The eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took President Donald Trump to task Saturday for his “disruptive and insensitive and racist” comments about African nations and immigration.
Martin Luther King III, a human rights activist, was on Long Island for the NAACP’s Legacy Gala at the Brentwood Country Club in Brentwood.
King said people he spoke with at the gala expressed concern that Trump had questioned why a bipartisan immigration bill would offer U.S. entry to Haitians and people from “shithole countries” in Africa, comments the president made at Thursday’s White House meeting on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“How do you say something like ‘Well, we should get people from Norway,’? I mean, really? You don’t recognize and respect the diversity of your own country,” said King, who was the gala’s keynote speaker.
Diversity, King said, “is what makes this country great. People can come from anywhere in the world and they can fulfill their dreams. And those dreams sometimes became monumental and they became true because this environment created that,” King said.
However, King said he was optimistic that Trump’s words would at the very least force the nation to talk honestly about racial issues.
“We never wanted to talk about race [under President Obama],” King said. “What this presidency is doing is forcing us to have a real conversation, so we can once and for all bury racism, I believe.”
Jessica Washington, 54, of Bay Shore, the gala’s master of ceremonies who recalled her family experienced racism when they moved to Massapequa in the 1960s, agreed. “I believe everything happens for a reason and I think the U.S. really needed to wake up. So the question is now, ‘What are you guys going to do?’ ”
Constance England, 71, of West Babylon, who met the Rev. King and who spent part of her childhood on a plantation in the South, said she still held out hope for a more unified country. “We have different features, but we all have noses, we all have eyes,” she said, “but most importantly, we all have a heart. It’s what you do with the heart that matters.”
At the fourth annual gala, the NAACP’s Islip branch honored 14 individuals and groups with Long Island Legacy Awards, given to those who have created or continued legacies, either civic or for human rights, on Long Island.