Rep. John Lewis on MLK birthday: 'We still have a great distance to go' to defeat racism

Rep. John Lewis on MLK birthday: 'We still have a great distance to go' to defeat racism
© Greg Nash

Rep. John LewisJohn LewisKatherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent Democratic lawmaker says officials tried to keep her from migrant girls during facility tour Democratic outrage grows over conditions at border detention centers MORE (D-Ga.) said that the U.S. still has a "great distance" to go before racism no longer exists in the country.

Lewis told Rolling Stone for what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 90th birthday, that he would tell his late friend that President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE is a "racist" who does not understand the significance of the civil rights movement, and said that Trump's presidency showed that the U.S. has not overcome its history of white supremacy.

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"Dr. King, we have come a distance, we have made some progress, but we still have a great distance to go before we lay down the burden of racism. There have been so many setbacks since you left," Lewis told Rolling Stone when asked what he would say to King, whom the Georgia Democrat knew before his assassination.

Lewis is the last living speaker from the original march on Washington in 1963, where King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In the 1960s, Lewis also marched in Selma, Ala., for voting rights and was beaten.

"We have someone, the head of our government, who, in the finality, is a racist. He doesn’t understand the meaning of your life and the significance of the civil-rights movement," Lewis continued.

"But I truly believe, somehow and some way, we will not give up, we will not give in," Lewis concluded. "We will continue to do what we must to create what you called the Beloved Community. We will do what we must to redeem the soul of America.”

Lewis has previously attacked Trump, who he has said is racist down to his DNA, and called his presidency a major setback for the progress of the efforts to end racism in America.

He previously criticized the president over remarks Trump reportedly made during a meeting with senators at the White House, during which the president was said to have referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations as "s---hole" nations.

"We have to stand up. We have to speak up and not try to sweep it under the rug," Lewis said at the time.

"It's unreal. It's unbelievable. It makes me sad. It make me cry," he added of the remarks.