Martin Luther King III Says Dad Would Be 'Disappointed' in Today's Poverty and Income Inequality
Martin Luther King III is speaking out about his late father's "fight against poverty and income inequality" on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In a New York Times video op-ed published on Monday, the 63-year-old implored those who admired his dad as a "champion for civil rights" to also consider that he was "crusading for higher wages for Black sanitation workers" when he was assassinated in 1968.
"Their work conditions were abysmal. Low pay. No sick leave. And many were on welfare," King III said. "In a speech to the workers, Dad said the issue is injustice. The issue is 'the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants.'"
"I think if my father saw the issues of poverty and income inequality that exist today, he would be greatly disappointed," he added. "Back then, 25 million people were living in poverty. But today, it's close to 40 million, and some say it's much higher."
King III continued, "While billionaires pay a lower tax rate than the working class, Americans who teach our kids, deliver our food and drive our buses are struggling."
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
While King III said he recognizes that his father "is revered" today, he also noted in the Times video that Dr. King "was deeply unpopular," with "two-thirds of Americans [having] disapproved of him" at the time.
"The FBI said he was a communist. But he kept protesting anyway," King III said. "I traveled with him as a kid throughout Georgia in preparation for the Poor People's Campaign. The idea was to rally people to Washington to press the federal government to provide jobs and income for the poor. This was his other dream, but he did not live to see it come to fruition."
The human rights advocate ended his message by encouraging those who are taking the time out to honor his father on Monday to also take law-based action in moving the income initiative forward.
"If you really want to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the principles that my father stood for, our whole government needs to step up, from creating a cabinet position focused on fighting poverty to passing a universal basic income," he said.
Dr. King's youngest child, Bernice King — who is the CEO of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change — also shared several messages in honor of her dad on Monday, including advising gun-rights advocate Lauren Boebert to study her father's "nonviolent philosophy" after the Republican congresswoman tweeted one of Dr. King's quotes.
"I encourage you to study my father more comprehensively and to attend @TheKingCenter's virtual sessions on his nonviolent philosophy and his work to eradicate racism, war and poverty," wrote Bernice, 57. "A powerful book to start with is his last one, Where Do We Go From Here ... "
RELATED VIDEO: New Documentary Depicts Martin Luther King Jr.'s Issues with FBI and "Complicated Personal Life"
Earlier Monday morning, Bernice tweeted, "Please don't act like everyone loved my father. He was assassinated. A 1967 poll reflected that he was one of the most hated men in America. Most hated."
"Many who quote him now and evoke him to deter justice today would likely hate, and may already hate, the authentic King. #MLK," she added.