Dear, White people, please stop misquoting, misinterpreting, misdirecting, and plain old twisting the quotes of the late, great Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize black people fighting for social justice who they don't agree with, or who make them as white people benefiting from white supremacy, feel uncomfortable.
Whenever the social climate of America gets tense, volatile, or violent due to oppressed people reacting to the many injustices of their oppressors, whenever an event happens that leaves no question as to what's been happening in America for hundreds of years (the black minority suffering at the hands of the privileged white majority) and verifies what we as black Americans have been decrying forever, whenever conservatives get backed into an ideological corner and can no longer use narrow minded rhetoric that has no application in the real world, they almost always, without fail, attempt to invoke the spirit of our fallen Civil Rights leader.
It's like there saying "Well I know you may not agree with me, darkie, but your dearly departed King of the Negroes would!" Why would he?! How can you speak for a dead man? None of us can truly say what Martin Luther King would be doing or saying or who he would be agreeing with or not agreeing with if he was alive in today's social climate. I'm pretty sure not even black people can say, and I'm almost certain white people can't say. It's like they pull out that trump card whenever things get rough to say "Why can't you be like this guy was?" because they know MLK was the MJ of the Civil Rights movement. So they know it's hard to argue with values system of a martyred man, but...it's even harder to say for certain what that man would be saying if he was alive!
Just take a look at this clip where a white conservative attempts to bring up MLK in a discussion about football players (non-violenty, mind you!) protesting social injustice by sitting during the national anthem:
I don't know why they go for MLK so much, but I could hazard a guess. It could be because he is the only Civil Rights leader they know by name. Which is sad. But the accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement were the result of a cumulative effort. There were countless names and faces that made ish happen in the streets, in the courts, and at local and federal levels of government. MLK was just the most prominent and visible figure from that time. So when white folks invoke his name, I ask myself, "how many other great black Americans and Civil Rights leaders can they name?" It feels similar to the same lame"I'm not racist, I got one black friend!" argument (and then that one black friend turns out to be an ex-cult member). But tokenism is not proof of acceptance or celebration of diversity. My other guess as to why they love (or appear to love when it's convenient) the message of MLK is because non-violence was his signature mantra. It's like they're hoping and thinking "if more black folks were like him and non-violent, the safer we are!" And what makes me personally annoyed is that this call for non-violence is often in response to black people becoming more vocal about the violence perpetrated against us! White supremacy was established through violence and is sustained often times through violence, but when we stand up and say that "That ain't right!" every "well meaning white person" wants to point to a sound bite of one man and say "See, he got it, non-violence is the answer guys!" but will say nothing about unarmed black men being shot to death on the regular by cops. What they say "can't you be non-violent?" what they really mean is "can't you be passive?".
I personally think the real reason they quote our fallen leader and pretend to hold him in such esteem is quite simple: A dead man is no threat. He cannot at this time topple the system of white supremacy that white folks benefit from even if they did not create it. That is why they act like MLK scholars when race relations get hairy, but at the same time brush off, criticize, and try to discredit Al Sharpton, Farrakhan, Obama, Colin Kaepernick, Van Jones, Shaun King, George Soros, Cornell West, Angela Rye, Jesse Williams, Maxine Waters, Michael Eric Dyson, Michelle Alexander, Marc Lamont Hill, Rosa Clemente, Johnetta Elzie, Deray McKesson, Bree Newsome, Ava Duvernay and whoever else I'm forgetting. These are people who are currently fighting the good fight who may often get labeled by White America as "race-baiters", "social hustlers", "whiners" and "anti-American". Father Time and the Grim Reaper have not silenced their voices yet, so they'll be marginalized and demeaned as much as possible by bigots and those who benefit from white supremacy until that happens. And lets not forget when MLK was alive and active, he wasn't exactly very popular among white America. The majority of white Americans polled at that time found his non-violent movement and way "disruptive" and thought he "hurt the Negro cause." Imagine that!!!
There's a song by the legendary hip hop group Digital Underground called "Heartbeat Props" were they excellently explain the reasons we should give just as much support to our living black leaders as we do our dead ones. I suggest you Google it out and check it out. And please share with any white folks who can only name one Civil Rights leader.
And I'll leave you with a quote appropriate for the times.