We should perhaps celebrate the real MLK, as opposed to the complacent defender of purely formal equality that conservatives would prefer to imagine him as:
At the end of his all too short life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to realize that the full meaning of the black freedom struggle was not just the achievement of a cup of coffee at an integrated restaurant, or riding in the front seat of a city bus. The “dream deferred,” in poet Langston Hughes’s words, was America’s failure to address poverty, from Harlem to Appalachia, from Indian reservations to the barrio of East Los Angeles. Striking black sanitation workers in Memphis, who were fighting for decent wages, represented the dream deferred. The dream deferred was personified by millions of Americans without adequate housing and health care. Like brother Malcolm X before him, Martin moved from a civil rights agenda, to a human rights agenda. His vision for racial justice had also become a vision of social justice, full human equality, and economic fairness for all. This was the dream deferred beyond considerations of race and color; his dream of economic democracy was not simplistically black vs. white, it was fundamentally about “the haves” vs. “the have nots.”
What has become of King’s dream deferred? As the events that defined the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, our vision of their significance, grown distant in time, can easily become distorted. Historical memory is always selective. But it is truly ironic; nevertheless, that those conservative political forces that opposed what Martin believed in, and gave his life to achieve, are now saying that he was one of them all along.
Admittedly. as Marable said, MLK did oppose some forms of affirmative action — such as the kinds that benefited George W. Bush. The far more pervasive kind we’re now supposed to forget about.