What we’re learning is, certainly, we must pray. We must … ask our pastors and leaders to tell the truth. And throughout the Catholic community, I’m working with National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life.
I work with Bryan Kemper quite closely at Stand True. And he had me speak to a blended group of young people, of all ethnicities, recently. And they were ready to be agitated. And after we prayed and I told them how much God loved them, they were listening. So those are the kinds of things that we can do together in every community to inform people of the truth of the sanctity of life.
And how important is faith in not just overcoming racism, as crucial as that is in the country, but also in having faith leaders participating in all of the conversations related to it?
Faith without works is dead. That’s in the Bible, but our work is to promote and share the love of God, in truth, to the born and to the unborn. So faith is very important. We should have faith rather than fear. We should have love rather than hate. We should pray rather than panic. And as we do this and share the airways, as we’re doing today, I just pray that God will continue to hear us, guide us, bring us together. We are one blood, born and unborn, and God loves us. We have to learn to love each other.
The last question is: What is your message to America, to the protesters and to the police?
Have faith in God. Love your neighbor as yourself. God wants us to be healed and whole. We can do this together. Let’s love one another.