Rev. Dr. Bernice King leads inspiring discussion at Jefferson

“Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Dr. Martin Luther King offered these words at the second convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago on March 25, 1966.

Head shot of Dr. Bernice King

Rev. Dr. Bernice King, Chief Executive Officer of The King Center and daughter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This morning, his daughter, Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, spoke to the Jefferson community about her father’s legacy during a salute and discussion at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Building at Thomas Jefferson University. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day being recognized as a national holiday and the 50th anniversary of his tragic death.

Dr. Stephen Klasko, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, interviewed Rev. Dr. King, together with Nia Wilson, a senior in fashion merchandising management at Jefferson. Joseph B. Hill, Jefferson’s Chief Diversity Officer and Sabrina Harris, JD, MBA, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, introduced the event.

The discussion was deeply impactful, informational and inspiring. Read on for three moments from this morning’s event:

  • Sabrina Harris spoke about her classmate, Rev Dr. Bernice King fondly. “I think of her as my classmate who we all called Bunny. I remember the quiet classmate, who came from royalty, who could spin a party. I remember her, as the student in our sociology class who explained why she did not hate the man who killed her father. I think of the activist who led Spelman students and others through the streets to demand her father’s birthday be declared a national holiday.”
  • Klasko started with a tweet from Rev. Dr. King asking her audience to remember her mother too on Martin Luther King Day. “Can you tell us about your mother and how you’re her daughter?” asked Dr. Klasko. “My mother was an activist in her own right,” Dr. King started. “You know, when he died, my father was the most hated man in America. But today he’s honored around the world. How do you go from most hated to loved?” She explained the work Coretta Scott King undertook to teach her husband’s philosophies around the country. She spoke of her mother’s posture and tone and how she wanted people to really understand not just his philosophy but the history of the civil rights movement. “The reason we know him as this great man, was because of her. She became the architect of his legacy.”
  • Nia Wilson asked Rev. Dr. King what she thought about “Slacktivism,” a form of “armchair activism” in which a person may retweet a hashtag, sign an online petition, or repost a commentary but not engage further. Dr. King laughed, “This generation makes up some words!” and continued by acknowledging everyone’s role, large and small. She told the story of protesters in her father’s time showing up to nonviolent marches with weapons. They were asked to put them aside, but those who didn’t want to were simply given a different job. “No one was turned away.” She added, “There’s a lot of power and strength to social media, but it has to be organized.”

One of the most important messages she left us with was the idea that racism today isn’t always or only perpetuated by individuals, but by institutions and corporations and laws that further racist and unjust policies. Dr. King spoke about the complicity through silence that pervaded the movement in her father’s time.

Dr. King said that to think we’ll all agree isn’t probable, and that we’ll all like each other is even less likely, but stressed how much we can accomplish when we stand together vocally and in unison.

For further study:

Here’s a short list of studies, articles, and recent books to start or continue your own study of race, bias, and how it can affect our behavior. (This is not a definitive list, nor is it an endorsement by Jefferson). If you have a resource you value, please share it in the comments section.

Studies and articles on health disparities

Disparities in Health Care Quality Among Minority Women – US Dept of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Black patients half as likely to receive pain medication as white patients, study finds – The Guardian. Original research published in PLOS One.

Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whitesPNAS. Study quoted and discussed in the Huffington Post.

Unconscious Bias in Medicine — Bernie Lopez, Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Thomas Jefferson University, and Executive Vice Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Books and Resources for addressing and combating bias

The King Center – The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”) is a global destination, resource center, and community institution. – The official page commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and the founding of The King Center, announcing a March for Humanity, April 9th, 2018, and a pledge for 50 acts of kindness.

Hard Questions, Heart Answers,” By Rev. Bernice A. King, published 1996, a powerful collection of Dr. King’s sermons and speeches.

So you want to talk about race” By Ijeoma Oluo, published Jan 2018. A guide for learning to understand the complexities of racial division, answering questions that are difficult to ask.

Between the World and Me” By Ta-Nehisi Coates, published 2015. A memoir, written as a series of letters to his teenaged son.

Everyday Bias” By Howard Ross, published 2014. A discussion of how bias influences all kinds of everyday interactions.

The White Ally Toolkit – a website offering training and videos and resources on how white people can be useful allies against racism.

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