A Green Party candidate in the British Columbia provincial election says his impersonation of Martin Luther King, Jr. was a consequence of his own “white privilege” and “a misguided attempt to share the inspiration” of the American civil rights leader.
The Green Party, which runs on an extreme environmental agenda and left-of-center economics, is a growing political force in socially liberal B.C. Teacher Mark Neufeld, a candidate running near the provincial capitol of Victoria, decided to not only read large portions of King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech but also to mimic King’s speech patterns.
“I went to the mountaintop, y’all,” Neufeld said. “And I looked over – my, my. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Greens!”
Members of the audience looked around at each in disbelief as Neufeld continued to lift portions of King’s famous speech.
“I’m not fearing any man,” Neufeld said as some people walked out, afterwards telling reporters that it was objectionable for the Green candidate to compare his political campaign with the civil rights legacy of King.
Others called the performance nothing short of racist.
Neufeld apologized — twice — in Facebook posts on Thursday and Friday this week.
“I have to own my white privilege and my station in society. As a teacher of 25 years, I have no excuse. And intention is not enough,” he said.
“In a misguided attempt to share the inspiration of one of the greatest leaders of our time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I made one of the greatest mistakes of my life. I was excited by the crowd, but I was wrong to do what I did. I take responsibility for my actions and I am very sorry,” he wrote.
Not finished with his self-excoriation, Neufeld described his speech as “deeply insensitive” and criticized his own “stunning lack of awareness.”
The candidate said he didn’t tell anyone from his campaign what he planned to do on stage nor did he seek their advice.
King delivered the original speech on Apr. 3, 1968, the day before his assassination.