t is one of the most quoted passages in human history, words delivered at the height of the American civil rights movement that came to represent a universal struggle for racial equality.
But invoking Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech has proved embarrassing for Conservative MP Ben Bradley, after Dr King’s daughter accused him of misunderstanding the central message of her father’s most famous speech.
In a now-deleted tweet quoting the iconic 1963 address, the member for Mansfield wrote: “‘I have a dream… will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.’
“His point was than [sic] skin colour doesn’t matter. We’re equal. Now you want to define people by their physical characteristics?”
Dr King’s daughter Bernice, the CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, wrote in response to the tweet: “My father’s point and central to his beliefs, teachings and activism (per his speeches/books) was this: We cannot condone racism, but must eradicate it as one of the pervasive, systemic, overt and destructive Triple Evils, with militarism and poverty being the other two.”
She added: “Why use my father’s words to encourage being ‘colourblind,’ civil and complacent concerning injustice, instead of to inspire and educate toward being courageous in seeking true peace, which includes justice?
“We can’t live with racism. It is killing people.”
Twitter users applauded her response.
Evening Standard columnist Ayesha Hazarika replied: “Oh God… just Ben Bradley getting schooled by MLK’s actual daughter for misquoting her da…”
Alan Smith, posting a picture of his daughter at Dr King’s memorial, added: “I can honestly say my five-year-old daughter understands your father’s teachings better than him. There is always hope.”
Mr Bradley said he deleted it because he could ‘sense a big pile on” and didn’t want the reaction to impact on his family.
He told the Standard: “These are not simple arguments that can be laid out in 280 characters and people seek to find the worst possible interpretation.”
“I talk a lot about issues around identity; around race, gender, sexuality.
“The point I wanted to make is that if we’re seeking a situation where we don’t judge people by the colour of their skin, I don’t see how it’s helpful to bring every discussion back to singling people out by their skin colour.
“When you end up in a position where we read about businesses that are segregating their staff rooms by race, that would seem a huge backwards step and exactly the kind of thing that Martin Luther King was campaigning against.
“It would be a really interesting discussion to have with Bernice King actually, but not one we’re ever likely to be able to have sadly as the ‘go-to’ response from the ‘Twittersphere’ is just to hurl abuse.
“I sensed a big pile on was coming so I just deleted it. I didn’t want to go through that again as it has an impact on my family.”
In a post which has since been removed, he wrote: “That’s what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did…”
After Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner accused him of stigmatising working class families, Mr Bradley claimed his tweet had been taken “completely out of context”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I was merely making the point that there are kids who live in really chaotic situations, really difficult lives, where actually giving them an unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever isn’t helpful.”