The government of France is receiving substantial backlash after dropping a video in honor of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The education ministers reportedly pulled the campaign based on criticism from social media.
The European nation posted a tribute to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, the video only featured white children who rendered their own version of the civil rights leader’s “I Have a Dream” speech that King delivered during the 1963 march.
The National Education Ministry deleted the video on Wednesday, Aug. 30, after receiving backlash — saying the middle-school students had no context of or connection to the words in the speech.
According to Daily Mail, some people on social media asked if it was a “late April Fool’s joke” or called it a “gimmick completely lacking in diversity.”
NEM says the children did not originally write and recite their contributions as an ode to King or the March but as their submissions for a language competition.
“The Ministry of National Education and Youth published a video promoting educational work around commitment. This video was made on June 30, during the award ceremony for ‘The More I Say’ competition, which encourages the creative practice of English in middle school,” the organization said in a post on X to explain the campaign’s intention.
“It gives the floor to national prize-winning students present during this ceremony, which was held in the presence of Minister Pap Ndiaye,” the statement continued.
Calling their recitations “a profession of faith by the students for a better world,” each student began their pieces with “I have a dream,” which the organization believed could be used for the anniversary on Monday, Aug. 28.
“Faced with the confusion caused by this video and the violence of certain comments towards the students who had enthusiastically invested in this project, the communication department of the ministry decided to remove this video from its social networks,” NEM shared with its 1 million X followers.
Some blasted the organization for yielding to public opinion.
“Decoding: The Ministry of National Education and Youth lies down in the face of racists!” one person posted.
Not everyone was against NEM’s choice. Dominique Sopo, the president of SOS Racisme, an organization founded in 1984 that fights against race-based discrimination and anti-Semitism, says this video allows people to see King’s words are still relevant.
“Thanks to the choice of students in this clip, the Ministry of National Education shows that “#IHaveADream” remains glaringly topical,” Sopo wrote in French. “As Martin Luther King said, “I dream that one day little black boys and little white girls will be able to join hands.”
Diversity is an issue for France. In 2019, reports show the country had 67 million residents. About 85 percent of France’s population identifies as white, sources say. People of North African descent constitute around 10 percent (6 million). Blacks represent 3.3 percent (2 million), and Asians make up 1.7 percent (about 1 million) of the population.