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MLK: How the right-wing likes to distort his comments

By Lee Cleveland - June 25, 2023

It’s so sad – and frustrating – when the occasional ring-winger will insist that if Martin Luther King Jr were alive today he’d be a Republican. Are they really tricking themselves into believing that nonsense or is it more of that old-fashioned disinformation we’ve come all too accustomed to since the rise of Trump?

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” King famously stated.

Right-wingers use that quote often, insisting affirmative action and programs intended to help the disadvantaged should be outlawed due to the racial component of their existence. But, as right-wingers are fully aware, centuries of slavery in the U.S. followed by 100 years of subsequent discrimination created a disadvantaged demographic and, ultimately, systemic racism.

“As a scholar who researches social movements, racial politics, and democracy, I have seen the consequences of the misuse of King’s words play out everywhere from the halls of Congress to corporate diversity training sessions to local school board meetings,” said Hajar Yazdiha, Assistant Professor of Sociology, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, via RawStory.

“Through the misrepresentation of the racial past, this alternate social reality hardened.”

“Ultimately, these revisionist narratives have fractured the collective understanding of who we are, how we got here and where we go next. In my view, moving forward means honestly confronting the often ugly past and the deep roots of white supremacy that shaped it then and now.”

Facts are facts and there’s no revising them. Perhaps those who so obviously misquote King should take a good look in the mirror?

Were Hispanics or Asians slaves in America?

Were they considered less human by the American government?


Just as the words of the nation’s founders are parsed for modern meanings on guns, so are King’s words used in debates over the proper place of race in America.

Systemic racism was caused by 300 years of racial injustice and could/can only be justified by invoking some form of racial bias through quotas and governmental assistance. Hence, problems caused by racism have been – and will continue to be – addressed by race.

Ultimately ‘content of character’ is what matters most and should be the only thing that matters at all. And in a perfectly equal society, who could possibly argue with that? But these MAGA types choose to dismiss centuries of mistreatment. It’s as if, to them, America has always practiced what it preached.

In fact, it’s akin to telling someone whose legs you just broke that they are now free to walk… And then, 5 minutes later, expecting them to get up and walk as if nothing happened.

While racial equality has mightily improved since King’s time, a large portion of Blacks still suffers from the remnants of 300 years of slavery/discrimination/ disenfranchisement. Moreover, and to make matters worse, a very vocal portion of Whites today is trying to turn back the clock and bring back those good ol’ days of ‘leg-breaking.’

Make no mistake, America has come a long way in civil rights. In fact, I think some of today’s civil rights advocates underestimate how far we’ve really come.

After 300 years of disenfranchisement, Blacks, spurred by King’s passion, love, and relentless determination, took a major step towards achieving equality via the passage of substantive civil rights legislation in the 1960s. By itself, It was hardly an equalizer but served as a great stepping stone to getting us where we are today.

Dr. King would be proud of America’s accomplishments and would most certainly want us to continue to overcome the remaining racism that still exists and, with “character,” peacefully repel the desires of those working to turn back the clock.