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Coretta Scott King: Use peaceful means for peaceful ends

Coretta Scott King says race relations in the United States have improved but still need work.
Coretta Scott King says race relations in the United States have improved but still need work.

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Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., talks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer (January 14)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the eve of the 74th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer discussed race relations with the slain civil rights leader's widow, Coretta Scott King.

BLITZER: Mrs. King, thank you so much for joining us. Let's talk a little bit about the legacy of your husband. How much has the racial situation in our country improved since his death, if you believe, indeed, it has?

KING: Yes, I think it certainly has improved tremendously, but we still have much more to be done. Martin defined the evils and the injustices in our society in three areas -- poverty, racism and war. And he said that we cannot solve one problem without solving the other, working to solve the other one. And I think we have remnants of all of those. We've made some small progress in some areas more than others, but we still very much have poverty. We still very much have racism. And we still very much have a threat of war.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about racism for a moment. Where are the greatest problems still out there? What still needs to be done to deal with the issue of racism?

KING: I think that ... discrimination in the job market is a very important area where work needs to be done. And, at the same time, Martin talked about having a job and an income for all persons who needed a job. In the area of economic justice, we still have a long way to go. We have too many people who are discriminated against just because they happen to be black or they happen to be a woman or some other minority.

BLITZER: Is the problem so ingrained in the society that it can't be fixed, because it's obviously been around since the very beginning? There can be improvements, but will it be resolved, do you believe?

KING: Well, I think it can be resolved. I think we have to have the will to do it. It can be done. It has been done in some areas. For instance, when it was determined that there should be changes in the United States armed forces, at the stroke of the pen, discrimination was ended there. It can be done in our -- in the larger society.

BLITZER: As you know, President Bush has spoken out extensively on the issue in recent weeks. Is he living up to the challenge that is before him as far as you can tell?

KING: Well, I think, you know, we are still in the second year -- or end of the second year, I guess it is. We're going into the third year, so we still have more time to see. But I think that President Bush is, in terms of the cabinet appointments and in terms of a few other things, I suppose, you know, he has worked, I think, to bring the country together. But I think that this administration has a great opportunity to end this problem. But they are very much against affirmative action. And I think affirmative action is a very important part of making this -- towards eliminating racial discrimination.

BLITZER: You raised the issue earlier of war. Where do you think [your husband] would come down on the whole issue of possibly going to war with Iraq?

KING: You know, my husband always believed that there should be peaceful negotiations, and he believed in nonviolence. He was committed to it totally, and he believed that conflict should be handled through the United Nations, so strength in the United Nations, and let the United Nations take the leadership. And I believe that Martin would, if he were [alive] today -- although I don't normally speak for him, but I know what he was saying at the time of his death -- is that war cannot serve any lasting good toward bringing about peace. If you use weapons of war to bring about peace, you're going to have more war and destruction. You cannot have peaceful means -- peaceful means will have to be used to bring about peaceful ends. If you use destructive means, you're going to bring about destructive ends.

BLITZER: Mrs. King, thanks so much for joining us as we commemorate -- as we remember the legacy of your husband in the coming days, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ...

KING: Thank you so much.



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