It is always hilarious around this time of year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when conservatives desperately try to co-opt King's legacy with columns and think pieces about how King would totally be with them, most of which contain worthless interpretations and contortions of his words, some of which contain outright lies. The craven bastards need King as a way of trying to prove that they can relate to African Americans. They need to neuter him and turn him into Happy Sparkle Martin, the Dream Pony.
As sure as shit, King's own words will bite right-wingers in their pompous asses every time. For instance, in a 1958 interview with Mike Wallace in the New York Post, King laid down some truth about the battle for rights in the nation. He very clearly wanted an activist court to overturn prejudicial laws, and he didn't give a good goddamn about who that upsets.
Wallace asked, "Can you conceive of Negroes and whites in America living together in harmony as one being human being with another without there being a real feeling deep down inside that this is so. I know a lot of people who pay lip service but when it comes down to the real thing, like sending your kid to school where there are Negroes, or like your son bringing home his Negro friend, then it becomes a different story. As long as this feeling exists, are you going to achieve anything?"
King responded, "I would hope that it can be achieved. So long as you have prejudiced attitudes and you have segregation in the country, you will have these attitudes all over, it touches the whole country. As we move through the transitions in the South, it is more intense in the South. I certainly feel that the problem can be solved if we meet it with moral strength. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Justice everywhere sheds light on the problem of injustice in other areas. Now we are in this period where you do have people who have doubts even in Northern communities. Even they have paid lip service to it. They are not committed to it absolutely."
Then King refused to apologize or back down by saying, "You are saying in substance that many people will go along and will accept this because it is the law of the land but really they don’t accept it because it is good? This is what I would call the distinction and between desegregation and integration. Desegregation breaks down the legal barriers and brings men together physically. In Montgomery, Alabama, the buses are desegregated but not integrated. Integration is a personal and intergroup feeling. We are moving through the process of desegregation which is a necessary step to integration. We cannot get to integration before going through the process of desegregation where you have to break down through legal means. I think most people think it is right to abide by certain laws—like traffic laws, etc. Men finally grow to the point of following these laws. In America we are moving through the period of desegregation and the physical barriers are being broken down—the legal barriers, that is. Naturally you will have this problem of people going on with this automatically because it is the law but once there they are brought together — you see, they hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other."
You got that? Martin Luther King's attitude was that nothing will progress if you wait for the fearful, prejudiced, oppressive people to decide it's ok. You could interpolate this onto the same-sex marriage debate, if you like, where conservatives (and even some liberals) wanted a gradual approach achieved through legislation. Fuck that. If you want to be treated fairly, you don't ask nicely twice. Once the barriers fall, people will get on board.
In response to the tension integration was causing in schools in Little Rock, Arkanas, King said, "I cannot conceive of a period of social transition without some tension. This is inevitable. Whenever you are moving from an old order to a new order, in the transition period, there is some tension. We seek to lessen the tension as much as possible but we don’t seek to due process in order to avoid tension. We have a choice in America to move toward the goal of justice in spite of the tension it will create or stop the process in an attempt to avoid tension while in reality we are tearing away the very core of our nation. This is the choice. The one we should choose? Allow the inevitable tension to arise. There can be no birth or growth without birth and growing pains. Whenever you confront the new, there is the recalcitrant of the old."
You can't say Martin Luther King is on your side and then attempt to turn back the clock on voting rights, on affirmative action, on racial progress, on economic justice. You can't say it and then believe that everyone should be patient while your side evolves enough to accept change. You can't support Martin Luther King without a willingness to fuck some shit up.