Mansfield MP Ben Bradley accused of encouraging people to be ‘colourblind’ and to 'ignore racism' in Martin Luther King Twitter row
Mansfield MP Ben Bradley has come under fire from Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter on Twitter after quoting his famous speech to explain his views on racial discrimination.
In the MP for Mansfield’s now-deleted tweet, Mr Bradley quoted the famous ‘I have a dream’ speech claiming the American activist’s intended meaning showed that the current fight against racial discrimination was going against the very ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
His tweet was picked up by Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter, who retweeted his message with her own scathing reply.
Thousands of Twitter users quickly reacted with support, with some thanking her for ‘schooling’ the MP.
However, Mr Bradley believes that the ‘twittersphere’ is ‘just looking for things to attack’ him for and are ‘constantly out to find the worst possible interpretation’ of what he has said.
His original tweet quoted the famous speech and then said of his famous words: “His point was that skin colour doesn’t matter.
"We’re equal. Now you want to define people by their physical characteristics?”
Bernice King, the youngest of Martin Luther King Jr’s children and chief executive of his Centre for Nonviolent Social Change picked up on the tweet and sought to clarify her father’s words.
She referred to racism as one of three ‘triple evils’ and that his words should not be used as a way to ‘ignore racism’, but to ‘end disparities drive by racism’.
In a further tweet, she said: “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.”
Explaining his comments, Mr Bradley said: “Sadly the nature of Twitter is that it’s short and sharp, and therefore not a place for complex arguments.
“People looking for things to attack are constantly out to find the worst possible interpretation of what you’ve said, or to paint a kind of caricature of an argument.
"Clearly I talk a lot about issues around identity; around race, gender, sexuality.
"These are not simple arguments that can be laid out in 280 characters.
"The point I made 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.
"Obviously there’s more to it than that, but 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 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 don’t want to go through that again after a difficult few weeks.”
Mr Bradley has come under fire in recent months and gone head-to-head with many celebrities such as footballer Marcus Rashford and comedian Jason Manford over his views on the recent free school meals vote, and has admitted he often has to put his phone away to avoid the trolling and abuse he received online.
Some constituents however believe the MP is creating a divide in his use of language, with repeated use of the term ‘leftie’ often giving rise to constituent comments of ‘evil’, ‘demonic’ and other such insults.
One constituent said: “You reap what you sow in politics: standing up for Priti Patel, then whining about bullying; trying to take away people’s rights, then whinging about his own.
"Sorry but you guys deserve everything you get.”
Another constituent weighed in when Ashfield MP Lee Anderson shared an article about Mr Bradley’s trolling to his page: “I don’t agree with threats to both of you, but you have to acknowledge the divide you create with the language you use.
"You can’t instigate that type of behaviour but then moan when it is directed at you rather than those with opposing political views.”
Mr Bradley rubbished the idea that his posts cause division and claimed the responses were often ‘faux outrage’ for political gain.
He said: “It often seems like everything I do and say is interpreted by a vocal minority as being deliberately divisive.
"The truth is that’s a narrative that they want to build for political gain; it’s not one that I want.
“I often disagree with the ‘popular’ discourse on Twitter, and I say so.
"That’s important, that we’re able to have an open discussion about important issues.”
Mr Bradley has no intention of quitting the popular social media platform anytime soon and vows to continue being ‘forthright’ with his beliefs.
"The nature of these Twitter pile-ons and faux outrage is one that deliberately seeks a ‘war’,” he added.
"It suits their purpose to have somebody to rail against and to say they are under attack.
"I’m forthright in my views, I believe I very often represent the view of many thousands of people in Mansfield who feel like they don’t get heard.
"It’s not about having a fight, but simply about saying that these are mainstream conservative values, held by many people across the UK, and we can’t pretend they don’t exist or just go along quietly with things that many millions disagree with.”