Regina King Says Speaking Up About Social Justice Is 'Important': 'We Still Have to Fight'

"We cannot become complacent," says the actress

As an actress, Regina King has had an exceedingly busy couple of years. After an Oscar win for If Beale Street Could Talk in 2019, King won an Emmy for The Watchmen in September, and her film directorial debut, One Night in Miami — the first by a Black female director to be selected by the Venice Film Festival — premieres Dec. 25.

"I feel like this is the path I was supposed to be on," says King, 49, one of PEOPLE Magazine's People of the Year.

"I don't necessarily see it as a renewed purpose. But I have a little more power now, in my choices, and in my ability to amplify a message," she tells PEOPLE. "I have things I'm very passionate about. And I feel very lucky to be able to use my art and my voice collectively."

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Regina King. Austin Hargrave

Indeed, in addition to her powerful roles in front of and behind the camera (One Night in Miami is about a fictionalized meeting between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown in 1964), King has spoken out about the importance of voting, especially when it comes to marginalized communities, and been vocal about her dismay at the division in the country.

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Watch the full episode of People of the Year: Regina King streaming now on, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

"I don't think that we would be at this reckoning that we are right now if the world wasn't on pause [due to the pandemic]," says King. "We're more sensitive to everything around us. And I have to believe that however far down the line we'll be on the other side of this, we will be forced to consider other people's differences."

King made a pointed statement about the civil injustices on Emmy night, when she wore a shirt featuring the image of Breonna Taylor. "I had the opportunity to not wear a gown and ... a chance to visually show why it's so important to vote down the ballot," she says. "How could I not use it?"

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Regina King accepting her Emmy Award while wearing a Phenomenal Woman T-shirt with Breonna Taylor's face across the front. ABC

Moving forward, King, who says she doesn't identify as a Republican or a Democrat ("I have a problem with sides," she shares), the actress and activist says she remains cautiously optimistic about the future.

"I do believe in the good of humanity," says King. "And I want us to be on the other side of us coming together as humankind. But we cannot become complacent. We still have to fight. We're going to get more scraped knuckles and skinned knees. But after those wounds heal, we'll have the beauty in the bruises."

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