The best and worst thing about Twitter may be how easily it connects people from all walks of life. And while sometimes the small world of the Internet can foster productive discourse, other times it can make it incredibly easy for derisive remarks to reach their subject with just the click of a few keys. This tricky quality played out over the weekend when a far-right editor told Bernice King she didn't "actually" listen to her father's messages about racial and economic equality. Her father, of course, was the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a veritable Civil Rights hero.
The person who levied these accusations was a man named Lucian Wintrich, who works for hyper-right-wing news outlet The Gateway Pundit. His remarks were made in response to a separate, unrelated thread, whose author, Josh Denny, went viral over the weekend for proposing that "'Straight White Male' has become this century’s N-Word."
In defending his argument, Denny invoked Dr. King, writing, "Saying 'my label for you invalidates your opinion or your place in society' is literally what Dr. King fought against." That is when Dr. King's daughter, Bernice King, jumped in.
"My father was working to eradicate the Triple Evils of Racism (prejudice + power = oppression/destruction of a race deemed inferior), Poverty (Materialism) & Militarism," King tweeted at Denny. "Pointing out the group that most commonly benefits from all 3 is not 'labeling.' Truth before reconciliation." King was referencing Denny's idea that calling a person a "straight white male" was the same thing as using a racial slur.
However, as is often the case online, the exchange did not stop there. After King countered Denny's argument, Wintrich popped in, calling into question King's credibility. "Hmmm... I don’t think you actually listened to your father," Wintrich wrote. "'I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed,' 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
Wintrich then doubled down on his tweet. He continued, "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... oh, and capitalism is bad too.'"
In fact, Dr. King lamented capitalism's shortcomings many times. "The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism,” he said in a speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference board in 1967.
Similarly, in a separate speech delivered to Negro American Labor Council in 1961, he called for a better system of redistributing wealth, writing, "Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children."
Repeatedly, Dr. King lamented economic inequality and called for a "radical redistribution of economic and political power." And as King pointed out in her tweet, straight white men often benefit from being the least vulnerable or susceptible to the ills of poverty, racism, and militarism.
This weekend was not the first time that Wintrich received attention for race-related remarks. In November, according to The Washington Post, he was charged with a breach of peace after physically apprehending a young woman who swiped the hard copy of a speech he was delivering at the University of Connecticut. The speech was entitled "It's OK To Be White."
In response to Wintrich's comments, King invited Wintrich to read her father's lesser known speeches "to get tone, tenor & context for his words/teachings."
"I continue to study his life and teachings and find it helpful in my everyday engagement, even in responding (or not) to intents to insult on Twitter :-)," King said. "Be well. Sincerely."