Bernice King weighs in on Georgia boycotts amid controversial voting law

EXCLUSIVE: King signals that she's gearing up to take 'hard lines' in the current political battle in the Peach State

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Dr. Bernice King has signaled that she’s gearing up to take “hard lines” in the current political battle in Georgia over the state’s recently passed bill that critics say restricts the right to vote, particularly for voters of color.

King’s stance comes after the Major League Baseball (MLB) pulled the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to the passage of Georgia’s new voting laws. Since its signing, Black executives and corporations headquartered in Georgia have been put on notice by activists and some Democrats to take a stand against Georgia Republicans, who passed the law with a party-line vote.

Rev. Dr. Bernice King
Rev. Dr. Bernice King attends the funeral service of late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 30, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images)

Read More: Georgia governor vows a fight after MLB yanks All-Star Game

So far, some of the big names that have spoken out against the new provisions include Delta and Coca-Cola, which are both headquartered in Atlanta. Other mega-corporations, like UPS and Home Depot, located in the now blue state of Georgia are being closely watched for their reactions. 

There is a particular focus on Home Depot’s response as its CEO, Craig Menear, has donated funds to former president Donald Trump‘s 2020 campaign. Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is throwing down the gauntlet and applying pressure on the company.

“My first approach is how do we have a conversation with people like Home Depot, if they will have the conversation? If they don’t have a conversation, then we have to look at what does that look like in terms of economic withdrawal?” King recently told theGrio.

Dr. Bernice A. King
Dr. Bernice A. King speaks during the 2021 King Holiday Observance Beloved Community Commemorative Service on January 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

King emphasized that she’s not calling on a boycott quite yet because she believes “we need to understand how to boycott successfully,” however, she said it’s important for Georgians to consider to know “there’s strength in numbers with our dollars.”

“Most of those who patronize Home Depot, particularly in our city, are people of color and people who are allies, people who are part of many communities who don’t see this as fair legislation,” she said.

King wants corporations to stand on the right side of history by opposing the Georgia voting laws that are expected to start a domino effect in 44 other states that are currently working on passing similar anti-voter laws. 

In a joint statement, King, John Miles Lewis and Al Vivian, the children of late civil rights leaders Congressman John Lewis and C.T. Vivian King, said, “the new voter suppression laws are a perversion of truth. Our democracy will be destroyed if we use blunt instruments to appease falsehoods. Advocating equitable voting rights while denying them to others is not equity: it is oppression.”

Delta Air Lines called Georgia’s new voting law “unacceptable” and even invoked the name of John Lewis. On Wednesday, the domestic airline company’s CEO, Ed Bastian, said in a letter, “I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values. The right to vote is sacred.”  

Bastian added, “In the weeks and months ahead, we will be working with leaders across the political spectrum in states nationwide in this effort….I commit to you that as we move forward, Delta will continue to do everything in our power to hear and protect your voice and your rights, both in Georgia and nationwide.”

Americans went to the polls in huge numbers to speak through their ballots on issues ranging from deadly police brutality to blatant racism. Not to mention, millions of mask-wearing voters cast their ballots in the midst of the deadly pandemic of COVID-19.

Read More: Stacey Abrams criticizes corporate response to Georgia’s restrictive new voting laws

People wait in line to vote early at the State Farm Arena on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The election result in Georgia, which voted for a Democrat (Joe Biden) for the first time in nearly 30 years, signaled a desire for a drastic change in the once blood-red state. Just two months later in an election runoff, Georgia voters also handed its two U.S. Senate seats to Democrats, giving the party majority control of the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress.

CNN Tonight host and New York Times best-selling author, Don Lemon, likened the new Georgia voting law to a sign that “white supremacy dies hard.” 

“It says that people who are used to having the preeminent voice, who are used to having America, as they believe, shape in their image that they have the right to be able to hang onto that power and they will hang onto that power no matter what they have to do to do it,” Lemon told theGrio in an exclusive interview.

Don Lemon speaks onstage in December 2019 during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Hosts Ripple of Hope Gala & Auction in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights)

The resolutions to this issue are in the hands of federal lawmakers. Democrats are calling for a fix and Republicans are pushing for harsher restrictions when it comes to voting. 

Democratic leaders close to the process as well as those who are making the sausage on Capitol Hill are pushing for the passage of the For the People Act. The comprehensive voting rights bill focuses on a range of issues including gerrymandering, campaign finance and election integrity.

Democratic House Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries told theGrio, at this moment in the fight over voting rights, it is Congress’s duty to pass legislation to “respond to the voter suppression era and preserve our democracy moving forward.” The New York congressman said adamantly, “nothing less is acceptable.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

Dr. Bernice King is working with civil rights icon and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young and others to continue the legacy of her father. Ultimately, she said, the fight for equitable voting rights is left up to “young people, millennials and Generation Z.”

They will not “tolerate this kind of stuff,” King said, “They are willing to say, ‘I won’t work for you. Find a workforce.’ Because they found other ways to be creative and innovative.”

However, even if the bills in Congress were to be passed and the U.S. Department of Justice had to once again oversee any changes in the voting rights act, there are still no guarantees.  

“This is probably extremely ambitious thinking, but at some point, this nation is going to have to codify the right to vote in our Constitution. That’s the real work that has to be done, and that’s a constitutional convention that seems unrealistic right now,” Dr. King offers. 

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