It’s like quoting scripture. You can torture a verse into saying just about anything you want it to say. So it is with quoting historical figures.
In the clip above, Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson cherry-picks an excerpt from a 1968 speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. which seems to condemn violence. We’re meant to take it as evidence that the good reverend would stand against the rioting which has taken place in Baltimore.
Yet, elsewhere, advocates of a different perspective produce their own MLK quote which appears to sanction the violence.
Who’s right? First, we ought to recognize that quoting anyone out of an original context to claim their support in another proves dubious at best. No one can definitively claim that MLK would be on their side in any given debate.
That said, we can apply the spectrum of MLK’s expressed sentiments and speculate how he may have felt in a given scenario. We know that MLK condemned violence. We also know that he believed that it wasn’t enough to condemn violence. Therein lies the best indicator of where he might stand today, and it probably wouldn’t be with either Gretchen Carlson or the Baltimore protesters. In a fashion typical of his leadership in the civil rights era, he would forge a unique path that challenged paradigms on both sides of the conflict.