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Don’t try and mansplain Martin Luther King Jr’s teachings to his daughter

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Kayleigh Dray
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Don’t try and mansplain Martin Luther King Jr’s teachings to Bernice King

Bernice King knew exactly how to respond when a right-wing blogger attempted to mansplain her father’s teachings to her.

Mansplaining can and does occur across all parts of life; some men, upon seeing or hearing a woman in possession of opinions or information, are apparently unable to resist explaining slowly and carefully exactly why she has no idea what she’s talking about.

We’ve seen it written into HBO’s Game of Thrones as a vital plot point, we’ve witnessed it on Masterchef UK and we’ve even seen a man try to explain the inspiration behind Indiana Jones’ iconic costume to the very same woman who actually designed the costume in the first place. All in all, it’s so boringly prevalent that we barely bat an eyelid anymore.

However, when one right-wing blogger accused Bernice King – who has continued Martin Luther King Jr’s work as a minister and an activist – of misinterpreting her late father’s words, his mansplaining/whitesplaining tactics triggered a wave of shock and outrage online.

The exchange began when King responded to comedian Josh Denny’s claim that “straight white male” is “this century’s N-word”.

“My father was working to eradicate the Triple Evils of Racism (prejudice + power = oppression/destruction of a race deemed inferior), Poverty (Materialism) & Militarism,” she wrote, underlining the fact that ‘straight white male’ is used to acknowledge an enormous amount of privilege, whereas the N-word is used to belittle and dehumanise black people.

“Pointing out the group that most commonly benefits from all three is not ‘labelling’,” she added. “Truth before reconciliation.”

The majority of social media users were moved by King’s response, praising her for her “grace”, “patience” and “compassion”.

However, Lucian Wintrich – who used to work as a correspondent for the pro-Donald Trump blog, Gateway Pundit – decided to take a slightly different approach.

“Hmmm,” he began. “I don’t think you actually listened to your father.”

Wintrich went on to quote that iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech, drawing attention to Luther King Jr’s hope that, one day, “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed”.

“I’m pretty sure he never said, ‘I have a dream we will make continuous references to people’s sexuality and whether they’re white or not,” added Wintrich.

Naturally, Wintrich’s comments triggered a wave of fury on Twitter, with many suggesting that they might just “be the worst thing” they have ever seen posted on to social media.

King, however, refused to be rattled by Wintrich’s ridiculous mansplaining attempt – nor by the fact that he had taken a single line of Luther King Jr’s speech and used it wildly out of context.

Instead, she decided to make a point of educating the ignorant blogger, and recommended that he check out her father’s 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here.

“Start your study here,” she said coolly.

The exchange comes just weeks after King was asked how she sees the threat to her father’s legacy emanating from the current White House and from Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country.

“I guess I don’t look at it the way other people do,” she told The Guardian. “I look at it as a wonderful moment. Here we have people being galvanised all over this nation, and even the world, who are speaking up in ways perhaps they never have.

“Sure, our country is faced with some serious issues, but that makes protest and free speech all the more critical now. Now you see people standing in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr and saying this is an injustice, enough is enough, we are going to resist.”

King added powerfully: “This nation is awoke, there is a new, different kind of vigilance that we haven’t seen in the past 25 years.

“In the end I still have the same hope as my father – that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the last word.”

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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