The words of the real MLK were far more radical than today's cherry-picked lines.
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Photo Credit: National Archives and Records
December 16, 2015 | The Martin Luther King Jr. who is cynically trotted out every time racial unrest erupts in our cities is the MLK who can be conveniently used to prop up the status quo. He is MLK reduced to “I Have A Dream,” used in conservative political ads to scare-monger about invading, job-stealing Mexican immigrants. He is the almost wholly fabricated MLK whom the modern GOP claims would today be one of their own, presumably standing alongside them as they vote against the poor, people of color and women of every race at every opportunity. He is MLK reimagined as the passive figure the fascist, racist right in this country wants us to be as they lean into the boot on our necks.
In reality, those examples rely on half-truths and half-reveals of who MLK truly was. In real, big-picture life, MLK was far more radical than the cherry-picked lines from his speeches and books would suggest, a man who moved further left over the course of his long and weary fight for African-American civil rights. By 1966, MLK had become an outspoken opponent of "liberal" white complicity in white supremacy, of American imperialism and warmongering, of the capitalist system itself. Modern right-wingers’ use of quotes from MLK (here are a few examples) twist and misuse his words in ways that belie much of what he ultimately came to stand for.